The Hack’s Guide to Millennial Comedy

by Warren Wright

Edited by Al Bahmani

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The public’s idea of what a hack comedian is seems to be set in the 1980s. When we imagine a hack, we imagine the guy in a checkered suit telling jokes about airplane food. Some of the more prevalent hack topics included jokes about how men and women are different, Indian clerks at convenience stores, and fat people eating bacon cheeseburgers with a diet coke. With a vast demand for live performers in the 80’s, a comedy “boom” hit, and hit hard. The 15 + comedy clubs in every America city raked it in off of drink minimums, and still had the cash to pay hacks upwards of  $100,000 a year. Stand-up comedy had become another big economy in the Big Eighties. As all others, the market wasn’t ready for the future and couldn’t sustain itself. The club work dried up, and openers stopped making $1000 a show. Perhaps the market became over-saturated. It could have been the internet, which gave us access to all the comedy ever and thereby raising our standards. Perhaps widely-conceived clichés failed to be funny anymore.With the new Wifi Era  and its’ changing ethos of the day, hack comedy changed. Internet Apps changed the way we talk, and hacks took to the stage with new bits about,

Perhaps the market became over-saturated. It could have been the internet, which gave us access to all the comedy ever and thereby raising our standards. Perhaps widely-conceived clichés failed to be funny anymore.With the new Wifi Era  and its’ changing ethos of the day, hack comedy changed. Internet Apps changed the way we talk, and hacks took to the stage with new bits about, “How mean the comment section on Youtube can be”. Copy and pasted stock lines engulfed the mainstream lexicon. (“Party-foul!” “This is why we can’t have nice things!”). Hacks are now armed with a whole electronic world of easy, safe jokes regurgitated in a “share if you agree” format. The airplane food jokes of old have become “hipsters with smartphones” jokes.

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Describing Millennials

“These kids nowadays can’t change a tire!”

“So I went to (X college) and got a degree in (something useless). So I’m a barista”

“None of us will ever retire!”

Around 2008, the word “Millennial” became the hottest buzzword to describe the new crop of youth with far less money than their parents. According to journalists, they often are described as having useless college degrees or moving in back home with their parents. The journalists of the day described millennials in such generalized and blanketing terms that it seemed everybody between the ages of 18 and 30 lived an almost unanimous narrative. When they write about millennials, you can almost guarantee that the phrases “Skinny jeans” or “App-Savvy” or “Safe space” is soon to follow. “Millenial” had become an insult, and thereby something for hack comedians to exploit. Hack comedians and hack journalists both describe millennials tirelessly as narcissistic , nihilistic, and too sensitive to cope with reality. How many times have you heard the phrase “Everybody gets a trophy” this week? Hack social commentary begat hack comedy. Most of these easy generalizations  eventually find their way to the stage, and easy jokes are written about aimless deadbeats on social media.  So hipsters are known for taking pictures of their meal and putting it on Instagram. Who honestly gives a fuck?

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Lethargic, Self-Indulgent/ self-depreciating , Pizza/Taco Humor

“Have you ever smoked weed all day, indoors for 24 hours straight, and just binge-watching until you’re crying into your Whataburger? So I’m single. LADIES?!”

“I watched Netflix until it asked me ‘are you still watching?’. DON’T JUDGE ME, NETFLIX!”

“Some of my friends are becoming lawyers but pizza is my everything”

Scroll on Facebook for 2 minutes and you’ll come across this breed of humor. This is one of comedy’s lowest common denominators. It is the  bold declaration that binge-eating, laziness,and binge-watching will go on unabashedly. So many memes and comedians follow this formula to great success, as they resonate amongst the general public. The narrative of the everyman eating pizza and watching copious amounts of TV in the face of normalcy works so well because they are, in fact, telling jokes to people living in western society, all of whom are so familiar with this. We all enjoy lazy days indoors as we all have to work such long hours to get by. We all eat a lot of food. Sopranos-style cliffhanger television is as addictive as fuck and we’ve all been asked “Are you still watching?”. Normal, normal,normal. These jokes work amongst younger and older crowds, as sociologists have been warning us against binge-eating and binge-watching since as far back as the 50’s. This joke, however common , can be done in a clever and inventive way by very funny comedians. Honestly, I’d rather hear from the astronaut comedian tell jokes about his day job.

