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Published on December 18th, 2013 | by StandUpTalk
Run The Light With Christian Spicer
In this edition of Run The Light we interview stand up comedian Christian Spicer.
Ari: When and where did you start comedy?
Christian: I wish I had a simple answer for this. Maybe I do. Ha. I did my first-ever set in 2005 while in law school. I opened for Dustin Diamond at a college show at the University of Houston. He had auditions for a local opener. I told my friends I was going to audition. They held me to that promise. I got the spot.
After that I would only do an open mic once every 6 months or a year or so. I started doing comedy more seriously after I moved to San Diego sometime in 2008 or 2009. I don’t really have a great “start” date like some comics do. I would do it very infrequently and then around 2009, I decided to do mics and such more seriously in San Diego. I still consider myself as having started comedy in San Diego.
Ari: Did you graduate from law school?
Christian: I did. I graduated magna cum laude and practiced for about 4.5 years at various firms. One big firm in Texas, one big firm in San Diego, and one small firm in San Diego. I took and passed the bar in Texas and California. Currently both bar memberships are set to inactive since I no longer practice, I didn’t want to pay full bar dues and maintain the continuing legal education requirements.
Ari: That’s pretty nuts, what made you decide that being a successful lawyer wasn’t your thing?
Christian: The simple answer is that I wasn’t happy. My grandfather passed around that time and I’m sure that had something to do with. Also, I looked at the partners at the firms I was at and I didn’t want their life either. It wasn’t like, “hang in there for a few years and soon enough you’ll have the life you want.” And a lot of my friends that were attorneys didn’t seem happy or fulfilled either. Luckily my wife was supportive of my decision to quit (retire? ha) and I never really looked back. Life is too short.
Ari: A lot of comedians say being in a relationship takes too much time away from comedy how do you manage your marriage along with your comedy?
Christian: I am fortunate in that my wife is amazing. Seriously. The best ever. Also we’ve been together since our junior year in high school and then got married right after college. So when we got together, stand up wasn’t even really a thought in my mind. We kind of discovered it and went on this journey together and she’s been super supportive the whole way, which is amazing.
I do think it could be hard to start a serious relationship after you’ve already “committed” to stand up just because the stand up schedule is so different from the regular 9-5. And because what looks like “hanging out at a bar” is actually pretty important from a career perspective. I think having a boyfriend/girlfriend that doesn’t “get” that aspect of comedy could be difficult for sure.
Ari: How long did you do comedy in SD before you decided it was time to LA?
Christian: It wasn’t a matter of time really. I didn’t have this clock running in my head per se that said I needed to move by X date or anything like that. It was more just that I thought I had hit the ceiling of what San Diego could offer without trying to be a road comic, based out of San Diego. Don’t get me wrong, I love San Diego and think the comedy scene there is great, it was certainly great to me…but there was just this point where it felt right. Also my wife was able to find a new job in LA pretty quickly, which helped too. We wouldn’t have moved if she didn’t find a good job too.
But yeah, I was a regular at all the clubs there, performing on all the alt shows and co-running/co-hosting three super successful shows (two weekly shows and one monthly show) there too. It just felt like it was time to make the move.
Ari: You still run a awesome show there, how is it running a show from two hours away?
Christian: Aw, thanks. Yeah, of the three (Fuck Alt. Comedy, Live Comedy Live, and Lestats Comedy Night) Lestats Comedy Night is the one I decided to keep doing even after moving to LA. It’s a great show with a fantastic and regular audience that is supportive of comedy.
Driving down every week isn’t always the best (but it does let me catch up on podcasts and audio books) but the show is worth it. It was running for years before Rajan Dhanri (my co-host and also co-host of IMPRO(vs)TANDUP here in LA at UCB) and I took it over and was a great show then too. Rajan and I then reinvested some time into trying to make it even better. We wanted it to be a tighter more focused show and we wanted people that lived in the neighborhood around the venue to come out each week.
Since we took over the show while we still lived in San Diego, we were able to really put in that time and make the show something special.
I wouldn’t necessarily recommend everyone run a show 2+ hours away from your house…but sometimes a show is special enough to make the time worth it and I think Lestats is that show.
In terms of running it from LA, Rajan and I are pretty organized people that communicate well with each other and that helps and we’re also fortunate to have a super supportive venue behind the show too.
Ari: So you run three successful shows, your LA shows are both at two of the hottest places in the “alt” comedy scenes… UCB and Meltdown… what do you find the biggest challenge is in running these shows and what advice would you give to those looking to start there own comedy show?
Christian: Well thanks for the kind words about the shows. That means a lot.
Perhaps one of the hardest parts about running a show is the people you’ll make mad, unfortunately. It seems like as soon as you are part of a successful show, people get mad at you or dislike you or say you only get spots on other shows because you trade for spots or whatever.
