By: Joaquin Contreras
Josh Moore would like to make something clear. “I don’t really have an opinion on anything,” he declares softly when asked how he feels about being made secretary of the Purchase Comedy Club. Moore sits at the end of a couch with two other comedians across from the interviewer, another club member, sitting at a desk. The room, deep in the bowels of The Hub, is a compact TV studio adorned with a green backdrop and a window into the control room, which leads to a lounge littered with backpacks, electrical cables, and empty food containers.
When his set starts, he looks down at his phone, ignoring the camera pointed at him. “It’s like I’m being judged by a jury of peers. Like you guys get to hang me if this goes bad,” he says, getting titters from the handful audience members. Now he’s holding his phone to his mouth, switching his impromptu microphone from hand to hand. Eventually, someone hands him an actual microphone. His shoulders drop and he tilts his head back, exhaling a sigh. Moore, a freshman Media Studies major, runs a hand through his flame of bright orange hair, a small grin forming on his lips.
“I think bestiality is kind of fucked up,” he begins, the noise slowly dying down around him as he strings his words together. “If you’re online jacking off to cartoon wolves, I think, like, technically you’re allowed to do it,” he says nonchalantly, pausing for the audience to laugh softly, albeit appalled and confused. “But it could be a gateway to real dog fucking, which is really something we should be worried about.”
No, you read that right. What’s more surprising than the joke is who it’s coming from. A recent addition to the Purchase Comedy Club, Moore is quotidian and unsuspecting, standing tall and lanky. He is soft-spoken, almost bashful, and his slow cadence of words is similar to the concerned tone of voice he uses during his routine. His thin frame is crowned by his slumped shoulders, and his often down-cast gaze is his most defining characteristic. However, his comedic range is anything but limited.
Moore’s material could be described as coming out of left field; since his upbringing in Rockland County, he’s been a student of self-deprecating masters of blue comedy, a subgenre of the artform that specifically tailors to the darker, more obscene points of view, such as Louis C.K, Todd Barry and Hannibal Buress. He also has a YouTube channel under the username “josheroni_”, where he uploads comedic shorts which can be considered more niche in style and taste than his stand up act.
Moore’s previously mentioned performance was for an episode of PTV, Purchase’s equivalent to the Tonight Show, run by students and members of the Comedy Club. “I think that Josh is hilarious,” says Vernon Macklin, who interviewed Moore for PTV and will succeed incumbent Andy Spector as President of the Purchase Comedy Club next year. “I think his style of comedy is very much intertwined with his personality. He seems very self-aware that he can easily make a simple conversation or idea tense and funny with his choice of words and delivery.”
Moore did his first set as a sophomore in high school after finally being egged on by his friends to try it. “I did it because I was kind of funny in school, and people thought I was kind of funny. I mean, my friends were laughing,” he says, running his thumb across the small cleft in his chin. Moore has had the same group of tight-knit friends since childhood, which made him comfortable enough to share his material by entertaining them.
Comedy serves as more than a way to satisfy his appetite for making people laugh: for him, it is also a form of self-expression and creative exploration. Moore also writes poetry and is an amateur photographer, hobbies he does less frequently than comedy but are equally fulfilling.
Having lived a self-described “normal, middle-class childhood raised by a single parent,” Moore attended improv camp at 13, where he learned and excelled as a performer. But his love for comedy started way before. “Let me start by saying Josh has always been a funny kid, all his life,” says Barbara Conklin, Josh’s mom. “When Josh was in 7th grade, his teachers told me they thought he was so funny. Although they found his statements comical, they noticed that at times his jokes went over his peers’ heads.”
Soon after, his mother took him to see Demetri Martin for his first stand up comedy show. “When he was a junior in high school I took him to see his comedy idol at the time, Louis C.K, which I was not a big fan of, but he really enjoyed,” she said. “We also saw ‘Book of Mormon’ when he was high school. I was a bit unsure if I should've taken him to those shows, but I have no regrets.”
Inspired by the work of his idols, Moore began to create no holds barred content, thinking more about joke structure and edgy material than what his audience would find funny or offensive. “When I’m trying to be the funniest I could be, I just try and think of what's the most off thing that I could say that everyone in the room is not thinking of, and how can I prioritize that,” he says. “But it requires a lot of forethought, and it also depends on the situation. It’s hard when people take you seriously, so you have to try your hardest to not let them.”
Moore recounted an episode during class in high school where his sense of humor didn’t tickle everyone's funny bone. “When I was young I used to get a lot of attention because I would act up in class. I would speak out of turn: one time, my teacher asked me what Norway and Sweden looked like together on a map and I said, ‘testicles’. He got pretty upset.”
It’s safe to say that Moore’s brand of humor is certainly niche, but not so much that it doesn’t draw praise from his peers. His unique style has set him apart and has made him a rising star in Purchase’s comedy underground. “I do describe it as niche, mainly because the way he tells his jokes is so unique to him,” says Mia Sanchez, a fellow member of the Comedy Club. “There aren't a lot of comedians who tell their jokes like he does. He’s a rant-prone comedian and he just brings it to another level by diving deeper than the rant itself. Which is filled with another layer of jokes.”
Moore’s comedy is his own, and while off-putting at times, remains relatively the same across different audiences. “At school events, even if you’re saying something not funny or not cool, people aren’t really going to say anything too bad. It’s really tough because I don’t think there’s really a difference between performing for students and adults when it comes to comedy,” he said. “Making someone laugh requires some kind of effort either way. You can’t just get there by being explicitly raunchy. You absolutely have to know your audience. The things that Purchase kids think are funny are way different from what people in my hometown think is funny, and I think that’s a good thing. Here on campus, it’s easier to experiment with material and I’m a lot less self-conscious about what I write. Everyone’s pretty open to new stuff.”
Comedians are often picky when choosing their audiences. College campuses are usually off limits for notables like Joe Rogan, Bill Burr, and the late Bill Hicks. They feel that students aren’t able to understand their material due to its unconventional subject matter and delivery because of their lack of life experience.
While the latter may be true, Moore certainly uses the former to his advantage. “His style [would] translate well to most audiences,” says Macklin, a junior, who briefly interviewed Moore for the PTV sketch. “Especially since his demeanor is authentic and very obviously not a facade. In my opinion, this will help Josh in the future.” However, Moore is content pursuing comedy at a casual pace.
“I’ve been pursuing comedy mainly as a way to express myself,” he says in an offhand way. “If I could pursue it as a career I would, but right now I’m just doing it as a hobby, which means just getting involved in clubs and whatnot.”
When asked before his set who he thought is the funniest comedian in the club, he pauses thoughtfully. “I think I’m really funny,” he replies, inciting surprised laughter. “Laughs per minute, I really put those numbers up there,” he says, nodding his head approvingly.
The girl on the couch with him turns to face him. “But your minutes are pretty low.” The audience reels with a low but resounding “Ooh.” Moore grins. “Yeah, but it’s always a solid minute.”