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.
Natalie Cuomo has an eclectic taste in music – ranging from alt-rock darlings like Sonic Youth to hair metal royalty like Motley Crue. Yet there’s something about Nine Inch Nails that truly resonates with the comedian, who’s become a regular fixture in the NYC comedy scene. Maybe it’s the way Trent Reznor keeps pushing musical boundaries, or simply the odd comradery Nine Inch Nails’ music seems to create among vast groups of people – there’s something about the band simply seems to click for Natalie.
Read highlights from our conversation with Natalie below – where we discuss how she first discovered Nine Inch Nails, what she would do if she ever came face-to-face with Reznor, which of the band’s songs she’d love to fight a heckler to, and more.
How did you first discover Nine Inch Nails? What about the band appealed to you the most?
When I was in high school, a friend of mine had introduced me to their music and I got really into it. Their passion and ability to capture emotion really resonated with me during that time in my life. I was definitely a troubled kid – I felt really lonely, but I could relate to people through music.
Was there a particular song that sort of resonated with you the most at the time?
“Closer” and “Only” were always my top two favorite songs. The stuff about relationships in “Only” was very liberating for me, and is just the perfect breakup song. And “Closer” is just a classic.
What’s the one song of theirs that brings back a vivid memory or the strongest feelings as soon as you listen to it?
Definitely when I think of “Closer,” I think back to listening [to the song with] my headphones on while my way home from high school. I grew up in New York City, so I’d sit on the train listening [to the song] while giving people dirty looks. [laughs]
Even after so many years, it’s hard to believe that a song like “Closer” was played as much as it’s been on TV and radio.
Yeah, it’s groundbreaking!
Do you recall the first time you actually saw the “Closer” video?
I saw it years ago, but I actually re-watched it today and it’s still such an incredible video. It’s crazy to think that it came out in the 90s.
Trent Reznor is often hailed as a visionary for the way he approaches music, both from a business and artistic aspect.
Well he’s very progressive and definitely makes his stance on things very clear through his work. He can really follow the technicality and structure [of music], but can also veer off to be more experimental … it’s also the full package of the artist – everyone loves Nine Inch Nails for the entire package and for what Trent Reznor is.
Imagine a scenario where you’re in the middle of a standup set, and suddenly you see Trent Reznor in the crowd watching you perform. How would you react?
Wow… that would definitely be a visceral experience for me. I would definitely give him a hug [laughs].
You’d just stop and give him a hug in the middle of the set?
Yeah, like “Sorry, I need physical contact!” [laughs]
And it would only be embarrassing if you go in for a hug and it turns out it’s not Trent Reznor.
Yeah and it’s just some guy who’s well dressed and slightly creepy.
Here’s another scenario – imagine you’re onstage and getting into a heated exchange with a heckler. What Nine Inch Nails song would you choose to soundtrack your fight with this heckler?
Ooo… maybe “March of the Pigs” [laughs]. I wish I could do that when I’m onstage – just cue a Nine Inch Nails song when someone was heckling me… but I’m not a very violent person [laughs].
I know that in addition to Nine Inch Nails, some of your favorite bands range from Sonic Youth and Radiohead to Motley Crue and Nashville Pussy – whose names you don’t often hear said in the same sentence. Which genre of rock would you say is more linear with the style of your comedy – alt rock like Sonic Youth or hard rock like Motley Crue?
I mean, I would say Sonic Youth because my favorite thing about that band is how versatile they are. That [approach] really allows me the freedom to be whoever I am and however I’m feeling…
I had a funny experience where I went to a concert knowing it was Thurston Moore [performing]. But I didn’t realize that he was performing with Yoko Ono – I was just confused as to who this other woman screaming was. I later realized who that was, and it was a funny and exciting moment. [laughs]
If you could name a standup comedy special of yours after any Nine Inch Nails song, which would you choose?
Hmm, that’s a good question… maybe “We’re In This Together.” I just feel like … that song resonates with me, and that title is also what kind of drew me to Nine Inch Nails in the first place. I feel like that statement – finding your community, and finding artists you can relate to – is empowering to me.
Do you hope your comedy can be as empowering to people as Nine Inch Nails’ music has been for you?
Yeah! I feel it’s really liberating to admit things that are embarrassing and say “fuck it!” to social standards, and create your own path. I’m not saying my comedy does all that [laughs], but I talk about things that I’ve struggled with, and I hope other people can relate to it while also be able to laugh.
Minus the laughing part – you sort of just described Nine Inch Nails’ music in a nutshell.
When we previously spoke, you’ve mentioned how much you love your Nine Inch Nails beanie. Is there a story behind the hat?
Yes, so my old roommate had this Nine Inch Nails beanie. One day I tried it on, and it fit so well that I sort of stole it. It’s the beanie I wear every single day. And it’s the most commented on article of clothing I’ve ever had in my life. People really love Nine Inch Nails in a way I didn’t realize until I had that beanie [laughs]…
I had a coffeeshop job and would always wear the beanie [while working their]. And this customer once drew me [while working at the coffeeshop] wearing the beanie.