You may remember Hudson Valley homeboy Justin “JT” Habersaat as publisher of the indie punk rock publication Altercation
, a zine that shunned the trendy and embraced the darker, humorous side of rock. The zine gave birth in 2006 to Altercation Records and subsequently launched the national Altercation Tour, featuring art-punk and metal bands such as Casket Architects, PBR, Designer Drugs, and Blase Debris. Eventually Habersaat skipped town and took the zine and label with him all the way to Austin, Texas.
What may be less known to locals is Habersaat’s other successful love: stand-up comedy. He’s been performing as a comic since the age of 16, founded the Truly Twisted Punk Comedy Festival, and appeared on Comedy Central—not to mention acted opposite porn legend Ron Jeremy in the film Toxic Avenger 4.
Having released two live comedy albums—Drowning in a Sea of Assholes and Eight Drink Minimum
—his first DVD, Dispatches from the Great American Southwest
, a recording of an August 2007 performance in Austin, will be released this month. Habersaat is now highlighting the Altercation Punk Standup Tour, along with Chris Cubas, Ruby Collins, Duncan Wilder, and Richie Stratton. They’re appearing this month at Keegan Ales in Kingston on April 8 and at the Tuscan Café in Warwick on April 15. www.myspace.com/standuppunk
How did you get involved with comedy as a teen?
I was a fan of stand-up since age 10, watching old George Carlin specials. I inherited an absurdly profane Eddie Murphy tape, and my pals would get together and listen to it in secret. I hit Manhattan at 16 and did a bunch of nights at Stand Up NYC. By college [SUNY New Paltz], I was a regular performer at “Midnight Theater,” a monthly anything-goes performance. Tons of drunk peers would show up, so I was doing stand-up to 400 people. Things sort of spiraled from there. Why is this called a punk rock stand-up tour?
We play bars, bowling alleys, unorthodox places; to a creative mindset of people more apt to be open to our ideas. We get in the van, for better or worse, [or in] one car driving around, a hard-core routine with no nights off. Bowling is so underrated. I aced bowling in college.
It’s all about the shoes! We’re pushing the tour from now on as strictly comedy. It started out as a showcase for our bands, but my stand-up has been getting more exposure since moving to Austin and I’ve met a lot of national, like-minded comics. So I said, “Screw it, let’s make it an all-punk comedy lineup.” How’s Altercation coming along after eight years?
A lot of classic zines like Punk Planet and No Depression have died. Fortunately, our reputation is solid amongst the artists and labels we feature and we recently made the jump to full-gloss [paper]. It’s a ton of work, but very gratifying.
And the label?
We've made pretty impressive strides considering the state of the industry. Illegal downloads eating away at profit margins, shrinking marketing budgets...Everything's a gamble [laughs]. Especially with CDs being obsolete in five years or whatever.
I don’t buy them. For me it’s vinyl or mp3s.
It’s funny how vinyl’s come back around again. So, you either adapt and evolve, or you die! Our stuff sells regularly on iTunes, and we make interactive CDs to make them more attractive. Major labels are freaking out because they have so much invested, but if an indie [label] sells 2,000 CDs, they’re on the top.
What can we expect at your upcoming show?
It’s the most exciting package I’ve been part of. We’ve got five underground comics, all of them headliners in their own right, performing over two hours of anything-goes stand-up every night for a solid month. I was able to hand pick my favorite national performers, and since I’m very conscious of style and delivery, it makes for a varied and explosive mix. I can’t wait to expose unsuspecting audiences to these performers. We’re going to blow people away!