A brief look at the comedy scene will show you there's a ton of local performers are doing one-person-shows, but there aren't a lot of duos or troupes. Those who are
attempting such acts have been working to find new and creative ways to get noticed in a sea of solos. Teresa and Doug Wyckoff, a married couple transplanted here from New York, have been working the local circuit for over a year now. Today we chat with the two about their careers and working in SLC. (All photos courtesy of the Wyckoff's.
Doug & Teresa Wyckoff
Doug & Teresa on Facebook
Gavin: Hey Doug and Teresa, first thing, tell us a little bit about yourselves.
I am originally from Salt Lake City. I played football at Cottonwood High School and was the team captain and defensive MVP for the 1987 team. We had a record of 1-9 (that’s one win, nine losses). I’ve always believed it’s better to be the best player on a losing team, than the worst player on a winning team. I bring this same outlook and attitude to our duo show, The He & She Show
. I ended up leaving Salt Lake City and eventually settled in Hawaii, where I raised my family, got divorced, and started doing comedy. That is also where I eventually met my current (and best) wife.
I’m from the Pacific Northwest, the suburbs outside of Portland, Ore. From the time I was little, I wanted to see the world—so I’ve spent most of my life doing that. First, [I was] a flight attendant for a regional airline, where I got to see far off places like Pocatello, Idaho and Spokane, Wash. As just a tourist, I managed to explore a little further—most of the states, and a few continents. However, I did not ever make it to Utah until I met my husband. Since we’ve been married, I’ve dragged him to Europe twice, and around the country several times.
When did you each first take an interest in comedy, and who influenced you the most?
I had no interest in comedy
or being funny until I was 41. Never cared for it, and didn’t think about it. Then I got divorced and thought, "Hey, I’m kind of funny and all my friends said I was the funniest one in the group," so I decided to try standup comedy. I wanted to be one of the cool kids and pick up hot chicks due to my superior comedic skills. So here I am now with a hot chick doing comedy, and would say she has been my biggest influence, and what makes us a winning team.
My life is basically a stream of embarrassing moments, so I decided to take advantage of that and try to make it a career. I wanted to try standup for a long time, but it took me a year to build the courage to get on stage. Once I got my first laugh, though, I was addicted. I love doing my individual standup, but doing it as a duo is a new challenge that makes me happier than I could imagine. I have lots of influences, so many amazing comedians I’ve gotten to watch, and gotten to know all over the country—it’s hard to nail it down to just one. My favorite “big star” to watch is Louis C.K.
You both started on the East Coast before coming here. What was your experience like starting there?
We did move here from New York City, but we both actually started doing comedy in different places. I started in Wilmington, N.C. at one of the best comedy clubs in the country, now called Dead Crow. After just a few months of doing standup comedy to a supportive crowd in an amazing scene, I decided to "become a star" in New York City. That lasted about three months. I realized pretty quick that I was nowhere near ready to be in New York. I also had a couple major hospitalizations which set me back financially, personally and comedically. I then moved to Hawaii to be with family and recover. After taking some time off from comedy, I started performing again in Maui, Hawaii, where I met Doug.
I started doing comedy in Hawaii about the same time as Teresa did across the country in North Carolina. I also went to L.A. to pursue comedy about the same time Teresa went to New York.
The slight difference is that he experienced some slight entertainment success there before moving back to Maui for family reasons.
We both met performing comedy in Hawaii, and that’s where we created and started our duo show. We then moved to a small coastal town in Oregon, where my youngest son wanted to move to play sports and graduate high school. During this time we performed comedy around the northwest for a couple of years. After much planning, promotion and booking, we undertook a 3-1/2 month nationwide tour, performing more than 70 shows in 43 states. At the end of that tour, we moved to New York City. We lived and performed in NYC for almost two years. We had a monthly show called Date Night
at The Creek & The Cave that was nominated for "Best New Show." We didn't win, but it was quite an honor to be nominated. New York is a challenging place to do comedy, because everyone’s very good and there’s a lot of competition for stage time. For the same reason, it's the best place to do comedy. It’s a hard and expensive, but it’s the most exciting place in the world to live—anything can happen at any moment, good or bad.
What were some of the biggest lessons you learned about performing when you first started?
The biggest thing I learned when I first started was to find my voice instead of using my original material to replicate my favorite comedians “voices.” I think most of my comedic journey has been about figuring out what sets me apart, and then being true to that. I’ve noticed when I lose confidence, I lose my voice, and when I do that I lose the laughs. So I guess I also learned how important it is to protect my confidence. Oh, and to be funny. That is the end and the beginning of comedy: to be funny.