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Taking a Strong Stance on a Safe, Agreeable Platform

“So Donald Trump is evil. More like ‘Make America Hate Again’, amirite? ”

“They’re pro-life but they’ll still bomb an elementary school”

“You don’t beat your wife and crash your car stoned on weed. More like raid the fridge!”

It takes a true professional to get onstage, take a safe side on a sensitive subject, and still get laughs. However, a hack can take a safe side and get an easy “Gimme” applause break. (“Clap if you’re happy the gays can get married”. No shit, this is fucking Montrose). The so-called “Social Justice Hacks” are fairly prevalent, as there is a shit-load of injustice in the world. My college ethics professor had a running joke. He used to joke that “If you’ve read anything about slavery or the Holocaust, hopefully, your opinion on it is a negative one.” This joke always killed the class. The edgy should and always will beat out the safe in comedy. In politics, however, this trend is reversed. Politicians cannot be edgy, they must be voted in. When Obama mentions war, the message is “We need to keep America safe”, rather than “We need to go overseas and put landmines where children play”. On the Drug War, the message is  “We need to keep America safe from vicious cartels”, rather than “I think 15-year-olds should get ten years in prison over a joint”. When I imagine someone who thinks that is an acceptable policy, I imagine somebody very cruel and ignorant.The point being is that it is very, very difficult to elegantly articulate terrible, cruel ideas that will hurt a lot of innocent people. Granted, Hitler and Reagan had a gift. As we remember from the year 2008, Obama used to not be the first President in favor of Gay Marriage. One day at least 55% of Americans were pro-gay marriage, and so was he. What seemed to him taking a stand for truth and justice was essentially Obama taking a popular stance; the political equivalent of pandering. With politics as polarizing as ever, the “edgy” comedian doing a bit about legalizing weed is taking a very safe route as 50 million registered voters agree with him. Plus, Bill Hicks already said all of this shit years ago. Viewpoints on stage seen as cruel or ignorant will rarely yield laughs. It’s probably better to assume the audience you’re performing to is smart enough to know the difference between good and evil.

 

 

 

 

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Tim Mathis: Houston’s Loose Canon Tightens Up

by Al Bahmani

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“Tim is a silly, funny and intelligent everyman who has this ability to be to liked by both black and white audiences.”

Theodore ME Taylor

 Houston Funniest Person 2011

So what’s new?

This Sunday I’m going to be in Kevin Hart Presents “Hart of the City” with a few other Houston comics and a Dallas comic. The other Houston comics in it are Crystal Powell and Ken Boyd. Alfred Kainga is the Dallas guy. The episode was filmed at Cafe 4212 which is a little jazz club in downtown Houston.

Where are you from and how’d you get into comedy?

I was raised in Clute, Texas. It’s a smaller town right off of Hwy 288 right by Lake Jackson, Texas about an hour south of Houston. The population was about 8,000 people when I grew up there. It’s very different now. I was homeschooled and then went to Christian school and then I went to the Navy in Pascagoula, Mississippi, which was horrible. I did anti ship missile defense. I didn’t do much there except paint. When I got out of the Navy, I went to Alvin Community College because I wanted to get into radio.

A College radio station in Alvin, Tx?

89.7 FM KACC is a classic rock station. Back then I had my own weekly show that was a mix of politics and pop culture. Radio is where I learned how to write jokes. (On the radio) I was always trying to be funny. Some of the jokes were a little too edgy, so I had to get approval to get them on the air. From there I got a job as a radio producer for KSEV 700 AM, a radio station owned by now Lt. Governor (of Texas) Dan Patrick from 2007-2011.  I had an early morning Saturday show. I was libertarian before everyone else was.

What did radio production involve?

With radio production you do the behind the scenes stuff, like run the show clock, answer calls, run the sound board and if they are a bunch of guests in there, you check the levels. Basically you keep the show on the rails. It’s not totally different from running a comedy comedy show. You still got to deal with different personalities. Comedy is different because it’s a live performance. With radio I can cut mics and go to commercial. You can’t go to commercial in comedy.

The transition from radio to comedy was much easier because I had my own radio show since I was in college in 2007.  I already knew how to write jokes and talk without verbal ticks like “uh, um and like” and all that. It was a really smooth transition into stand up.

