Comedy Q+A: Actor, Comedian, and Musician Stephen Lynch

Lynch is returning to Boston for the first time in three years to perform and promote his new album, Lion.

Stephen Lynch

Comedian songwriter Stephen Lynch brings his hilarious new songs to Boston. (Photo by Dale May)

Tony Award-nominated actor, musician, and comedian Stephen Lynch will perform at the Wilbur Theatre on Saturday to promote his fifth album, Lion, which was released in the fall. Lion has 13 new comedic songs with some in-between track banter.

They are all excellent—if not mostly unsafe for work—so wear headphones and be prepared to explain why you are exploding with laughter every few seconds. Favorites include “Tattoo,” a dissection of idiotic tattoos that people are sporting these days; “The Night I Laid You Down,” a retelling of a night of love between the two (contradictory) participants; and “Lion,” about two very different guys who are trying to woo the same girl. All 13 songs are provided in studio and live versions.

We talked with Lynch while he was preparing to perform in Philadelphia earlier this week:

Something that strikes me about your work is how beautiful the music is, music that is backing up some pretty risqué comedy. How did you put this album together? Did you have a core song that you built off of or did you have a lot of music that you had to pick from?

It’s been three years since my last album and this has been a painstaking process because I had about 100 hours of music recorded on my computer and phone, but the song ideas—thinking about what would be funny—was the difficult part because I really wanted the comedy to be as good as the music. The end result is something that I really like this time, and it’s much easier to tour with something that I’m proud of. I try to make music that I would want to listen to if I weren’t me.

The singing is so beautiful and wholesome and my daughter could hear it through my office door. She asked me if it was a new Jack Johnson album and I had to tell her to go away because I think the track was “Whiskey Dick.” The incongruity between the music and concept is funny in itself.

That’s part of the whole process, to have the lyrical content go up against the music for maximum comedic effect.

Do you see a resurgence in musical comedy?

I think it’s always been there. People who make good music are sticking around—Tenacious D, Tim Minchin, Flight of the Conchords. They have staying power and are recognizable.

Speaking of staying power, is that part of the strategy behind your songs, to make them universally applicable and not tied to specific political events or celebrities?

I always try to stay away from anything that would tie a song to a specific time or place. I can have pop cultural references to a song but I don’t want the song to have a shelf life. Can you imagine writing a song about the new pope? You couldn’t play it a month from now. I think most of my songs you could listen to 20 years from now and enjoy them, so it’s a very conscious choice. It takes me long enough to write a song, so I want to keep playing as long as possible.

Let’s look at a specific song. How about “Tennessee”? How did you get that going?

That song started out about my home town in Michigan, but it turned out I didn’t have enough to build a whole song around it. I had been to Tennessee many times before, but I had also heard a news report that the state was trying to pass some legislation that would prohibit public school teachers from even acknowledging the existence of gay people. So I thought that that was so terribly backward and easy to make fun of, and I wanted to target that mentality in a song. It’s essentially a love song to a state that has a few problems. It’s a continuation of a song called “America” that I wrote on my last record. I had been touring in Europe and kept encountering this image of America that wasn’t very good. I’m proud of my country and I think it’s a good idea to call out a few things we could work on.

What do you have in store for us with your show?

Boston has always been very good to me and I’m sad to say it’s probably been about three years since I’ve visited. But we’re going to have a great time. I’m looking forward to meeting up with old friends and putting on a big show. We produce a self-contained show—it’s just us, no opener, and the last couple of shows have clocked in at just over two hours of us playing, and the fans have really liked that format.


Stephen Lynch will perform at the Wilbur Theatre on Saturday at 7 p.m.