This 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.
Clinterview: The Werthening
The Dallas Observer Awards are pretty much any local comedian or comedy club's best chance to get any recognition outside of the comedy community. They have good taste, too! Not to toot our own horn, but the Dallas Comedy House was voted "Best Comedy Club," and the headliner of our most recent stand-up show, Clint Werth, was voted "Best Comedian." The "hilarious animal" is modest about his second time winning the magazine's accolade, but earnest and optimistic in his goals for both continuing to build his own burgeoning career and the Dallas comedy scene as a whole. I sat down down with the focused and whip-smart comedian and learned about his realistic, punk rock approach to creating funny things to say and finding an audience who's interested in hearing them.
Clint Werth. 2015 Best Comedian in Dallas. According to the Observer.
The Observer of all things Dallas! They observe.
How has your life changed in the past few weeks? Not much.
(long pause) I wanted to do like a fake jokey interview. Oh. That might work better with video.
Welp, what do you have coming up? I never see you at open mics anymore, and I always wonder how you still stay sharp and funny. I've got that Halloween show [at the Kessler Theater], then all the bar shows. That's really what I've been focusing on. Booking, hosting, and putting together a good show.
How do you polish though? Are you at a place with writing where it just comes out super polished? Well, I don't write very much. It sucks, because I've been doing the same material for the past two years, but I've tweaked it all and I'm constantly doing it. If I get out of my head and look at other comics who are in the 10-year range, they've been doing the same stuff. Any big name, unless they have an album or something that's an impetus to put it out there, there's not really a change.
I definitely get in my head because comics release albums and specials so frequently now. I'm like, "Is everyone Louis C.K. now? Writing a new hour of material every year?" He definitely set a bar for how often you should. You have the comedy boom in the 1980s that busted, and now you have this new boom that's based of, not comedy clubs, but Twitter, and podcasts, and all these other different things. And if you're really into Louis C.K. and you go on YouTube, there's 1980 interviews of him on Opie and Anthony, just one radio show even, and you can see the prototypes of bits that he's developing and he's constantly working on stuff.
Do you also do that through social media? Not in awhile, but what I loved about Twitter was it forced a certain brevity on me. I believe it's easier to tag up and build from that foundation than take a story, cut a story down, like at the end of Apocalypse Now when they're hacking the water buffalo to death with machetes. When you get down to that hardcore skeleton of a joke, that thing you think is funny because you know your cousin Eddie, it isn't funny anymore.
Do your followers come to you, or do you strategically try to follow comics or writers you like who you know might notice you? It's a little bit of both. If there's anything you can attribute to my success it's that I work just as hard behind the scenes as I do on stage. I have certain weaknesses as a performer, such as that I don't like being up there.
What people don't see is all the shit that goes on behind the stage, and just to get myself out there as a comedian, I have to play all these other roles. I don't feel bad doing all these things, because I'm not going through the traditional structure. That's what I say about the Observer; it's the alternative weekly. I've read it for 15 years; it's underground. So if someone was named Dallas Morning News' favorite comedian, I wouldn't care!
Yeah I don't care who Steve Blow's favorite comedian is. You've totally done it your own way. Would that be your advice? They're always gonna tell you, "You have to be funny to everyone." And I think that perfectionist mentality, where you have to please everyone - I mean, there's people who didn't like Johnny Carson! Not everyone's going to like you, so you have to take a long look at yourself in the mirror, and say, "Who am I, and who am I trying to reach?" You have a specific audience, and find out who that is. It can be a very broad category. You can reach out for the youth, because I think the youth is the most under-served demographic in comedy.
Comedy caters to people with money, like anything else people are selling. It caters to people our parents' age, that's what's on Comedy Central. But then you see things on MTV, and you're like, "This is completely insane! I don't get it!" But if you're still young, talk to them! If you're still young, try to do NACA [National Association for Campus Activities], you age out of that at about 34. New Faces, you age out of that by the time you're my age.
And set realistic goals. Whoever it is in your mind who's the biggest guy ever, you're not gonna be that. But there's a reason that guy appealed to you but he didn't necessarily appeal to everyone else. And to you, he's bigger than a God, but he's still thinking like anyone else, "I hope I get people to go to the Thursday show, I heard the last guy only brought 15 people."
What's your next goal you've set for yourself? I want - and this is gonna sound really artsy-fartsy - I want to build a comedy culture in Dallas, like the way they cover music and the way they kind of cover art, they sorta cover comedy. And they don't right now. I believe the comedy scene as it is only exists in the minds of comedians because there are no regular crowds.
This is the weird duality of Dallas. A lot of really great people have come from here, but they're always from somewhere else. The only real native son Dallas has is Paul Varghese, so whatever comedy culture Dallas can have has to hinge around him, so how do we extend it to everyone else, and how do we keep it fresh and current and cool?
Finding cool people with cool bars who are willing to take a chance on comedy. Comedy needs to be nurtured, and there's nothing here, there's no infrastructure - I mean, there's the clubs.
The comedy we got post Comedians of Comedy, podcasts, Twitter - those comedians have not gone that route. There's very much a DIY aspect. Even if you are working clubs, you have to have built your own fan base. Until they're willing to work with you as a headliner on an even level, you're going to be grossly undervalued. You've got to say, "Hey, I'm going to find out who I actually am, who I appeal to, and make it happen." And it's so f***in' easy. I am so f***in' lazy, and the fact that I've done what I have done should make people embarrassed.
Lauren Davis is an improviser and stand-up comedian from Dallas, Texas. 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.