The first time I ever got up at an open mic I did about three minutes of bar jokes. The crowd laughed and clapped when I got done. It was an exhilarating feeling. Like how I imagine sky diving or BASE jumping feels. I have done neither of those examples, but I was hooked. I wanted to be on stage and get more of that rush from being on stage in front of people. Then another comedian, who was the main guy in the local scene, pulled me aside and said, "You were funny, but if you want to be a standup comedian, you have to write and perform your own material." This definitely made being a standup comedian more challenging.
What's your process like coming up with new material and deciding what works?
I “write” on stage, at open mics and shows—I start with a story, that is usually too long and then keep telling it and changing it each time as I tighten it up and find the funny in it. Open mics are the best way for me to write, the bad news being sometimes I have to embrace the “bomb” at an open mic when I’m trying a new bit.
I always have my phone on me and anytime I think of something funny or remember a story I write it down in my notes. I like putting it in my phone, being able to back it up on the "cloud" because I’ve washed my notebook before and lost everything. I will review my notes and rewrite jokes, arrange them in sets and try them on stage.
When did the two of you first meet each other and eventually get married?
We met at a comedy show that we were both performing on in Maui. When Doug was onstage, he bought a flower lei for another girl in the audience (it was Hawaii after all), so I say that the first night we met, he "lei-ed" another girl right in front of me. We became close friends immediately, as we were part of a comedy group with the local Maui comedians that began putting on monthly shows. Soon after we started dating, that eventually evolved into doing comedy together. All our jokes were about each other, so it seemed like a natural transition. We planned on moving to Oregon for family reasons, and right before we left, at a comedy show, Doug proposed. He said he would never get married again, so I was pretty surprised when it happened. I didn’t know if it was a joke or real. I decided to say yes anyway and call him on his bluff. Seems to have worked out. Our website says “their marriage is a joke,” and perhaps his proposal was too? We’ve been inseparable since the day we met, and have only been apart three times more than 24 hours since we first moved in together. Not only do we work better when we’re together in normal life, I think our comedy is better when we’re onstage also, playing off each other.
How is it for the two of you to work together on shows? Do you critique each other's sets or keep quiet?
Oh, we totally critique each other’s sets. It’s part of doing a duo show together. We help each other with our individual sets too sometimes: with tags, punchlines and writing together. Our only serious arguments have been about comedy: who gets to use what joke as we experience things or come up with new material. It's something we’re both passionate about, and we have high expectations for each other. I think it makes us stronger, and after every show we talk through what worked and what didn’t. Sometimes we don’t wait for the show to end, and heckle each other on stage, or call each other on it when we’re on stage together; we just try to make it funny instead of annoyed. That works most
of the time. We also don’t compete about who had the best set, because we are just as excited, if not more, for when the other gets laughs as we are for ourselves.
What was the catalyst that brought you to Utah?
As everyone knows, the natural trajectory of a comedian is NYC to SLC. Like the song says, "If you can make it in New York, you can make it anywhere," well, I also think it implies that if you can make it in Salt Lake City, you can hopefully still make it a few places. Some would say it was crazy to leave when we did. We were just starting to do shows at our favorite clubs, and our weekly show that had just been nominated for an award. After almost two years of struggle, we were just starting to get our stride, but there were several reasons we decided to move here. First, family, time is short, and we both realized family is what matters more than anything else. Second, there was also an opportunity to help build the comedy room at Sandy Station. Third, another factor was that Salt Lake City is a central spot in the country with a good airport so a good home base for road gigs and tours. We’re away so much of the year traveling, so that is important for us. I’ve been the most surprised by the beauty of the Salt Lake Valley. Doug’s forced me to hike, bike and camp. Never thought I’d become so sporty!
What was it like coming from the culture you had become accustomed to and now working in our local circuit with a totally different culture?
We’ve been really lucky to get to do shows with local comedians from comedy circuits in 43 states, over 120 cities and recently Germany and Paris. It’s been a great way to see how local comedy scenes all over the world operate. We’ve learned so much about our comedy when confronted with completely different cultures. The material we have that works in the Midwest doesn’t always work in the south, and what works in the south definitely doesn’t work as well in France. It’s a fun challenge to see how to make each audience laugh, without losing your voice. Adapting to bring the funny without changing the essence of your comedy. That’s also why we’ve found it’s super important to perform in a lot of different kinds of rooms. Keeping the funny going in a super-supportive comedy club where they are there to see comedy, may be different than a dive bar crowd that just wants to drink, a coffee shop that is squeaky-clean comedy only or a theater show. Utah is a supportive place all around, and there is one thing all cultures have in common: When people come to a comedy show, they want to laugh. They are rooting for you to be funny because they have paid to forget about whatever is going on in their life and just laugh for an hour or two. It's our responsibility to make them laugh no matter where you are. We don’t always succeed, but it’s sure a good goal no matter where the culture is and no matter what the room is. There's a larger amount of cooperation and creative partnership within the culture of this scene than some others. That is one reason we chose to move here. We had toured through here a few times before, and had been to some open mics when traveling through and were impressed with the level of talent and professionalism of the local comedians and producers in this area.
