Most jokes about vegans are variations on a theme. You never have to ask if somebody is vegan—just give them 30 seconds and they'll tell you. Brooklyn-based comic Myq Kaplan might take issue with that. The comic, who has done sets on Conan and the Late Show With David Letterman, is this country's most well-known vegan comedian, and he has some opinions about other people's opinions of vegans.
"Some people hear the word vegan, and think, 'I know what you're like,'" Kaplan says. "They jump to whatever the worst stereotype of a vegan is, based on the loudest, most annoying vegans they have access to."
A vegan comedian is a rare commodity, but Kaplan is used to weathering unexpected cultural encounters. A graduate of Brandeis University with a master's degree in Linguistics from Boston University, Kaplan's brand of wordy, sophisticated comedy might at first blush seem only appropriate for college crowds or niche comedy stages. But his touring schedule mostly lists places like the Laughing Skull in Atlanta and improv clubs in Texas and Florida.
"Sometimes I'll headline a club for a weekend, and sometimes I want to go to Miami to visit my grandmother, so I'll try to string together a bunch of do-it-yourself, indie shows," Kaplan explains.
The Last Comic Standing finalist has a significant mainstream following, and cracked up big names Howard Stern and Howie Mandel on America's Got Talent, but Kaplan still likes his corner on the vegan market. It comes in handy when landing in a city like Portland, PETA's second-most vegan-friendly city in the United States since 2013.
"The last time I was headlining at Helium, I went into Herbivore and a woman who worked there recognized me," Kaplan says. "I put her on the guest list, and she brought me a shirt. That's more support than I get from most establishments."
Even with the gifts of vegan clothing and food, restaurant recommendations and bookings at vegan festivals, Kaplan wants to be seen as more than his dietary choices.
"Many of us have an identity signifier that's more important than others," Kaplan says. "My main one is 'human?' Kind of with a question mark. I have three albums out and I talk about vegetarian and vegan stuff, but it's a small fraction. I probably talk for an hour, and maybe five or 10 minutes ends up being about animal stuff."
SEE OT: Myq Kaplan is at Bossanova Ballroom, 722 East Burnside St., 206-7630. 7:30 pm Thursday, Nov. 5. $15 advance, $18 day of show. 21+.