Rob Christensen has lived in Los Angeles for seven years, but he’ll always be an East Coast guy at heart. A multi-talented comedian, writer, and actor, Rob took the time to talk with us while he was packing for a recent gig in New York to discuss LA comedy, the rhythm of performance, and the science of joke writing. Do you consider yourself an LA comic now? Or will you always be an East Coast guy?
LA comic. East Coast guy
What makes an LA comic different from an NY comic?
I cut my teeth in LA. It's a more media-conscious joke-oriented style of comedy. In LA it feels like the business is always watching.
Yet you remain an East Coast guy. Does the pace of life in LA drive you crazy? People seem to lollygag more than in New York.
I've adjusted at this point. I try not to let things bother me and I set my own pace. I'll probably end up back in NYC at some point.
I see from your website that you are a many of many talents - comedian, actor, writer, poet, artists, rapper - first, how do you find the time for all these pursuits, and second, do the different arts influence your stand up , or is each thing a separate sphere?
Standup comes first. Since standup is writing and performing it naturally leads to acting and other forms of writing. I used to battle rap but I'm far out of practice at this point. I couldn't stomach the constant conflict associated with it. I'm not a poet. HA! Maybe one day though. I don't want to limit myself.
How important is rhythm to standup?
My number one note about someone set it that their rhythm is off. Speed, inflection, alliteration, pausing. They're all tools that can make something funny. Sometimes I'll make the word in a punchline rhyme if it works just to add another layer. I'm no master though. I still figure out something new every time I get on stage. I think if you can impersonate a comic then he's probably figured out his rhythm.
You mentioned figuring out something new every time you get on stage. What's the last lesson you learned?
Specifically, I've been trying to tell a joke about a homeless guy sleeping on the street in front of a hotel for dogs. It's true life irony. It's ridiculous. I did it twice and didn't get the laugh I wanted. I went back and changed the order of the words to control how the information inside the joke was given. Last time I got up I got a laugh just by changing around the order of the words. I guess that’s a lesson on the dissemination of information. Funniest thing goes last.
If you don't mind going under hood too much, how did you specifically change the wording?
"…a homeless man, sleeping on the street, in front of a hotel for DOGS" is where it ended up. Originally I mentioned the hotel first and that didn’t work. I flipped it, but said “dog hotel,” and that didn’t work. When I revealed the dog part last it became funny. It added a twist or surprise. When I get the laugh I’ll start tagging it with one-liners. Then I figure out each tag and what order they go in. You can honestly work on jokes forever.
What would you like the audience in Dallas to feel or think after they see your show?
I want them to be happy from laughing. If that happens then I'll be happy from performing and we can all go party together.
See Rob Christensen perform at the Dallas Comedy Festival on Wednesday, March 19th at 9:30. Get your tickets here.