What led to that transition from radio to stand up?

I got laid off from my radio gig in January 2011. Lt. Governor. Dan Patrick is actually the guy that laid me off. After two or three month of being depressed, I needed a creative outlet. I always wanted to do stand up so I went to the Sherlocks open mic and did my first set in April 2011.

I don’t know who the host was but Kid (Chris Reid) from Kid N Play did thirty minutes. He was supposed to seven and did about thirty. I was like, “I’ll be here a while”. I went up at one seventeen in the morning. So I was one of the last guys there and it went well for the four people that were there. I kept going on at Sherlocks and there Rich Williams told me about Uptown Hookah. I started going there and from Uptown, Netra Babin introduced me to Ali Siddiq and I became a regular at The Horn which is a room he used to run.

How did you end up booking your own comedy shows?

 I started booking my own shows around 2014. There was a room in Pearland, Texas called Skeets. It was a one-nighter and the guy booking the show didn’t want to book it anymore. He told me the budget and I took it. At one point I was running 5 rooms, which is about 4 too many. If you put together good shows then people are going to ask you to do more shows. If you put together crap shows and then you have to find venues.

What’s the best thing about starting in a place like Houston, Texas?

It’s a city of 4 million people and we have a lot of really good comics. There’s only two clubs and in order to get those spots you gotta be one of the funniest guys there is. It’s that competition that makes you very funny.

The “competitors” kept you funny are?

As far as comics go Jermaine Warren, Bryson Brown, Rich Williams, and then were those that were my mentors like Ali Siddiq, Caroline Picard, Billy D. Washington and All D. Freeman. I’d also like to publicly apologize to Sam Demaris. I drug you into a beef with another comic and I shouldn’t of done what I did. You helped me out early on and I apologize for that. 

And what are the pitfalls of doing comedy in a place like Houston, Texas?

There were times I’d be drunk by noon. In comedy alcoholism is easy because for number one, you’re always in a bar or a club that serves alcohol. A lot of times, you get free drinks and people will buy you drinks. Still to this day, I joke about not drinking any more and after the show people will come up to me and try to buy me more drinks. You don’t want to be a jerk, but you don’t want to break your sobriety. Andy Huggins helped me out a lot when I reached out to him. I’m still an alcoholic but I don’t drink.

Any advice anyone just starting comedy?

Stay in your lane, keep to yourself and don’t worry about other people. And don’t start any unnecessary drama.

So what’s next for you?

Right now I’m prepared for what every comes out. I got my website updated and I got a passport. I’ve been saving money in case I need to move anywhere. Everything is up in the air. I’ve never been on national TV before. I don’t know what’s next.

The Houston episode of “Kevin Hart Presents Hart of the City” airs this Sunday 10:30 PM CST on Comedy Central. A viewing will be taking place at Cafe 4212 for more details click here.

Monty Loved Comedy

by Jay Whitecotton Edited by Al Bahmani

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Monty wore a big, dumb straw hat lined with 420 buttons and positive affirmations. It was his comfort blanket, but as he gained confidence he began to take it off and hang it on the mic stand. His sets were exactly as he was off stage, filled with bouts of nervous laughter and catchphrases like “Where my Outlaws at?”and “If you don’t like my jokes I’ll smoke you out in the parking lot!” Always with a genuine sun baked smile.

Monty loved comedy.

In many ways it was the only thing keeping him together after the car wreck. Years before we met he had lost his wife in a crash. Though she survived in the most literal sense, she – from how I understood it – was frozen in time. A shell with no spirit. However, Monty refused to accept that. Knew she was still in there. He believed it and held on to her like you would your absolute closest and best friend. He saw light in her eyes, talked everyday about her and the day she’ll wake up to anyone who would listen. The magnitude of that kind of devotion overwhelms me too much to even try to write anything more about it.

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Monty had a lot of terrible ideas about starting comedy shows. Laundry mats, metro rails, his front porch, the restaurant near his house that he could just walk to… He would assemble anyone willing to join him on these terrible ideas and call everyone else who had the good sense to avoid that nightmare – cowards. In many ways he was right.

