By: Steven Padilla
Aaron Aryanpur has opened up for the Axis of Evil Tour. He was also named Maxim Magazine/Bud Light “Real Men of Comedy.” From Dallas, he’s been gracing the comedy stage for over 10 years. Fresh off of winning the Funniest Comic in Texas contest, he gave of some of his time.
First of all, congratulations on winning Funniest Comic in Texas. How does is feel?
It feels pretty good. Really good. A lot of people gave me a lot of support. With that was added pressure. People were saying that they were counting on me. More and more each year I was in this contest.
How many years have you been in this contest?
Since it began. Five years now. It may be easier for me to say this now that I have won, but I don’t like contest at all.
What advice do you have for comedians competing in a contest?
Contest are so hard to measure. Get to the first laugh as quickly as possible. Cut your bits down to what you absolutely know works. Do your best stuff. I’ve struggled with this. Should I do my second best stuff in the first round? If I do that, I may not advance to the next round. It’s a tough decision to make. The one piece of advice I was given was do the material that best represents yourself. Make sure you give the audience and judges a sense of who you are. That’s not just for a contest, but for every set you do. You want people to remember you.
Where did you get your start in comedy?
I was a huge fan of comedy. I was going to a lot of shows at the Addison Improv, but I had never considered going on stage before. They had a flyer for a workshop. Before that, I never really knew where to begin. I guess we all go through that. So, I took this 8 week workshop and we met every Saturday. It ended with a showcase at the Improv. My very first time on stage was a 4 minute set in front of a packed house. It felt amazing and right away I knew I wanted to do this again. It actually took a long time to get back to the Improv stage. Then I started going to the open mics and was hugely disappointing. Nobody was paying attention. Nobody was laughing like they did that first night.
Have you ever had a bad experience or performance?
I’ve had tons of crummy shows. But mostly early on when I was doing auditions. Mainly because I thought it was going to be my big break, and nothing happened. Especially when I auditioned for Last Comic Standing. There was a lot of second guessing right after that. The one thing I took away from that, was that I needed to stop writing hoping to get noticed or fulfill someone else’s expectations.
Did you ever consider walking away from comedy?
I’ve had those moments early on and even recently. I don’t think those moments ever go away. I listened to podcasts, Marc Maron and others, and heard of other comedians feeling the same way. I think it is comforting and also somewhat disappointing hearing legends talk like that. These are people who have had their own TV shows and they had the career and all of that. There’s a certain amount of self doubt that never goes away. It’s comforting though to know that those feelings are normal, to whatever degree that this is normal. That’s also how you keep growing. Never being satisfied. Stick with it.
The FCIT of course. Also, I have had a few shows where I allowed myself to stay in the moment and enjoy it. It makes up for all of the other audition stuff from years ago. I just had this feeling like I didn’t care if I moved on to the next round. I didn’t care if I was going to win or lose. Just knowing that I did the best set that I could have done.
When did you feel like you found your voice?
(Laughs) Now?! There are some people that are five years in and they are proud of themselves for finding their voice. I don’t think it comes that easily. When you become more comfortable with yourself, the more opportunities present themselves. I’ve done a lot of auditions, shows and contest. I was always trying to tell jokes I thought the judges would like. Over the years you I’ve realized that you can’t predict what anyone is going to like. So just do what’s closest to your heart and what you are really passionate about. Maybe that’s what finding your voice really is. Being able to drop all the pretense and second guessing and just start talking like a human being. I feel like I’ve known that all along but only been living it the past two years. I can definitely feel it on stage, I’m getting a stronger reaction.
Who are some of you comedic influences?
I always enjoyed comedy and sketch. I was a huge fan of Saturday Night Live and SCTV. I was watching Comedy Central before it was “Comedy Central”, and loving every bit of it. George Carlin, Richard Pryor, Bill Hicks, Bill Cosby and so many more influenced me. I saw Mitch Hedberg a lot in 1999, 2000, 2001. He was someone that I really looked up to and enjoyed. And over the years Louis Ck and Bill Burr have influenced me. Getting a chance to see these guys in person and talk to them was pretty amazing. I had the opportunity to open for Patrice O’Neil. And of course, that was a big deal. I was so happy that I was able to watch him too. Greg Geraldo was another one I always looked up to. I don’t want to say that I want to sound like somebody. But if I was to look at somebodies career and place, and try to do what they did, it would be a Louis CK or Greg Geraldo. I really, really love what they do.