How is it for you working with other local comedians and being a part of this network?
The talent pool here is astounding and fun to watch. We had the pleasure of booking and producing shows for about six months at Sandy Station. It gave us a great behind-the-scenes look at comedians who I know we’ll be seeing on TV soon. Several comedians here should probably get to L.A. or NYC soon to let the TV comedy gods know they're ready for their late-night spot. If you like to watch Comedy Central, and love standup but only get out when it’s "insert Big TV star here," then you are missing out. This is one of the places the next big TV star is going to come from. Support these local comedians. People that go to regularly to their local clubs got to see Louis C.K., Amy Schumer or Jim Gaffigan before they were famous and they were building the bits that made them into legends. We have that opportunity now to see the next
What's your take on the Utah standup scene and the people coming out of it?
Besides a weird obsession the SLC comedy scene seems to have with basketball, it’s been really fun to be a part of. We’ve been doing a lot of travel, so I feel like we haven’t been as involved as we would like and are about to do some more travel but can’t wait to get back. We’ve met several comedians we count as our friends and inspire us here.
Aside from yourselves, who are some of your favorites you like to check out around town?
So many to love! Alex Velluto and Aaron Woodall both have great comedy voices that bridge to several types of comedy audiences. You will see them each on Conan
within five years. The comedy best friends of Shayne Smith and Mac Author have very different styles from one another but we love them both and don’t hesitate to book either one of them, they are both regulars on our Date Night showcases. Shayne takes the improv standup portion of our show to legendary levels with his crazy real-life stories, and Mac is funny while being totally inappropriate. Abi Harrison is one of our favorite comedians right now, as is Nicholas Smith. Abi has the kind of jokes that make Teresa mad because she didn’t think of them. Nicholas is super honest, transparent, and finds the funny in the dark where most people are scared to go. The humor in his honesty is inspiring . We’d talk about how much we love Jonathan Falconer, but we refuse to do that. He’s too smart and good looking to be that funny; it’s not fair and he should just stop now (Doug also had that problem, so he had to gain weight and go gray). Dustin Hagen is also fun to watch; he's constantly writing new and great material. Greg Kyte has an unmatched energy; that guy could take a room full of dead people and FORCE them back to life with sheer energy. Natasha Mower is always funny, don’t think she has a bomb in her. Jason Harvey's comedy is smart and consistent. He also produces a really great show—Comedy and Other Opinions—that should not
be missed. Joe Everard is a newer comedian, but has been consistently funny and has been producing some great new shows. I’m missing a lot more really great people, so you just have to get out to the local shows and open mics all over the city to check them all out.
What are your thoughts on the current club and open mic system in Utah?
Without question, Wiseguys is renowned for being a great club with A-list comedians and a vibrant open mic with a full audience. It’s also exciting to see what Sandy Station has been adding to the scene in a whole different area, they have some super big names shows coming up with festival size seating and it’s been a good place for comedians to headline for the first time, host new showcases with new producers, and a place to see some great indie comedians on tour (like Portlandia’s Kristine Levine on July 1st). There's a lot of good mics that are different from each other and important for their own reasons. For example, the Wiseguys mic is a good experience for performing in a comedy club and to do more refined bits for a comedy club audience. Sandy Station mics are good for longer sets with dirtier and more raw material that you might be scared to do for the first time in front of a comedy club crowd. There are mics almost every night somewhere, and each one is a different experience. Between the mics, and independent showcases all over town it gives tons of opportunities to perform and see really good comedy every night of the week.
What advice do you have for people looking to getting into standup comedy?
Just do it. Don’t wait until you think you’ve written “perfect" material. It’s important to feel what it’s like on stage first, to write that material, talking to the mirror doesn’t cut it. You got to dive in and feel the water. Be original, tell the stories/jokes only you can tell. It’ll be scary at first, but if this is what you’re meant to do, you’ll be addicted after your first laugh.
What can we expect from you over the rest of the year?
Because of upcoming travel and other projects, we have not been producing and booking anymore at Sandy Station. Instead, we’re currently preparing to take The He & She Show
to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, for the month of August. To prepare, we have a fringe preview show/fundraiser show coming up on July 8, 8:30 p.m. at Sandy Station, with a few of our favorite comedians featuring. After that, we’re doing a short European and U.S. tour before coming back to Salt Lake, where we hope to be involved even more with the local scene. We also have a monthly show: Date Night
—an improv standup experience where local and touring comedians answer your dating questions, it’s been at Sandy Station monthly but we’re taking a break until we get back this fall. We’re also starting a blog on our website with our travel pictures, stories, and a short video web series. You can find out more at TheHeAndSheShow.com
and buy tickets for our July 8th show at this link