This weekly blog series features interviews taking place at the Dallas Comedy House (DCH) open mic with me and some of the funniest stand-up comedians in the area, most of whom just happen to be my best friends! Read to learn about your favorite local funny people and about the curious emotional makeup of people who like to go onstage alone every night to get laughed at. Dante Martinez: Up-and-Comer
Dante Martinez and I slurp on Bud Lights at one of the tables in the back of Hyena's Comedy Nightclub. Martinez is at an exciting time in his comedy career—he has begun booking steady work at both of the major comedy clubs in the metroplex. His act is often described as personality-based—which is not to undersell his beautifully bizarre and personal jokes, but because Martinez has one of the most unique and winning personalities of anyone you'll ever meet. His innate sweetness, charm and mischievous wit shine through when he is onstage. He is completely genuine and genuinely funny. I grilled Martinez on everything he's learned in his transition from open mic-er to opener.
Dante Martinez. When did you start comedy? About four-and-a-half years ago. I was doing improv at Four Day Weekend. A friend of mine started doing [stand-up], and I always wanted to do it, and I had been going to open mics, signing up, and getting real drunk and then chickening out and leaving before it was my time to go up. I had no jokes though. But then my friend started doing it, and I thought, "I could do this s*** too!" Then I tried it, and I was real bad.
Before that, you were an actor. I've been doing theatre since high school.
How do you balance that with stand-up? Early on, I'd take six weeks off of stand-up to do a show. Then I realized that that was stupid real fast. [When I came back], I was three steps backwards, I wasn't as good as when I left. So then I just said screw it, I'll just come to open mics real late and come to open mics with all the late folks and not care. So what, I'll be tired! Whatever.
You recently started working the clubs. Yeah, yeah! I finally have achieved the goal of host or opener or whatever. It's crazy, it took four-and-a-half years to not just be an open mic-er, to be an opener, and that felt like a long journey. But now I realize opener to feature is probably just as far. Then it seems like the journey from feature to headliner is like—I can't even think about that right now.
Has working changed your focus or approach to open mics? I don't think it's really changed my focus, or what little approach I have, or whatever. It has made me feel a little more bleak about the situation. But also I realized a lot of the goofball s*** I was doing at open mics just to make my friends laugh in the back doesn't really work at shows, and that's depressing, because I was making the people I wanted to make laugh in the room. I think comedians are too dark and too broken on the inside to...they laugh at a lot darker stuff than I think the average person would laugh at. So I dunno, it's like tempering the sadness. It is depressing when you see what a room full of strangers will laugh at compared to what a room full of my friends will laugh at. Because I'm definitely way funnier in life than I am onstage.
Oh I don't know about that! I'd love to see you host; it's exciting to watch your spontaneity. I feel like a lot of that spontaneity is gone, because I want to play within the rules. I don't want to mess up and them not have me back. There's a level of not being yourself, because you're like, "I'm actually at work." I don't know when you're allowed to start f**king around, or if there's even that rule that you can't f**k around. How to mess around inside the boundaries of a show.
Wanna know a story? I was hosting, it was an all black room, sold-out house, at the Addison Improv. I was opening for Godfrey, I remember one night he said, "Dude, you're bringing me up too fast! Why don't you do some crowd work, f**k around or whatever." So I googled "crowd work" when he wasn't looking [we laugh pretty hard]. I googled crowd work! I didn't know what to say or what to do! And so I googled crowd work and was like, "OK, I'll do these. Uh, so you two are dating, huh?" I bombed real hard on one of the shows, so hard. I bombed for 15 minutes.
I can't imagine that. When a black room doesn't like you, they let you know.
OK, maybe I can now. So I bombed and I was feeling like s**t the rest of the show. After the show was over, I did the closing announcements, and I had all my s**t on me and was like, f**k it, I'm leaving with the audience. And this guy turns to his wife and says ,"Oh my god, Godfrey did almost two hours!" And the wife said, "Yeah, they had to make up for that first comic." And then the husband sees me, and I'm all, "Yeah. Ugh." But you gotta take it on the chin. That was the last thing I thought about when I went to bed that night and the first thing I thought when I woke up—gotta take it on the chin.
Lauren Davis is an improviser and stand-up comedian from Dallas, Texas. Currently a student at the DCH Training Center, she can be seen weekly performing improv with her troupes LYLAS: Girl on Girl Comedy and Please Like Us, as well as doing her stand-up act at clubs around the area.