A Handful of Bad Jokes and a Bottle of Cheap Whiskey
This week on Funny Title Here, Houston based comic Sam Demaris (who yes, was apart of Hurricane Ike) joins the ranks of prestigious comics who have been e-mailed by me to ask if they were up for being interviewed for the blog.
Paolo: It says in your bio that you performed for U.S. Army troops in Korea that you say was an honor that “you bet your ass I won’t forget.” Would you mind elaborating on that experience?
Sam: I’ve actually done a few military tours now but Korea was by far my favorite. The reason I consider it such an honor is because they actually presented me with 5 medals for excellence which I thought was crazy. Soldiers have to seriously bust their ass for these things and here I am with 5 of them for crackin’ a few jokes. For a second there, I wanted to add a Purple Heart to that collection, but unfortunately breaking a nail on a military base isn’t considered being wounded on the field of battle. In hindsight, I should have had a soldier shoot me in the foot. Last November I got to perform in Djibouti and Bahrain and next month, I’m going to Iraq to perform for our men and women over there. Maybe I can get that gunshot wound after all. Oh, the possibilities!
Paolo: How did you get into comedy?
Sam: My best friend Roach was a huge standup fan. When I was in high school I’d always kick it at his house and he had hours upon hours of the stuff on tape. We’d watch it constantly and I told myself I always wanted to do it, but I didn’t know how. It wasn’t until much later that I ran across an ad for the Houston Laff Stop’s open mic comedy night. and decided to try it out. I have to say it was one of the most terrifying experiences of my entire life. I’d always been able to be naturally funny in casual conversation with my buddies, but here were a bunch of people who didn’t know me whatsoever. To make matters worse, they had previously seen a dozen or more comics who were REALLY good and now it’s my turn. I don’t even remember what I talked about that night, I just remember it was bad. Like “perfect time for a suicide attempt” bad. I got one laugh in 5 minutes and I think I only got that one out of utter pity. To my credit though, I came back the very next week. I knew I was funny, so I figured there had to be something I was doing wrong. I decided to sit back the next week and just watch how everyone else did it. I think I learned more about standup that Monday night than I have in the followng seven years. At the end of the night, I went back onstage for the second time. This time I was up to about two and a half laughs, but I actually earned them. What else ya wanna know?
Paolo: Who are your comedic influences?
Sam: George Carlin was the guy who made me want to do this. When I was in high school, HBO ran a marathon of nothing but Carlin and I recorded all of it on one VHS tape and must have watched it a million times. I knew in high school this was what I wanted to do, but I had no idea how to go about doing it. I didn’t find that out until years later. I digress. When I started out, it was George Carlin hands down. Strange because I’m nothing like the guy. Richard Pryor, of course played a huge part as well but not as much as Sam Kinison and Redd Foxx. As time went on, I developed an incredible amount of respect for a few others as well. Daniel Tosh is just about my favorite working comic right now. However I think I’ve learned the most from Joe Rogan and Christopher Titus. Joe Rogan has a delivery that is so powerhouse it makes me sick. You almost hate him for making it look so easy. Titus single-handedly changed my approach to this business and for that I’m forever grateful. I’ve learned great stuff from a lot guys and gals though. Bobby Slayton, Chris Rock, Freddy Soto, Lewis Black, Joey Diaz, Rick Gutierrez, Dave Chappelle, Dave Attell (the duelin’ Daves as I like to call them).. I could keep this list going, but I think it’ll lead to carpal tunnel syndrome.
Paolo: What was the absolute worst show you’ve ever had?
Sam: I honestly can’t remember. And that’s not to say that I don’t have bad shows, but when I do, I usually drink enough to put it out of my memory. However there was a casino gig I did in Vicksburg, MS once. It wasn’t that the show was bad, but there was literally one guy who showed up and the casino insisted I do the show anyway. ONE GUY! To top it off, ten minutes into my act, even HE walked out. I, however stayed onstage and continued to do my act for the waitstaff and bartender. They were on the clock so they didn’t have the luxury of abandoning ship. I think I would have quit comedy altogether had I sucked so bad I caused one of them to actually quit their job on the spot.
Paolo: If you weren’t doing comedy, what do you think you’d be doing?
Sam: That’s kind of like asking me who I’d be screwing if I wasn’t with my girlfriend. The answer to both questions is Sarah Palin. I think baby number six needs to be half black. That way she’d have an excuse for the fucked up name she’d give it (who the hell names a baby Trig?). In all honesty, I was a stage actor first and I’d probably still be at it. I went to Houston’s High School for the Performing and Visual Arts and was majoring in theatre at the University of Houston before I got into this. I got placed on academic probation and decided to take a semester off. While taking that semester off I saw an ad for the Houston Laff Stop’s comedy open mic and tried it out. Seven years later, I’m doing comedy full-time and still enjoying that semester off.
Paolo: If you say that cake could be used for good and bad times, do you think that cake is the perfect go-to food of all times? What would your recommendations cake wise for a horrible day be?
Sam: Oh I don’t think cake should be used for GOOD times at all. Giving someone cake when they’re already happy is like giving Bill Gates a lottery ticket. What the hell does he need it for? Cake should be used to cheer people up when things have gone horribly for them. Different scenarios deserve different cakes. I use a scale of fruitcake to ice cream cake. You have a bad day at work, you get a fruitcake and get over it. You get back a positive AIDS test, you get an ice cream cake. Which will probably give you a cold and with your failed immune system, kill you. But what a way to go out!! If the last memory a person has before they die is Baskin Robbins ice cream cake, you don’t cry at their funeral. Hell, you probably don’t even go if you bought em the cake. You’ve paid your last respects quite nicely.
Thanks to Sam Demaris for the words! And remember, the cake is not a lie (too old, too old?). Here is the amazing clip about cake the last question was based on!