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. Brad LaCour: Wise Guy
Interviewing Brad LaCour is a lot like listening to LaCour's stand-up or just having a conversation with the guy—he's disarmingly genuine and emotionally forthcoming and can describe his thoughts and feelings with such poignancy and eloquence that it seems like he's written all this beforehand. But more impressive than his willingness to be honest and vulnerable on and offstage is LaCour's ability to make his personal stories and sentiments incredibly funny to audiences without compromising his sensibilities or brilliant, acerbic comedic voice. I sat down with LaCour and plumbed him for his sharp and well-earned insights on art and comedy before he departs for Los Angeles this spring.
How long have you been doing comedy? I think it's been eight years.
You started as an actor first, correct? I was acting, that's what I was going to school for at Quad C, and I was a terrible student. I showed up to about half the classes. Then I would get there, and they were doing this thing where we'd lay on the ground and be rocks and water was going to pass around us. But first we're going to take a 10-minute break. And I went outside and said, "No, f**k that. This is just not for me." And I went to go see Wilfred, that Crispin Glover movie.
Did you quit acting after that? No, I got an agent after I left Quad C, and I was in a few commercials. It was frustrating saying other people's lines, because you never got the chance to be very creative. The extent of my acting was telling a monkey riding a dog to give someone a burrito. So...it paid! I mean, it's the dream everybody hopes for, but it was kind of depressing, and I went to one night of stand-up, kind of to flex a muscle creatively, and I liked it and I kept doing it. That first night was great, and the next week I'm writing and working on stuff and I went to this shitty bar's open mic and I sucked. I don't think I got another laugh for another year.
You've told me that if you had your druthers you would act professionally. Is it because it's easier or your main passion? It's a mixture. I've always liked the idea of losing yourself in other characters or creating a whole back story. With stand-up, unless you're creating one of those characters and kind of living in that, it's really you having to slowly un-layer all of yourself.
It's more draining. And sometimes you don't really want to share all of that, but I think you get to a point where you get a little bit more comfortable with that notion. They say you're supposed to relax before a car wreck. That's kind of the same notion for comedy.
And also like if you're drunk during a car wreck, you're less likely to die. Inebriation smoothes comedy so much. The reason why I quit drinking as long as I did is there would be nights where I was like, "Oh, I murdered," and then I started recording, found out, no, I was not murdering.
How long did you quit drinking for? The longest stretch was a year, and I am sober again now. Yay!
Congratulations! Why'd you make that choice? For the comedy. You're never going to be as sharp. If something happens, you're never going to be able to respond to it in the way that you should be able to. It dulls your edges. You may think you're doing great, but the reality is you're not giving them the full extent of what you actually could be. And if they're paying that much money, they committed to that. You should be able to commit equally back to that.
You said you were unfunny for your first year of comedy, but you were working at clubs after about a year, right? It was about a year and a half. I was honestly too green to be working there at the time. I barely had 10 minutes. So if anything happened, if there was any reason to stretch, I didn't have it. I think that's the way comedy works, though. You're never ready for the next spot—if they want 10, you have five. If they want 20, you have 10. You just say yes and hope it works out. You're never going to be ready for it. Rarely is there gonna be a situation where they say, "We need 45 minutes," and you say, "Perfect, I have an hour and a half!" That fear makes you ripen, keep things going. Otherwise...
You've been working in clubs for six years. Do you still feel constantly challenged? You're constantly learning something new. There's never a stagnation with this. Whenever I walk on the stage really confident, that's when I get humbled, then it's back to the drawing board. I worked blue for five of those years and realized I was reaching a ceiling—audiences don't want to see that when you're opening. You can't push those boundaries too far, so I scrapped everything and started writing clean.
How have you changed stylistically? You're very polished. I wouldn't really say I started dirty, but it was dark, talking about dark topics. All the standard, when you're new and you've seen Bill Hicks, abortion, and I'm embarrassed to say, rape, and every other terrible thing, because you're wanting to get that shock from the crowd. You can only shock someone for so long. There are guys who have perfected it and can do a full hour of shock, but I think that's a one-note hit that will mentally tire the audience. That was keeping the audience at arms length.
Now your comedy is very personal. When you get the life experiences—when you're 23, you don't really honestly have an opinion—you might but it's s**t. (laughs) It's not important. The person I was before my divorce and the person I was after the dust settled—you have a totally new perspective after this very damaging thing. Out of the bad comes the good.
What was your happiest experience doing stand-up? My favorite experience was a very spiteful experience. When I was still working dirty, a theater here in Dallas wanted me to work there. A week before, they told me they wanted me to work clean, and they said, "Fine, whatever, just come anyway, we don't care what your material is." Then five minutes before I went onstage, they said, "Hey, we're gonna need you to be completely clean." There were bands that night, and they said, "Don't talk about the bands, don't talk about the advertisers, don't do any of that, and don't say any curse words." The band is getting off now, and it's too late to change gears, so I went out there and said, "Give it up for your f***ing band, give it up for the f***ing advertisers, and that was my big Bill Hicks moment, and years later and I can look back and say, "That was very unprofessional," but there was something very freeing about just "Screw you guys, I'm doing this." Everyone in the crowd hated it, but there were four teenage boys up against the stage who loved it, and I was like, "I think I'm setting the wrong precedent for someone else's life right now. I hope they don't get into comedy and think this is what you're supposed to do."
What do you think you are supposed to do? What's your advice for young comics? Just enjoy it. I think people stress themselves out too much about the minutiae of all of it. Especially now, we're in a weird time that comedy has never been in really before where we have Twitter, and Instagram and Facebook and all these ways to measure how well you're doing at comedy, but that doesn't actually have any reach to stage or what you're doing on stage. These things are very encouraging and people get lost in worrying about those numbers—they don't matter. That stuff is to help you in your career to network and get your name out there. It is not the end goal.
Just have fun. My life as a comic has been a million times more amazing than it ever was as an actor. That was a job, you'd go there, and you'd meet three people and never see them again. Here, this is my family. We went through all of these things together, and that's a very cool unifying thing I don't think you get with a lot of different art forms. I'm very appreciative of all the people I've met, the experiences I've had, all the cities I've been to—it's been a cool, bad-ass ride the whole way through, and I'm looking forward to more.
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.