Before you started to organize the comedy scene in Buffalo, was there anything else going on at all in the city… or in the region?
Comix café was running out in the Colvin and Eggert plaza, that’s where a few of the guys were getting some stage time, but there were no open mics geared towards comedy. So yes, you could go get a five minute guest spot, but there was nowhere for anybody to really work on their sets. To really perfect the craft of comedy, you have to be able to try new stuff that may not work, but doing that as a young comic in a packed club, with the owner watching, is not recommended. So when I moved back here, I needed a workout room, so to speak. So I started one. The first year or so I booked buddies from Toronto (that’s where I started) just to fill the shows. There were only about 6-8 guys that were showing up to perform every week, so I had to import talent to keep a weekly show going.
Have you inspired other people to delve into comedy careers?
I’m not sure if I’ve inspired them as much as I’ve enabled them! Most folks who try comedy have a deep seeded desire to attempt it – they just haven’t built up the courage. From the beginning, I tried to make sure my room was a “safe space” for comics, because I knew there were going to be a lot of first timers showing up, and if I wanted to build a scene, I would need them to want to come back. If some guy yells “YOU SUCK” from the back of the room during your first set, you are not apt to show up again. At this point the audience has seen a ton of comedy, and they aren’t as easy on folks, they expect more, which is awesome. The comics have grown with the room, so it’s good for them to have a discerning audience. I would say that 95% of folks that walk into the Doin’ Time comedy showcase have a respect for the art form, at the very least.
How many comedy groups are in Buffalo now? Do you have a traveling team?
I DO! I started the Dykes Of Hazard tour about three years ago (FB). We just finished driving from here to San Francisco and back, and we will be starting a monthly variety show at the Ninth Ward (inside Babeville) in the New Year! In addition, The Rust Belt Comedy Tour and the Rogues of Radio comedy tour have sprung up in the last couple of years. They focus on a lot of college shows and working the region. Rust Belt comedy (which I am a part of) also hosts an open mic at Merge, and a monthly showcase at the Blue Wall in South Buffalo.
Do other comedians come to partake in comedy night, or is it mostly for Buffalonians?
Doin’ Time gets folks from everywhere. Our comedy room in Buffalo has built a nice reputation for itself, so when pros are heading through town, they stop in. It’s also well respected in the Toronto scene, so about once a month or so, a carload of Canadians come down to work out stuff. No matter how many TV credits you get as a comic, you still have to work out material. In the last month alone I’ve had comics from NYC, LA, Florida, Rochester and Toronto. Some are former Buffalonians, some are friends with local comics. Matt Bergman is a touring comic living here, and brings some of his buddies by when they are passing through town.
What’s the crowd like? Do you pick on them? Or do they pick on you?
There are a few comics that do crowd work, but not many. Unless an audience member is making a spectacle of themselves by heckling, the crowd is usually left alone.
Who is your favorite comedian of all time?
Of ALL TIME? And I can only pick one? There are so many to choose from. But I would probably have to say Bill Hicks. If you go back and watch his stuff, from 10-15 years ago, most of it is still applicable, because he was just that good.
Are you teaching comedy classes these days? If so, what inspired you to do so?
I most certainly am, one is starting on January 16th, actually (more info at Facebook and here) I was inspired to do so, because our little comedy scene is growing. There are now 3 other open mics in the city, and I would love to see a full fledge comedy scene develop here. In order for that to happen we need more talent to sustain the rooms. If people are interested in comedy and go out and see the same 10 people at all the shows, the momentum will fizzle out. I went to school in Toronto, at the Humber School of Comedy and it really gave me confidence to get onstage. A lot of people can just show up at an open mic and try it out, but some folks need a little bit more info, my class provides the basics in comedy and joke writing, giving the students a little more confidence because they know more about comedy as a whole. Chet Wild and Rick Matthews, both on the Rust Belt comedy tour, met in my class.
What’s the comedy climate like her in Buffalo? Does it differ from city to city?
It does differ, some scenes are stronger than others. LA, Chicago, Toronto, San Francisco, Seattle and NYC all have well established scenes. Our scene is very exciting right now. A few of our guys and gals have moved to NYC recently and are representing quite well, which just makes Buffalo comics look better. Not having a full time comedy club (there is Rob’s in Amherst, but they are focusing on touring comics more than local guys) has given our city an underground, DIY attitude. Plus, being from Buffalo, we are accustomed to being the butt of jokes for a long time. I firmly believe that a sense of humor is ingrained in Buffalonians, and that it is finally time for us to own it. That’s why I wanted the tagline to be “joke’s on us”
Do you look at yourself as the Queen of Comedy? Is there a King of Comedy?
I wouldn’t go that far! I look at myself as being a comic in a city that didn’t have my career choice as an industry. And I love Buffalo, and would love to be able to sustain myself on my craft in the city I love, rather than move. I had some training, had some experience producing, and when I got here I knew there had to be others like me, and there were! Every scene starts somewhere, and we are in a perfect location, comics travel between Cleveland, Pittsburg, NYC and Toronto, there’s no reason Buffalo shouldn’t be a stop.
What’s your favorite comedic topic?
Life. If you pay attention, the jokes write themselves. When I was 10, I moved from Buffalo to Louisiana, and I think my northern sensibilities mixed with my southern hospitality make for an interesting perspective on the world.
After doing stand up for all of these years, do you ever get nervous or scared?
There is always a little twinge of something, that’s for sure. It’s an interesting desire, this comedy thing. Wanting to get in front of strangers and make them laugh with just your thoughts can be very nerve wracking. When I first started I threw up pretty much every time, but thankfully that has stopped. I think if you don’t get a hint of nerves, where’s the fun??
Who would you most like to see come to one of your shows?
A magic man who wants to build a fantastic comedy club in the heart of downtown! That’s clearly the producer/Buffalonian in me. The performer in me wants EVERYBODY to come to one of my shows. If you’re looking for real people, I’ve already had the pleasure of opening for both Doug Stanhope and Ani DiFranco, so I’ve already gotten two folks on my list to see my stuff! Spirits open mic in Toronto has been running for over 10 years now, and when a movie is filming in town, sometimes comics drop by. Robin Williams, Lewis Black and Seth Meyers have all popped in. That would be fun!
Once a comedian, does the business transcend your daily life? How often do you use new material?
I believe either you are a comedian, or you are not. My Stand Up teacher in Toronto referred to those who were not as “non-coms.’ It’s a warped perspective and once you recognize it, it makes itself pretty well known throughout your life. The real trick is keeping a notebook with you and jotting down those thoughts that make you laugh and developing from there. With new material, it depends on the show. Sometimes I’ll go to an open mic with the intention of just working out new stuff, and maybe only 2 of the jokes are worth anything, but that’s what you build on.
What’s your favorite movie?
I have a few top movies, I think Heathers is amazing, but honestly, I’m kind of a comedy nerd. Eddie Murphy-“Delirious,” is an amazing special, as is Bill Cosby-“Himself”, and I just watched Wanda Sykes newest stand up special -“Ima Be Me” – it was absolutely fantastic
Where do you see yourself in five years?
I would love to be touring, splitting my time between here and New Orleans, telling jokes and helping to foster the comedy scene in both cities. I don’t want to be famous-just semi famous, with a good paycheck, doing what I love!
What’s the best way for someone to follow the comedy scene in Buffalo?
When’s the next show?
EVERY TUESDAY at Nietzsche’s, 8pm, only $5. I’ll also be at the Comedy Club in Webster, NY, THIS Saturday and at Allegany casino on January 7th.