As the fall sets in, and winter starts rearing its ugly head, it feels like an ideal time to head to an indoor comedy show for some cheer. It's almost uncanny how miserable weather and chilly days in Utah tend to bring people from across the country to Wiseguys and make people want to get out for a show—which opens up more opportunities for local comedians to get stage time and recognition. Today for our monthly comedian interview, we're chatting with Andrew Hobbs about his career and take on the local stand-up scene. (All pictures provided courtesy of Hobbs.
Andrew Hobbs on Twitter
Hey Andrew, first thing, tell us a little bit about yourself.
Beloved followers, I address the four of you as your chosen leader, not in our regular meeting place of Chuck-A- Rama, but through Salt Lake’s very own City Weekly
. Thanks, City Weekly
. Okay, let’s get into this, something my proctologist says every visit. I’m a 30-year-old blond man from Idaho doing stand-up comedy. What that says about me is that I’m very privileged and I will need some sort of gimmick if want to make it in the entertainment industry. That, or some sort of crippling social disorder—or abs. You can get anything if you have abs. As a kid growing up in Idaho, anytime that I met someone from outside the state, I always felt like they looked at me like one of those suffering children they could donate money to relieve. Maybe I was, but from my perspective, I just grew up in the greatest “open mic” state in the Union. You could get away with anything. It was small enough that you weren’t going to run into any real trouble, but big enough you could hide out after annoying anyone who would care. At that young age, I cut my teeth on being annoying, and I like to think that it carries on through today. I liked getting laughs. I didn’t care if I was getting them through physical comedy or stories. I just needed laughs and they were easy to get. Fast forward to now, and I’m just your regular self-deprecating, super handsome, friendly, surprisingly “cool” for a Mormon comic who does graphic design because I’m afraid to tell my dad I want to follow my dreams kind of stand-up comic.
What got you interested in comedy growing up? Who were your favorites to watch?
I think my personality just fit comedy growing up. I had funny family members and being funny was the easiest way to relate to people. As a kid, I would just quote Ace Ventura
sketch lines to get people to laugh, then when I had their attention, I’d pretend to trip on my shoelaces in front of some cheerleaders with a snow cone in hand. My taste in comedians has been refining a lot of the years. I grew up loving the physical comedy and energy of people like Robin Williams, Jim Carrey and Chris Farley. After a while, I found Conan, and he introduced me to a whole new world of crazy, smart and irreverent comedy. It was through late shows like Conan’s that I started recognizing stand-up and comedians. Currently, my favorites are all over the spray chart. I’m going to list them now so you can see how cultured I am or you can judge me. That being said, it would most likely be a list of clean, white comedians. So to save time my current two favorites are Paul F. Tompkins and John Mulaney. For the complete list come talk to me.
What made you decide to give stand-up comedy a try?
I think it came down to my roommates being sick of me saying how much I wanted to do stand-up, and that someday I would try. You say that a couple of times a day, and in a few weeks your roommate will call and find you an open mic in Houston to try. You’ll be sick to your stomach and invite every human you know and they laugh no matter what, because they are your friends and boom, you’re hooked. I’ve been trying to make people laugh since I was a little kid, and my mom thinks with all that practice, someday I’ll get that one person to laugh. She’s very supportive.
What was it like going to open mics when you first started out?
Open mics are one of those things that you hate and then you’ll love and then you’ll hate it again and everyone involved. My first open mic was a bar in Texas, and I had the benefit of being Mormon who appeared as some sort of first encounter sideshow for a lot of people, so people were willing to pay attention because it was something they had never seen…Then I told them about a surgery I had on my wee-wee and they laughed. I was naïve enough to think I had just killed, so I kept going. When I moved back to Salt Lake, I was really intimidated, because it was a legit club, it wasn’t just some dive in Houston, and I started recognizing that people were taking this seriously. I made a mistake where I let that affect me, and I stopped going. Instead of plugging away with other comedians, I started putting on my own “shows” in my basement with some friends, and that built my confidence to venture back out.
What were some of the biggest lessons you learned about performing when you first started?
