By David Gavri
Owen Dunn is a stand-up comedian based out of Houston, Texas. A three-time finalist in Houston’s Funniest Person Contest, Owen has hosted at the Laff Spot, Laff Stop, Comedy Showcase, and the Houston Improv.
Not only does he perform shows all throughout Texas, but he is also a writer and a producer for CW39. He’s even an MC for corporate events and private parties at the Houston Texans Grille. On top of that, he interns for ESPN Radio 97.5 FM. After recently opening for Comedy Central’s Sheng Wang, Owen hung out with us afterward to talk comedy.
Tell us how you got into stand up.
I always wanted to do stand up. As a kid I would watch it on TV with my family all the time. The jokes we saw on TV would become inside jokes within the family. And I’d always think how these people made jokes—and MY FAMILY is saying them all the time. That’s insane! It had a real big affect on me.
Growing up, I really enjoyed watching Gallagher and Jeff Dunham because it appealed to kids. And as a kid, I was like, “Puppets! Yes!”. And Galligher’s smashin stuff—he was so rock star, so I was like, “Damn this is badass!”
When I was twenty-three years old, I hit a “mid-life crisis”. I had a girlfriend at the time—we bought an apartment together, signed a twelve-month lease together—and we broke up three months into it. It SUCKED. We still had to share a bed and everything. It was so bad that I ended up moving back in with my mom. I wouldn’t say that I hit rock bottom, but it was defintely a life changing experience. After that I was like, “Damn I need to do somethin with my life…I need to do something that I’ve always wanted to do.”
So I jumped into comedy. I found a comedy class at the Laff Stop that Rob Mungle was teaching at the time. I joined the class and had a badass time. At the end of the class, they held a showcase, and the entire class voted on who would be the “headliner” of this showcase. Gerald Torregosa was in the class with me—and he beat me by ONE vote. And…it pissed me off. And on top of that, on that same night, my grandpa got sick and had to go to the hospital. It definitely put a chip on my shoulder. But it’s the competition of comedy that pushes me so hard.
When your fellow comics are your closest competitors, how difficult is it to make friends within the scene?
It is very difficult. Some people you can’t really see as friends—but more as business associates. I feel like I got very lucky making a good group of friends here. When I first started comedy, Louis C.K. headlined, and Chase Durousseau opened for him. When I saw Chase again at open mic, I was like, “Hey man I saw you opened for Louis C.K.—that was really bad ass.” And he was like, “Yeah…it was.”
[Chase Durousseau graces us with his presence]
Chase: Hey Owen, remember the time I opened for Louis C.K.? It was bad ass wasn’t it?
Owen: Yeah man it was so—
Chase: Okay anyways, take care! [Chase walks away with two girls, one wrapped around each arm]
But after talkin with Chase, I was very fortunate to make friends with him, Russel Simeck, and Albert DeLeon. And to find a good group of friends that will help you and support you is great. Chase got me alotta gigs—he even got me on stage with Galligher. I got to smash a watermelon with Galligher! It was the coolest thing in the world, a life long dream.
For most comedians, it is a life long dream to do comedy in New York and/or Los Angeles. When, if at all, do you see yourself moving there?
Well, it took me twenty-seven years to move out of my mom’s house. And now that I’m out, I’m about a block away. So to move to New York or L.A. would be quite a leap. But I’m definitely setting myself up for it—I don’t wanna just roll out there. I’ve got a lot of good things going on here in the meantime. I’m taking my time with it. Some people thrive on moving out there right from the start, having that “sink or swim” mentality. Me, I’d rather do it methodically. I’m workin four jobs, savin up as much as I can right now.
Damn, four jobs? What all do you do?
Besides doing comedy full time, I teach comedy defensive driving—which is a great experience for someone who wants to be a comedian. I also host at the Texans Grille, I work at CW39, and I got an internship at ESPN Radio thanks to John Wessling. And all of those jobs I got because I do comedy. All my vacation days are for when I go outta town to perform—I get paid to go outta town! I don’t have to worry about a certain number of vacation days per year or any of that shit. And thankfully I have the luxury of taking off whenever I need to so that I can go outta town and do gigs. So for what it’s worth, comedy’s a skill that can open up alotta doors.
Comedy is a job in itself. Does it ever get tiring and repetitive?
Definitely. I get so tired of my jokes. But at the same time, I’m confident enough in my material that if I’m ever having a bad set, I can drop one of my jokes that always works—because I know it will always hit no matter what happens. Sometimes you just hafta power through it. Especially for the newer comics—your first five minutes is all you have—for a long time. But you shouldn’t stop doing those jokes because you will always find new ways to improve them: new tags, new ways to reword it, and so on. So yeah, you get tired of it, but it’s like, do you think Lynard Skynard gets tired of playing “Free Bird” every fuckin night?
It’s one thing to make the audience laugh, but how important is it to also make other comedians laugh?
It’s important to make the comics laugh—some of them. You have to earn respect from the headliners. That way they can put in a good word for you. And also if they like you enough, they’ll take you on the road with them. Afterall, they’re not gunna take someone shitty with ‘em on the road.
So you started doing comedy while you were still living with your mom. How did she react when she found out you wanted to do stand up comedy?
I went to private school my whole life, so my family really did not expect me to go into something like comedy. But at the same time, they love stand up comedy—I grew up watching it with them. Now—my family has never seen me perform. For the longest time, my mom had no idea I was even doing stand up.
Whenever I’d leave for comedy, I’d just be like, “Well, I’m gunna go stay at my friend’s house for a week, see ya…” It was like Breaking Bad—coming home late with all kinds of crazy stories but never letting her know. I think for the longest time she thought I had a drug and alcohol problem cuz I’d be coming home so late every single night.
She finally figured it out when she randomly found my website on Google. But she’s still never seen me—and I’m totally cool with that because I don’t think she’d like my jokes.
Do you eventually want them to come out and see you?
I would love for my family to come out and watch me—but not yet. I don’t even want my friends to see me yet either. I want to be good enough to where it would be worth their while.
You have your comedy life, and then you have your personal life. How do you keep the two separated?
I’d say it’s tough because I’m always scanning for funny stuff—as a comic you can’t help it. But at the same time, you can’t force it. Just enjoy whatevers happening at the moment and if something funny hits you, then go with it. It’s like being a cop—when you’re off duty, you’re not wearing the uniform, but you still carry your gun cuz you’re always ready incase shit goes down.
Interviewed & Written By: David Gavri