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. Larry Campbell: The Comic's Comic
It's rare to see a set that Larry Campbell doesn't crush, an audience he doesn't destroy with his rapid fire rants in his thick Louisiana twang, pummeling them with riffs and deconstructions of conventions he considers asinine. But Campbell's career has never really taken off, despite the 15-year comedy veteran's considerable chops, unique point of view, and consistent success with audiences. I sat down with the passionate, hyper-articulate Campbell to talk about the exquisite pain of being in comedy for all the right reasons, and why sometimes, the funniest guys finish last.
Larry Campbell. Is that your real name? It wasn't always. I was adopted when I was nine. I lived with them, they raised me since I was three-months old. Mike and Glenda Campbell. They lived next door to my biological parents who had trouble raising me and were like, "Can you watch him?" and next thing I knew my biological parents were my next door neighbors. One thing I can't stand is when somebody says "real" parents in reference to my biological parents. It's like they ain't my real parents. They didn't f***in' raise me. Honestly, childhood in terms of Christmas was f***in' awesome, because I saw them like three times a year, and they hooked it up.
When did you first really fall in love with comedy? It's hard to pinpoint when I fell in love with standup. For years, I've battled people calling me a redneck, but I have to admit Jeff Foxworthy was the comic I ever loved. Foxworthy's a great comic, he's a great joke writer, and actually I think he's the most financially successful comic of all time.
I remember, this is sad, but I remember bein' the kid on the school bus, where some redneck kid would come up to me and be like, "Hey Larry, tell me a good n***er joke, tell me a good fa***t joke, that's the kind of horrible stuff you grow up around in West Monroe, Louisiana. Good food, good people. I've trashed my hometown a lot, but it's like most towns--low education, but there's good people there that mean well, they're hard working.
How did you start doing standup? There are no clubs or anything there. Right after I turned 18, one of my older brothers was listening to the big rock station in town at the time, they were doing an open mic contest at this place called Airport Lounge, a bar at the airport. Me and 40, 50 other people. It came down to me and one other guy. First time I ever did standup in my life. It f***ed with my ego, because I didn't not kill until my seventh or eight set.
Did you stick with it consistently after that? I got to be the opener there, like, in perpetuity. One thing I'm proud of is from the very beginning of my comedy, I get very bored with old material quickly. After six or seven weeks, the radio show wanted me and this other guy to put shock collars on while we did our set for a promotional thing. And I was like, I'm not going to go back to the stuff I know works, I'm still going to try something else, and it was going well. But every time I took a breath, he'd shock me, and it hurt and I hated it. So I came back the next week, and they said, "We got huge ratings, we're gonna do it again tonight," and I said "I'm not gonna. I'm not a dog, and dogs don't even deserve that." I didn't really get to do real comedy til I moved out here when I was 22. Part of it was comedy, but mostly it was just to get the hell out of my hometown.
So you've been here for nine years? You do a lot of road work though, right? No, that's the thing. I don't know if I'm a proper interview subject. I've had bullshit issue things with club owners that I wouldn't call my fault, but as far as road work, 100 percent my fault. With the computer era, I'm just so stupid. I just found out about the Dallas Comedy Festival. I don't know how to submit or tape or anything. I just hate social networking.
So you've spent your whole time in comedy just going up for the sheer love of it? I don't even love it. It's the only thing I'm really good at, and I have to do it to know my life isn't completely meaningless. There's never been a time since I moved here that I've gone more than a week without doing standup. It's hard, when I have a good set like, yeah it feels good, but I don't get that feeling like it's a drug like most comics do where it can sustain them. It's immediately gone 10 seconds after a set. I have a feeling I could actually put in the effort, make it, do a big show at Radio City Music Hall, f***ing kill, do my first ever hour-long special, five minutes after its over I'd be like, "Who gives a s***?" The good part is now when I bomb, I'm like, "Eh." Because I know...I've got lots of issues, s*** I've got to work on, nobody deserves anything. I've matured a lot over the last few years, become more humble, but I really struggle with that apparently you're a dick if you say you're awesome at comedy. I know I'm f***ing awesome at comedy! I can sing, I can rap, I can do goofy s***, I can improv, and I'm a dick for saying it...any other job, isn't that what you do to get a promotion? But in this job, because it's art, and art is subjective, so I'm a scumbag for saying that. I'm not the guy who's like, "I deserve it," there's been people I've asked to do shows and you kind of get the brush off. My mentality is, "Why is this so hard?" You just get heartbroken when you've done this like 15 f***ing years, and you see people who started after you surpass you because they didn't do anything but hang out. Hang out at the club more than you did. But I don't want to be at the club if I'm not going up. I'm not that guy.
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.