I think the scariest thing is getting up in the first place and thinking, “What if I’m not funny and what if no one laughs?” It gets so much easier when you realize that you aren’t
funny, and no one will
laugh. That is a huge relief. Lesson one for me: Don't take yourself too seriously, and don’t let one, two, three…20 bad performances stop you from getting back on stage. You learn little things that you never think of when you are writing jokes. You always hear first-timers talk about the lights, forget to move the mic stand or get distracted by anything unexpected. There is a skill to standing on stage in a way that doesn’t distract from your jokes. You don’t want to treat the audience like they are dumb, but you are in charge of leading them to the punchline. I used to get ahead of myself and just think the audience was with me, but I lost them minutes ago. I had to make sure my set ups were queues for my punchlines without giving things away.
What's your process like coming up with new jokes and sets?
I’ll let you know when I figure that out. I am so unorganized. Second
only to being too handsome, this is my biggest flaw as a comedian. (Side note: My biggest flaw as civilian is calling non-comedians civilians. I hate myself for that.) I’ll write a joke rather than a set. I don’t know if that’s good or bad, but for me, I think it’s bad because I have the worst memory. I get lost and will go on a riff and forget stuff all the time. The good thing about that style is that it gives me a chance to get more comfortable riffing on stage and coming up with something in the moment, or a delivering in a different way. As far as coming up with a new joke, I just write down anything that makes me laugh, and then I go home and expand on it or I talk about it with friends and try to put it into a conversation. It’s a lot of trial and error. Let me explain: The other day I saw an old person fall down. I mean, it was a yard sale. This guy’s cane went flying, his toupee was all in his eyes and he was yelling, “My hip. My hip.” Real funny stuff, so I raced over to my friends and asked if it was funny. They weren’t getting it at all, and that’s how I knew it was one of those "you had to be there" moments. Sometimes there’s nothing there but an old man who fell down, you know?
What's your experience been like working your way up from the small rooms to Wiseguys?
This is one of those questions that I have to be sure you know who I am. Like, I’m Andrew Hobbs the comedian/graphic designer. I’m not Andrew Hobbs, the dentist that pops up first on a Google search. I mean, sure, I’m a big deal and people love my comedy, I even had a lady name her kid after me, but I’m still not big enough where I turn down smaller venues. I’m trying to break into Wiseguys more regularly, and places outside of Utah. I have been pretty lucky to meet a lot of people who have helped me get on weekday and weekend shows at Wiseguys. I just try and bring it and be as funny as I can every time I’m on stage, I go “Full Hobbs” so to speak and hope that people notice. It really has been a privilege to get on stage at Wiseguys. That place is legit. Those crowds are there for comedy and expect good stuff. They get to experience the best comedy in the country and so you really want to step up your game.
How has it been for you building shows both in and out of Utah and working with other locals to raise awareness of the scene up?
I guess I’m a selfish comedian. When I’m on a show, I don’t really think "how can I make the Salt Lake comedy scene more prolific?" I’ll start now. I did go to a festival in Ithaca New York with Alex Velluto and Jordan Makin, and I feel like we represented well. People were surprised to see comedians from a small market be funny and do well. Salt Lake is a great place to start out if you are hustling to get better, because with Wiseguys, you can have a chance to get in front of big audiences. Doing other shows at smaller venues I think is awesome, because anything that gives you a chance to get on stage will make you better. The better you get, the more entertaining it will be for your friends, and the more entertaining for them, the more likely they are to invite new people. Plus, comedy is fun, and you get to hang out with fun people. It’s all give and take. You get people stage time, and they get you stage time. Then you get in front of someone else’s crowd more often.
What's your take on the Utah stand-up scene and the people coming out of it?
Salt Lake is a great spot. There are a ton of comics that take it seriously and work hard to try and make it a career. With motivated people like that it’s hard not to be driven and then it also cuts out the fat that gets in my cutthroat way! Oh, uh, sorry I mean it’s cool that everyone comes out. I started at Wiseguys, I go every week, I try to go to as many shows as I can whether they are big names or locals and that has given me opportunities to see how other people work and their take on how things should or shouldn’t work. There is a lot of experience out there and you can glean a lot. There is also a lot of crap so be wary. I mean look at me. I’m giving advice on how to be a comedian.
Who are some of your favorites you like to check out around town?
