Welcome to “Humor of the Beast,” a recurring series where we interview the funniest people about their favorite band, as well as the impact heavy music has had on their lives and in comedy. In this article, we talk with Joe List.
At first, Guns N’ Roses and Pearl Jam seem like two bands that don’t often get mentioned in the same breath (other than Duff McKagan and Mike McCready partaking in the occasional supergroup jam session together). But for beloved comedian and podcast host Joe List – whose latest special I Hate Myself is available to watch online – both bands have a special place in his heart.
Read highlights from our conversation with Joe – where he recalls what attracted him to both bands, which of the two resonates with him most, and how he would react to seeing Axl Rose in the crowd while he was onstage.
Who did you discover first – Guns N’ Roses or Pearl Jam?
I definitely discovered Guns N Roses first. I remember having the Appetite for Destruction cassette and my cousins and I all got CD players and Use Your Illusion I and II for Christmas the year it came out. I was a little late discovering Pearl Jam. It was until VS had been out for a few weeks that I started listening to them. I was hearing about music from my uncle and cousins at that point, and they were much more into Guns N’ Roses and Poison.
What was it about Guns N’ Roses that first caught your attention?
Guns N’ Roses just seemed so fucking cool. I think the naked woman in the liner notes was big for me. That got me excited. The little cartoon skeletons were fun. At that time and age anything anyone older than you said was cool was cool, but of course the music just kicked ass. Once I started listening, I was hooked. The only music I knew before them was Don Mclean and Billy Joel, and maybe Madonna and Michael Jackson of course. And I still like all of those artists, but Guns N Roses was just so much cooler and better to me. That was the first music I heard that really rocked and seemed new and cool to me.
What about Pearl Jam?
Pearl Jam was similar. They were new and cool, and the second album artwork was appealing. Hearing “Rearview Mirror” for the first time really blew me away. That album was amazing to me. Then I went back and started getting really into Ten as well. I was and remain obsessed.
How does GN’R resonate with you differently than Pearl Jam, and vice versa?
Pearl Jam I have to say has resonated with me more, partly because they’ve stayed together and continue to create new music and tour. They have a much larger and more diverse catalogue. Pearl Jam’s live shows have been incredibly meaningful to me. Some of the best nights of my life are Pearl Jam shows. They’ve also helped shape my political views and philosophies in life. Guns N Roses for me is just plain fun. Playing Appetite For Destruction loud is always a good time. Pearl Jam has been a bigger and more consistent part of my life, but GN’R is in my top 10 for sure. I love them.
You’ve seen Pearl Jam live 42 times. First off, holy crap! When and where was the first time you saw them perform?
The first time I saw Pearl Jam was Hartford, CT in 1996.
What do you remember the most about that show?
I remember being blown away because the only other shows I had seen were Smashing Pumpkins and Jethro Tull, and Pearl Jam was such a different show from those. There was just a lot more energy and of course much better music, in my opinion. It felt very much like a spiritual experience to me.
Have you ever seen GN’R in concert?
I have not seen them live. I was really young when they were touring initially, and then I missed the reunion tour unfortunately.
Did you ever get to meet a member of either Pearl Jam or GN’R?
I got to shake hands with Mike McCready in Montreal back in 2000! I had seats behind the stage at the Molsen Centre, and McCready walked by and I leaned down and shook his hand. It was quite a thrill. I also went on a date with Dizzy Reed in 1996… that last part is a joke.
What song of both bands brings back the most vivid memory (good or bad) as soon as you hear it?
The Pearl Jam song is probably “Jeremy” because I remember watching that video so much as a kid. The opening to “Paradise City” always brings me back to my Grandparent’s basement immediately. Even thinking about it now I feel like I can smell my grandparents… which is a little unpleasant, honestly.
Imagine a scenario where you’re onstage doing a set, and suddenly someone from Pearl Jam AND GN’R is in the audience. What would be going through your head? How would you react?
It would sort of depend on which member it is. I mean, if I see Axl in the crowd I might get nervous. He seems to be a pretty volatile fella. It would be nice to have any of them in my crowd though. I’d like to try to repay them with a little entertainment. I would definitely be hoping not to eat shit though. Bombing in front of Slash or Eddie Vedder would be my worst nightmare.
How do you think Axl Rose would react to your jokes about hearing “Welcome to the Jungle” in an airport?
I’d like to think Axl would enjoy and appreciate the joke. But again, he seems a bit prickly so it’s hard to say. I would hope for him to love it.