By David Gavri
Although a St. Louis native, this Rice University graduate got his comedic start in 1999 right here in Houston at the beloved Laff Stop. He soon developed his trademark style of blending obscure impressions into his stand-up routine. Mike’s television debut was on Comedy Central’s Premium Blend in 2001 and he has since performed on The Late Show with David Letterman, NESN’s Comedy All-Stars, and was also a cast member on the TBS sketch show Frank TV. In 2009, Mike was invited to perform on the Master’s Showcase at the Montreal Just for Laughs Comedy Festival. He has also lent his distinctive voice to numerous commercials, video games, cartoons, anime, and Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim.
Now a resident of Austin, TX, Mike performs in comedy clubs all around the nation. He is heard regularly on syndicated radio programs such as The Bob & Tom Show and The Jimmy Dore Show. Mike was also recently invited to perform at SXSW and the Moontower Comedy Festival in Austin, Texas. And tonight, he’s with us.
So you graduated from Rice University, but you decided to do comedy? Most people would expect you to have a “real” career, so tell us about your comedic pursuit.
I was a civil engineer for a while but it was boring. But then I found out that there were all these people drinking and smoking at The Laff Stop on West Gray, and that seemed like more fun. Plus, some of them were telling jokes.
You’re great at doing many different impressions. Do you have a personal favorite?
Patrick Stewart. It feels like I’m giving my throat a massage from the inside.
Were voices and impressions the reason you started doing stand up comedy, or did these skills develop as you went along?
Yeah, it was always an aspect of it. I probably wouldn’t have tried stand-up at open mics if I didn’t have this skill that I had messed around with for a long time. But I’ve definitely worked at it and cultivated it since then.
You’ve had the opportunity to perform on The Late Show with David Letterman. It’s a great accomplishment, and as a comedian, it’s a big stamp of approval. Tell us about that experience.
I fucked up the handshake with David Letterman because I was stunned by how orange he looked up close. Then I had a steak.
What’s it like performing comedy on TV as opposed to doing a live show?
When you perform on TV the main difference is that there are giant TV cameras pointed at you that broadcast what you are doing into space and then into peoples’ homes. So if you mess up a word or don’t do well, way more people know about it.
Aside from TV, you’ve done comedy festivals in Montreal as well as in Austin, Texas. How do festivals differ from performing at comedy clubs? Which type of setting do you prefer?
Festivals are a blast because you get to hang around all your comedy buddies, usually in some awesome city somewhere. Performing in clubs is lonely and shitty and you are usually in some shithole somewhere. Except for Houston!
So you’ve been on TV, performed at the big festivals, and you’ve also done voice-overs for video games, cartoons, anime, and Adult Swim on the Cartoon Network. How’d you get into this type of work? Tell us about these experiences.
There was this place in Houston called AD Vision that dubbed anime into english. They hired a lot of local actors and comics, so I got started there. That was my main voice-over work for a long time. Occasionally these days I do some sound-alike work for Disney. I wish I did more voice-over. It’s the easiest way to make money on the planet.
Let’s talk about comedy in Texas. Now that live in Austin, what differences do you notice from the comedy scene in Austin compared to the comedy scene in Houston? And how can either scene improve?
Well, I haven’t been around Houston for a while so it isn’t really my place to judge. But both Cap City and The Velveeta Room in Austin are really great to the locals, I can tell you that. I think Houston lost a lot when The Laff Stop closed for good. You need a place like that.
But if you are funny and want to pursue comedy as a career, I would recommend leaving Houston and moving to Austin. I know that will piss a lot of people off, but I don’t give a shit. Until the Montreal people, the Conan people, or the Comedy Central people start coming to Houston every year like they do in Austin, I’m right.
Time for some generic questions. Who are your comedic influences?
The Marx Brothers, farts, and Bob Biggerstaff.
What does the future have in store for Mike MacRae? Any specific career plans or goals?
Doing the Whiskey Brothers Podcast. CAREER PINNACLE
What’s the best advice you can give to the younger comics?
Put the mic down, and slowly back away. Eaaaaasy now… [eyes randomly glowing red]
They say comedy is a marathon, not a sprint. How do you stay motivated through the long haul?
I’ll give you a hint: It’s the title of an Eric Clapton song…
[starts singing, “She don’t lie, she don’t lie, she don’t lie…”]
For more info on Mike MacRae click on: http://mikemacrae.com/
Contributed by: Steven Padilla
Interviewed & Written by: David Gavri