It’s been so fun to meet people and make some really solid friendships with other comedians. People I like around town are my fellow Bad Boyzz of Mormonism (all rights reserved) Jordan Makin, Alex Velluto, Eric Ripley and Michael Schooley are all really funny. Andy Gold and Steve Soelberg are both great and probably put out some of the best jokes. Shayne Smith tells funny stories, which is what I like doing, but he has tattoos and well, frankly, probably has killed a man. I think Jackson Banks, Josh Fonokalafi, Spencer King, Rodney Norman, Mac Arthur are funny, and I like Amerah Ames. No, I love Amerah
! Love her, mmmmmm. They all, however, pale in comparison to the funniest man in Utah, Rich Wilson. Rich is my favorite. That guy, man, holy cow. He tells jokes, he makes funny paintings, he makes funny videos that exploit his children. Even the way the sun glistens off of his sawdust brown hair is a real experience. Like I’m not gay, but I’m like mega jealous of his wife. She is the luckiest. She must live like Beyonce to catch an Australian stud of a man. Maybe you didn’t understand me. Rich is married. Already he is crushing it, plus he has a sense of humor. His only real flaw is that stupid Australian accent. I know, I know, I must be kiddin,g because who doesn’t like a crazy accent? Well, you’re right, I am kidding. His accent is the best part. There are a lot of other comedians that I like and that you should go see, but you should just go to Rich’s house and watch him. If I didn’t mention your name in this list, then you should definitely be offended because it was on purpose and I’m trying to start beef. Or you moved, so you don’t count anymore.
What are your thoughts on the current club system, both major and indie, and the work they do to promote comedy?
As a true-blooded American, I think competition is great, and despite being a millennial who is paralyzed by choice, I think more options are always good. But since I don’t run a business, I don’t have any skin in the game, I try to push any sort of self-entitlement down. I’m happy to have places to perform, and it’s great that there is a club that has a national recognition behind it. Wiseguys is run by Keith Stubbs, who isn’t just one of the funniest guys, he is the best-connected guy around, and has built an amazing club. If that sounds like sucking up, that’s because it is. He has helped me out a ton. I really don’t get out to the indie crowds very much, and that’s because it’s not my focus, but one of the best shows/events I’ve been too and performed in is Dungeons and Comedy at Comic-Con. Aaron Orlovitz and Nicholas Smith have created a rad show that bridges gaps between the groups of people that may not attend other venues. In summation, I feel that I am the happiest when I get to tell jokes. I try and promote whatever show/venue to the people I think will have the best time. Sometimes that is zero people from my mom’s book club. Sorry, you had a bad time at the bar show Mildred, jeez, try branching out.
What's your opinion of national stand-up comedians coming through town, and what impact do you believe that has on the local scene?
It is the best thing in the world and we are all blessed to have a club that brings them in. This is what I’m talking about. Wiseguys in Salt Lake and Ogden are recognizable and are known in the stand-up world. Big-time comedians know the rooms, and they know the type of shows that people like. Wiseguys brings them in and has given out so many spots for locals, and chances for us to meet these touring comics. It’s the best.
What advice do you have for people looking to getting into stand-up comedy?
Just get up and do it. You’re going to be bad and you’ll probably be bad for a while, but get on stage. Finding your style or voice comes later. Also, if you are starting out, tell college kids that you are a comedian, because they are more impressed than people who have real jobs. It might also be a good idea to just not
do it. Once you tell people you do comedy, they expect you to be funny, and then you’re not Andrew the guy who is fun to be around, you are Andrew the court jester who dances for their approval. That sweet, sweet approval. Get up and do it, and write as much as you can. Get out of your comfort zone and try stuff that makes you sweat. Except for drugs. Don’t do drugs, or you’ll turn into Mac.
What can we expect from you over the rest of the year?
I’m applying to more and more festivals, and I am really into shooting sketches. Earlier this year, I rented out my own high school auditorium, because nothing says you’ve made it like putting on your own show at your old high school to your parents' friends, but we had 600 people show up, so I’m going to get some friends together to go back and do it again. I’m also going to work on my humblebrags. I’ll be trying to develop new material, I’m working on watching a bunch of series on Netflix and I hope not to go to jail. Other than that, I’m just plugging away. Thanks for asking.