Some people might run their shows with the intent of trading spots but I never have. My priority is always to my show. I want it to be the best show possible for the audience. I believe that is what makes a show successful. Make it good.
Then there’s the thought that people only view you as a “producer” and not a comedian. I enjoy running the shows I run but my goal isn’t to be a comedy-show runner. I’m a comedian. With that said, I do really enjoy being a part of the shows I do in LA (currently SketchMelt at NerdMelt, What’s New at NerdMelt, IMPRO(vs)TANDUP at UCB and soon Extra Credit at the Clubhouse).
I certainly don’t set out to just create shows. The shows I’m part of are shows I think need to exist. If that makes sense. I think they’re unique and top quality shows. That’s what makes it worth it to put in the amount of work I put in to the shows.
That’s another hard part, taking the time to promote or book or create your show takes time away from performing, writing, and hanging out.
Time is limited. Just prioritize what’s important and then don’t look back. There’s no answer and there’s no right way.
Ari: It seems you are doing all the right things, doing great spots, successful podcast, sketches… what goals do you have for 2014?
Christian: The main goal, and this may sound cheesy, is to grow more as a comedian. I think I’m funny, sure, but the best/worst thing about this craft is there’s always room for growth. I’d like to become more personal and I’d like to be able to crack a few jokes/premises I’ve had for a bit now that I can’t quite seem to make funny yet. The idea(s) make me laugh, so I know they have potential…I just need to figure out the way to convey it to the audience.
Then there’s the little stuff. I’d like to do more of the big alt shows around town and get passed at the clubs where I’m not yet passed. I’d love a solid TV credit (as that only helps getting booked on other shows) and I’d love to do some of the bigger festivals.
But I also just want to keep doing comedy. I want to keep creating. I want to keep making people laugh. The past few months I’ve had a few people send me messages that were at shows saying some really nice things about how my comedy/podcasts, etc have helped them when they were in a tough place. It might be corny, but I love how comedy can really connect with people. It’s pretty rad.
Oh yeah, and win the lottery. Preferably a 200 million plus jackpot.
Ari: Your new podcast is interesting as a lot of comedians say they do not want to be recorded as the material will change and get funnier your podcast is the exact opposite where it releases comedians material that is new on purpose… how did you think of this idea and how has the response been so far?
Christian: I’m pretty proud of What’s New. It’s a monthly live show at NerdMelt and podcast on the Nerdist Network. The next show is Jan 14 at NerdMelt with Zoltan Kaszas, Dan St Germain, Fahim Anwar, Streeter Seidell plus an amazing headliner. The headliner’s stuff is not part of the podcast. It’s an extra treat for the live audience and a great place for some fantastic LA comics to do long sets without needing to go on the road. And the show is free. I think it’s pretty awesome. But I’m probably a little bias.
I get comics maybe not wanting to do the show though. And I totally understand comics not wanting their sets recorded when they’re working out. What I think sets What’s New apart from someone randomly recording your set though is the comics on What’s New know it is being recorded and the audience knows it’s going to be new material and has been super supportive.
Also, the second half of the podcast is me and the comics that did new material in the Nerdist podcast studio discussing how they think their sets went, what they thought worked, what didn’t, their process, etc. I think that element of the show adds a lot to it and makes comics more comfortable releasing new material into the world. It’s not alone. They can provide context.
I guess I kinda thought of the idea because I feel like the internet has changed a lot about comedy. Comedy can be consumed so many different ways. It doesn’t just need to be a perfect 5 minute set delivered by a guy in a blazer on a late night show. I think people like seeing the process, like knowing what it takes to make something. It’s not for everyone, sure, but that’s what so great about the internet…the people that really like it can listen to it and no one else has too. It’s also what I like about comedy now. Comedy can be raw. It’s written by the performer (more times than not) and it doesn’t need to be some over-produced pop-song-like thing.
And from what I can tell, the response to it has been overwhelmingly positive. All the comics that have done the show so far have only said the best things about it and the podcast seems to be getting a nice reception too. It’s a little weird only being monthly and all…but people seem to dig it. So far only one comic I reached out to about doing the show declined and they even then asked to do the show after they heard the first episode. I think that’s a pretty great endorsement for the show.
Ari: What Comedians inspire you the most?
Christian: All of them. Seriously. It’s a tough job, right? Anyone that puts themselves out there and commits to it. I have to respect that. I enjoy watching Louis CK, Aziz, Pete Holmes, Chris D’Elia, and Kyle Kinane a lot for sure though.
Ari: Anything else you want to tell the world?
Christian: Be nice. Be genuinely happy when other people have success. Be happy.