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. Tyler Simpson: Riff Machine
Tyler Simpson have just sat down at the couch at the Dallas Comedy House and already we are gleefully tittering like preteen schoolgirls. Since becoming fast friends with the sweet, silly Simpson about two years ago, when he first began to try comedy in earnest, it's pretty hard for me to remember a time that we weren't riffing and laughing. Simpson is a ball of creative, comedic energy, and when you're around him it's impossible not to want to be part of the constant, stream-of-consciousness jokes and connections his nimble brain makes, punctuated by his trademark loud, staccato laughter like a machine gun. Simpson's stand-up is an equally exciting, kinetic, and joyful experience--each set is an actual, impromptu conversation with the audience, a terrifying, exciting, and consistently hilarious event to watch. I highly recommend catching Simpson hosting this weekend at Hyena's at Mockingbird Station opening for the very funny Karith Foster and Todd Larson. Friday shows at 8:30 p.m. and 10:30 p.m., and Saturday at 8 p.m. and 10:30 p.m.
How was your set tonight? It was good! I did it in front of two witnesses--
Jehovah's Witnesses? No, witnesses to a crime! (giggles) "He did it, get him!"
Did they enjoy it, your former witness friends? They seemed to enjoy it, but they walked out and did not talk to me. They gave me the thumbs up, then walked out.
Before you fell in love with the mistress we call comedy, you were a devout Jehovah's witness. And married. I was a devout witness, but honestly I always wanted to do comedy. I loooved comedy, like, I always wanted to crack jokes because something in me always realized how ridiculous everything I was doing was, "Oh, we believe in this guy we've never seen from this book that people have proven was written hundreds of years after the fact. I mean you can turn on NPR--even Kidd Kraddick was like, "Hey, the Bible's not real."
R.I.P. He died for our sins. Topical jokes all around.
You're so good at riffing! When did you decide [to do that onstage]? It's a very different path from most stand-ups. It was just what was working for me. I mean, I remember you telling me, "Please, keep going," keep doing that, instead of going to written stuff. I mean, I have faith in my ability to write stuff, but I don't have faith in my ability to convey what I write as myself. I've struggled with having jokes that I like that I can do that fit me and what I want to accomplish onstage.
Instead of what you think people would like. Instead of doing the typical format or blueprint of good stand-up. And what I do, it's probably considered bad stand-up. Some people would say it's bad form. There are some athletes--it's a bad example now, because they're both terrible, and you're not going to get this example at all--there's guys like Robert Griffin III or Colin Kaepernick, they were guys who were a hot commodity because they weren't good, mechanically sound quarterbacks but they could make plays off the cuff because of their ability to move. So maybe in a way, I'm running away from what I should be doing.
But it's just what I like! It works for me, and it's what I'd like to see. I love the immediacy of it. It's what I'm feeling and thinking right then. Sometimes it's not me talking to the audience. I'll go up, and I'll be thinking of something that's irritating me or something and I'll just talk about that. Or I'll go up with an idea and someone will be an idiot and yell something and I'll just want to talk to them. It's really just whatever happens, happens.
Do you get nervous before you go onstage? I used to get super nervous.
Because you're kind of hanging your balls out-- [redacted ball riff]
I get more nervous about doing written material now. That's more out of my comfort zone.
You're an improviser. How has that helped you with your stand-up? It's allowed me to embrace what I'm given more. When I first started out, you were in my class, I remember I would go out and I would have an idea. It was before I really understood how improv worked, and I thought I had to come out with an idea, and I think everybody else in our class would come out with an idea, too. Instead of working with each others ideas, we'd bash each other in the head with our ideas of how the scene was supposed to go.
I'm gonna have to disagree with you. I think your problem in improv was it had to be [immediately] funny, and we didn't have a lot of patience for it. We couldn't sit in the discomfort. I couldn't let it be what it was. Instead of letting it build, I didn't have the faith of the scene building to something. I had to do the joke then. That's basically what's happened. I have faith now that instead of bailing on something that isn't immediately working, I'm talking about something with the audience, or I'm talking about something in my head, that's on my mind, it's a snowball thing. It starts off a tiny thing that no one thinks is funny, but you keep adding stuff and adding stuff and it builds and builds, and they kind of forgot about the first part. You reference that joke you made before, and people are, oh, I get it now! In the context of what you've built. Now it's funny. You're just building a scene. I'm building these jokes like you build a scene. At least, I have more confidence in that, you know what I mean?
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.