Mighty Mike McGee is a well-traveled "stand-up poet" and storyteller from San José, California. In the world of poetry slam, he is the first to win both the 2003 National Poetry Slam Individual Grand Championship and the 2006 Individual World Poetry Slam Grand Championship. He has toured very extensively throughout United States, Canada and Europe. Since 2002, he's covered several hundred thousand miles performing his brand of poetry and humor. McGee has been featured on HBO's Def Poetry Jam, CBC Radio and Television, and NPR's Snap Judgment. He was one of the first Americans to perform spoken word at the University of Paris, la Sorbonne in 2005. He was appointed Poet Laureate of Santa Clara County (Silicon Valley) for 2018 & 2019. McGee’s first collection of humor and poetry, In Search of Midnight, is available through Write Bloody Publishing.
Mike and I have been friends for approximately twenty—which of course is a time-line we had to piece together at the beginning of our conversation. Which leads us into a discussion of other coffee shop we met at and how it served as a photo-type to social media.
Mike has always occupied a unique space between comedy and poetry, so I ask him about that transition and the meaning behind it. Mike tells me his thought on being a humorist and how his favorite stand-ups were always poetic (from George Carlin to Bill Hicks) and how that differs from comedians like Jerry Seinfeld.
Mike’s blueprint as a young man was Bill Cosby. And this brings up several very interesting questions: What do you do when the model for you like turns out to be a horrendous person? How do we deal with the idea that bad people are capable of creating things that inspire and move us? And do we expect an unreasonable level of perfection from people in the spotlight?
Comedy by nature pushes boundaries, and because of this the possibility of saying something that years later will be deemed socially unacceptable are greater. We talk about how are creators, are thoughts are on record more than others and Mike shares what it’s like to look back at poetry and notice an insensitivity in it. He also shares the pressure of crossing lines can feel like.
The Wind in My Hair | Masih Alinejad