Develop the Scene

Houston comic Adam Komar has something to say about the Houston Comedy Scene. Here’s what he has to say…

Develop the Scene
By: Adam Komar

I don’t claim to be an expert or a veteran.  I don’t even like claiming to be a comic or comedian.  I’ve stepped onto a few stages in and around Houston, some way more often than others, but by far and wide, not every single stage that’s ever been available during my time.  I hardly perform at all anymore.  I started performing stand-up six and a half years ago.  I’ve never done it consistently.  I’d write for months between visits to a stage.  I eventually found a stage I’d frequent every week, but it’s still nothing to the comics working 2 or 3 stages a night, 10 or so stages a week.

So I would never claim to be better than most.

I do have some experience.  It’s limited, but varied.  I’ve taken part in two comedy scenes.  Houston and south Florida.  Houston comics like to take it as a personal insult when I compare the two.  It’s a lot easier to feel insulted and dismiss it as someone just being an asshole rather than take it as what it’s meant to be: A challenge to be better.  I had a great experience in the south Florida comedy scene.  When discussing with some Houston comics, I was petulantly asked, “If you liked it so much, why didn’t you stay there?”  I didn’t answer the question then.  I didn’t answer because I didn’t want to escalate the situation into greater animosity.  Back then, I cared to keep the peace.  I don’t care anymore.  It’s exhausting.  It’s exhausting to battle against a constant petulant attitude from a multitude of Houston comics: amateur, veteran and everything in between.  It’s not all of them, but it’s a lot of them.  Usually the most influential, sadly enough.

If you don’t care about that then skip past the next two paragraphs.

I didn’t stay in south Florida because I couldn’t.  I moved to Florida to chase the comedy dream at the height of the recession and the beginning of hurricane season.  Not a wise choice.  I had a few thousand dollars to keep me afloat for a very short while, but once that ran out, I needed a day job to pay the bills and being in a place where the economy is based on tourism during a time when no one is touring, there weren’t many day jobs available.  Rent didn’t get paid and I got kicked out onto the street.  I wasn’t homeless, but I came close.  Luckily, my dad lives in West Palm Beach and he saved my ass.  Had he not been there, I would have been homeless.  He gave me a few months to find a job and get my own place.  That didn’t happen.  By the beginning of December, I knew I was coming back to Texas.  Coming back because I could not survive in Florida.  I didn’t come back to Texas because I wanted to come back.  If I could have stayed in Florida, I would have.

I’m the type of person to learn from every experience, good or bad.  I’ll always take something useful from the experience.  I failed at being a responsible adult in Florida.  Really, I failed at being a responsible at every point in my life up until that time.  When I got back to Texas, I had my head on straight and was focusing on just being a responsible adult.  I wasn’t concerned with comedy.  At all.

Once I got back on my feet, I started trying to get involved in comedy in Houston again.  That’s when the above question was presented to me. I was most certainly doing a lot of comparing between Houston and south Florida.  Houston was where I got started.  It’s where my roots are.  It’s my comedy home.  South Florida is where I gained perspective.  It’s what showed me how great a comedy scene can be.  Every scene will have it’s style.  Every scene will be different.  I think the key is to determine the scene’s attractive qualities and use them to the greatest advantage.

If you’re going to get butthurt about me praising south  Florida then skip the next paragraph.  If you actually care then read on.

They figured that out in south Florida.  I don’t even know what the qualities are for south Florida.  I just know they figured it out because they have a scene that works.  Within a 112-mile stretch on I-95 from Port St. Lucie to Miami, they have 3 Improv comedy clubs, the New York Comedy Club, Fort Lauderdale Comedy Club and a ridiculous amount of small rooms scattered all over the place.  Three to four a night, every night.  Not just every off night.  Every night.  Sunday through Saturday.  Nhan Du, a comic originally from south Florida who I hung out with frequently at various open mics, wrote a lettercomparing the south Florida scene to the New York comedy scene after he moved to New York.  He describes it very well.

I’m not saying Houston should try to be like south Florida.  That’s should never happen.  Houston should try to be better.  It should reach as much of it’s potential as it possibly can.  It’s barely tapping into that potential at all right now.  It’s barely tapped into that potential for as long as I’ve been around and it’s only gotten worse.

I only use south Florida as a comparison because it’s the only other scene I’m familiar with.  Take the same area that could be impacted.  Houston is our center, but we have two major interstates instead of one to travel along.  So split it that way.  28 miles each direction starting where I-45 and I-10 intersect/meet/twist together like spaghetti noodles.  That’s as far north as the Woodlands, as far south as League City, as far east as Baytown and as far west as Katy.  That’s 112 miles of road, but actually a shorter driving distance even if you go from one side to the other.  We’ve got a travel advantage there.

But this is currently what the Houston comedy scene has to offer:

Houston Comedy Scene, Actual

Given the potential, it could cover this entire area:

Houston Comedy Scene, Potential

Putting it plainly, that’s pitiful.  That’s a lot of people not even aware that there is comedy available to them.  I’m not talking about comics.  People.  Potential audience members.  People who have the desire to laugh, but don’t know they have a readily available avenue.  No venue and no comic is appealing to them at all.

Some Houston comics live in Baytown, Pearland, Sugar Land, Katy.  I’m closer to the Spring area.  Right now, we’re all coalescing inside the loop. Start a room close to home.  Don’t start a weekly open mic.  Asking for a weekly commitment from people who know nothing about what is going on isn’t going to work.  Do a monthly show.  Get them warmed up to the idea of comedy before making it so readily available.  Don’t give too much of a good thing.  Give them taste so they’ll want more.  Get them to ask for more.  You may have to try it at several different rooms in your area until you find one or two where it really works.  You probably won’t have success on your first try.  Once you find a place where it takes off, consider an open mic.  Maybe not even weekly still. Ease into it.

That’s just the potential area Houston comics can cover.  That’s not even the attractive qualities.  There’s one quality that is ingrained in every Texan and it’s amplified in every Houstonian.  I’ve made it well known in the past that I hate it with a passion, but that’s my personal opinion.  It seems to work for Houston so use it: Be competitive.  Houstonians are extraordinarily competitive.  More comics show up for competitions, big or small, than any other type of show.  For Houston’s Funniest, comics you’ve never met come out of the woodwork to try their hand.  It’s not the comedy that drives them.  It’s the competition.  Some rooms run topical competitions like the Superbowl jokes.  Local comics chomp at the bit for that stuff.  Not for the comedy.  For the competition.  The chance to prove they’re better than everyone else. So use that.  Compete with each other on both an official and unofficial level.  Start rooms that are competitions.  Challenge each other to write better jokes than each other based on a particular subject.  A few of you already do that.  Be more open about it.  Invite others to join in on it.

Be fucking friendly.  There’s a serious attitude problem among Houston comics, amateur to veteran.  Not all of them.  A lot of them.  The majority can be described as a petulant child or a bitter old man.  Some manage to be both at the same time.  Some are proud to be that way.  That attitude only hurts the scene. No one wants to listen to you if you’re a whiny asshole.  No one will take you serious if you’re a whiny asshole.  I’m not sayin’ you should be Mr. Nice Guy to every single person you interact with in the scene.  Just be friendly.  If someone isn’t friendly back then move on.  Don’t dwell on it. Don’t be bitter or spiteful about it.  Just move on.  Find the people that are friendly.  The people who aren’t will learn to be friendly or work themselves out of the scene.

These are just observations based on experience.  You can take it and use it to try to make things better.  That’s the intent of posting this.  Or you can continue to be a whiny asshole.  Your choice.

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