This weekly blog series features interviews taking place at the Dallas Comedy House 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. This week: The Miss Congeniality of Dallas Comedy
Mitchell Clemons and I slump into the deep, brown couch of Dallas Comedy House with our Shiners. The open mic is packed and Clemons has just performed a killer set of the self-deprecating jabs and silly innuendos that comprise his unique and hilarious act. Clemons plays off of his seemingly bookish, bespectacled appearance and shyness around the opposite sex to create weird, wonderful jokes, which he delivers in a resonant basso profundo. One of my favorite bits of Clemons' is his "Old Time-y Pervert" character, where he tells the audience escalating sexual innuendos in the smooth, jaunty voice of Bing Crosby. Clemons offstage is a respected vet of the Dallas stand-up scene and just a friendly, nice guy, which earned him the nickname that the post's title references.
So Mitchell. Mitchy Clem. When did you first start comedy? August 2010. A little more than four years ago at Hyena's in Mockingbird Station.
Tell me about your first set. It was okay-ish? There was probably like...I didn't tell anyone I was doing it, I came up there with my brother, my friend texted me what I was doing, then he and two other friends came. So there were like eight people in the audience and four people were my friends. And the headliner Ryan Stout, who's one of my favorite comics, talked to me a little earlier that night. He was nice enough to listen and watch me fumble my way through three minutes.
What did he think? He was like, "Uhh... keep working on it!" And he told me not to wear shorts and flip-flops onstage. And that was actually a piece of advice that I still carry with me. Dante Martinez can pull that off. No one else can pull off shorts onstage without it looking like crap.
Ahem, you mean males-wise. Yeah. You always have...different outfits? Or whatever.
Have you been regularly coming to open mics since you started? I went my first week in August, and I wanted to go back but I almost tried to psych myself down because I like to get down on myself. I'd been thinking about going up since I dropped out of school. I just started writing and writing and writing until I got the balls to go up -- awful stuff, it's just cringe-worthy to look back on -- and then finally I got the balls to go up. And the next week I was like, "I kind of want to just stay home and watch the Rangers game," until someone on a message board was like "Just go!"
(squeals with badly concealed glee) What message board? A Ranger's baseball message board! The nerdiest thing ever. But he was like, "You should probably just go. We'll be here tomorrow." And I loved that advice, because I've pretty much been going to Wednesday at Hyena's ever since, and here about the last three years or so. Even if I have a rough set, I've become such good friends with everyone. Nine times out 10, I'm going to come here and enjoy myself. It's almost like a weekend. Tuesdays and Wednesdays I have stuff. I have something to look forward to (laughs) As sad as that sounds!
How have the open mics changed in the past four years? All the best...save for like a half dozen people...people left. There was a big void when all the big-time features left for L.A. or New York or were just traveling all the time. There wasn't anyone who quite stepped up. We're slowly trickling, coming back up to that now. Bunch of new people. I don't recognize as many people as I used to. Brad, we're trying to do an interview. I just wanted you to stare blankly at me with a disappointed look. But I feel like there are a lot of new faces. I've been doing it four years, and I feel like since I've started, I don't know if there's even 15 people who started before me who are still sticking with it consistently. You see the same faces week after week but people are trickling in, trickling out. It's always really nice to see a guy or girl you really like come back after six months and they're like, "Oh, I'm back in it!" and you're like, "Sure you are. Come two weeks in a row and I'll believe you."
Where do you draw inspiration for your jokes? They're very personal, and you have a very strong and unique voice. I definitely don't sit down to write. I wish I could. I'm one of the laziest people ever. Part of why I never made it in school. I coasted through high school on Bs and Cs, and it didn't quite work in college.
A common tale with stand-ups. A lot of [writing jokes] is just something that'll come to mind. My brain will just wrap around it for like half an hour and maybe something will come of it? Even then, I'm still very scared and hesitant to do it onstage. I feel the best comics get over that immediately, but I still don't want to bomb even when the open mic is a format to bomb.
I still get nervous every time! Do you? I do. I'm nervous doing new stuff. Doing stuff I know works -- unless it's a really big crowd, I'll be nervous for that because I haven't done it enough. For something like this -- well, it was a good crowd tonight.
What was your happiest moment doing comedy? Offstage, hanging out with Ryan Stout. And one time I got to hang out with Bill Burr for like an hour. Me, Cris Lehman, and Paul [Varghese], we were just hanging out, and Paul gets a call from his cousin, saying they were hanging out with Bill Burr. We all got to meet him and just hang out with him for like an hour, and he's shit talking Lehman because he's a big Lakers fan. And I love doing accents, particularly Boston accents, and I'm really drunk at this point, and it's taking every fiber of my being not to start talking to him like, "How's it goin', you f***in' queeah?" I didn't do it 'til him and his opener were walking to take a cab back to their hotel and was like, "Hey Bill -- see you later, you f***in' c***s****ahh!" He had the most bewildered look on his face. I'll probably never see him again.
Onstage, it was opening for [wrestling star] Mick Foley. I'm a big wrestling fan.
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.