What happened last year at the Moontower Festival?
(Laughs) Fun story. I was invited to do Moontower last year and I was crazy excited about it. This was a great opportunity to be seen in Austin and work with some really big names. My friend Paul Varghese was also invited. We’ve done a lot of road trips together, writing together. This was going to be a lot of fun for the both of us.
Okay, so my wife was pregnant with our second child, but wasn’t due til may. The festival was of course in April. I knew there was going to be a two to three week window. I was super pumped that my wife was pregnant. I knew this festival was going to be like a last hoorah since I was going to take some time off with the wife and baby. I decided I was going to drive just in case anything happened. So Paul and I were driving to Austin and about halfway down there, I start getting the text and phone calls from my wife saying her water broke. She thinks she’s going into labor. She also knew how excited I was about Moontower. She didn’t want me to make the drive back on a false alarm. So I kept driving another 10 to 15 minutes wondering what I should do. We were trying to find some friends in Austin that could meet us to pick up Paul. None of that was available. We turn around and drive back to Waco. I dropped him off at the greyhound bus station so he could make his way back to Austin, and I drove back to Dallas. I’m speeding the whole way and make it over there in about an hour. It was brutal. All this time I was on the phone with comics, my wife, her sister and people from Moontower. I was apologizing for not being able to make it to the festival. They were okay with since it was a legit excuse. It’s not like I overslept and missed it. I made it to the hospital about 5:15. I change shirts because I was sweating like crazy. I meet my sister in law, got all the scrubs on, went to my wife’s room with about 15 minutes to spare. It was ridiculous. I was there for the birth of my son.
Maxim Magazine/Bud Light “Real Men of Comedy”, please explain.
Years ago they sponsored a contest. Again with the contests! They were looking for people to participate in this tour. It seems like an odd lineup. It was Joe Rogan, Charlie Murphy and John Heffron. They had a contest in each of the cities where the tour was going to be at. They were looking for someone to open for them. I submitted a video and got a call back. It ended up being me, my friend Paul, Mark Agee, this other comedian and we didn’t know who the fifth guy was going to be. We show up that night at the Improv and come to find out the last guy was Robert Hawkins. At this point he has already been on Comedy Central and touring forever. This guy was legit. There goes any chance of us winning. It was a ringer. The show goes well. Hawkins clearly wins. But he was already booked that night of the upcoming show, so he couldn’t do it. So it went to Paul, but he was also already booked that night. Then it came down to me. That’s how I got my first big credit.
How did you become part of the Axis of Evil Tour?
My farther is Iranian. I was trying to find out what my niche was, maybe a middle eastern comic. Only when I got started did I realize that there was already a scene. It was then that I found Maz Jabroni online. He’s an Iranian comedian. I emailed him out of the blue. He was immediatly friendly with me. When I started to make it out to L.A., he was hooking me up with stage time at smaller booked shows. A couple of years after, he started doing the Axis of Evil Tour. The guys put the show together and produced it themselves. They had been doing it locally in L.A. for a while. They picked Axis of Evil appropriate comedians to open the show in the markets they were going to. I was one of the chosen ones. They were really great guys. Maz is still really a great friend. As a matter of fact, I opened up for him in Houston.
How did Houston treat you?
I actually headlined the Thursday night show at the Improv. It was a light crowd. I would have liked for it to be bigger. When you open for Maz, you take for granted that he is bringing the crowd. He sells out every show. That’s the thing we are all facing. We all want to be a draw. It was humbling. I had a great time the whole weekend.
What’s next for you? New York? L.A.?
It’s hard for me to pull up stakes and move my family. There needs to be something that’s more substantial. But there will come a time when I have to make that move.
What are some of your short and long term goals?
I would like to be treating this more and more like a business. In 2013 I want to take time to make this more legit. Each year, more and more opportunites keep popping up. I’d like to travel more. Also be a part of more festivals and do college shows. I don’t need to get rich. I just want to be able to sustain myself and sustain my family. That’s it. That’s the big goal.
Lastly, when can we expect to see you in Houston again?
Not sure, but hopefully soon. I love it down there.
Interviewed By: Steven Padilla