The “Where’s my Outlaws at?” was as silly as the straw hat, but it meant the world to him. The ‘Outlaw’ tag itself is an old stand up term from the early 1980’s that Houston Comics still can’t seem to shut up about. It included two of standup’s biggest legends – Bill Hicks and Sam Kinison – and was a tag Monty cherished greatly. One time after doing a gig in Houston, Monty got to meet one of the original Outlaws, Andy Huggins. For weeks he bragged how Andy gave him the blessing to carry on the name. It was a small gesture, but one that meant the world to Monty.

Everything he did successful or not he wore as badges, like the buttons that lined his big dumb straw hat.

Monty & Fam

However – nothing made him more proud than his kids and who they grew up to be. He loved them so openly, hailed their every accomplishment and looked upon them with happy wonder. Monty was very self aware of the kind of father he must’ve of appeared like so I think the fact that his kids grew up to be more normal than NORML came as an immense relief. Sometimes Monty would talk about them with a lost look in his eye, like a Captain slowly going down in the ship, sad, but also happy that they were at least safe in lifeboats paddling to shore. It always unnerved me.

Monty certainly had his dark days. Sets filled with anger and frustration. Occasionally creepy when you knew he needed to get some, but no one ever felt unsafe. He was a big goofy puppy and rarely held grudges for long.

Everyone that met him loved him, got annoyed by him, avoided him, put up with him, got excited to see him, and most definitely smoked out with him. It was genuine. We all worried about him, we all talked about his weight loss and occasional binges in moods, but none of us could’ve stopped this. That is also genuine. If you’re looking back trying to find a way you could’ve stopped this from happening, quit. He was his own self made Outlaw, fiercely set in his ways. All you can do now is say goodbye and try to carry on the best in him that he showed to us.

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It’s common to hear things like “this isn’t about you” or “you didn’t really know him that well to speak about this”. Don’t buy into that bullshit. The fact is – it really is about you and the people you are around. That’s how death works. Monty is gone so these questions aren’t his to worry about anymore. It doesn’t matter if you met him once or hung out every day, it’s ok to take the time to personally and openly reflect what this means to you.

How else do you really celebrate or honor the meaning of a life?

I don’t know.

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One time Monty let me try on his dumb straw hat. I was going to fuck around with him and do my best Montgomery Wayne Seitz impression, but the pins from all the buttons stabbed painfully into my skull. I realized quickly how that pain is what Monty felt every day he wore his favorite comedy hat. He didn’t have to wear it, often we’d make fun of it, but he wore that pain with a smile because it made him feel good trying to make everyone else happy.

I wish I appreciated that small sacrifice more when he was alive.

A GoFundMe Page has been made to help cover funeral expenses.

To Make A Donation Click Here!

Houston Improv Open Mic Night: Be There

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By Steven Padilla

Open Mic Night is Back

It has been well over a year since The Houston Improv hosted an open mic. When there was one, it was held consistently every month or so.

On September 5, 2012, it was resurrected. This time on a more consistent basis. The plan is to have the open mic every other week. The dates are posted on the Improv website.

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Laugh Out Loud Comedy Club-Beaumont Picture Gallery

By Steven Padilla

A new comedy club has opened up.  It’s not in Houston, but it’s close.  The Laugh Out Loud Comedy Club in Beaumont had its grand opening on Friday, August 17th.  Here are some pictures of the new comedy club.

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10 Questions with Andy Huggins

By Steven Padilla

A graduate of both The Comedy Store in Los Angeles and Houston’s legendary Comedy Workshop, Andy Huggins is a thirty-year veteran of both clubs and concerts. He has opened for acts ranging from Ray Charles to Billy Gardell. In addition, Andy has written for Bill Hicks, Jay Leno, and Billy Crystal on The Academy Awards.(Source-www.rooftopcomedy.com)  In the 1980’s he was one of the Texas Outlaw Comics, which also included  Riley Barber, Steve Epstein, John Farneti, Bill Hicks, Jimmy Pineapple, and Ron Shock.  He still writes and works on his craft.  These days you can see him perform Mondays in Houston at the Houston Comedy Unions’ open mic held at Sherlocks River Oaks.  He is a crowd favorite that never disappoints.  Here are 10 questions with the man himself after the break.  Interviewed by Kevin Farren.

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