This week on The Latest from Lawless blog we spoke to Lawless Jerky fan, stand up comedian and podcaster Chris Alan about his craft, and snacking during long days and nights on the road driving to the Funny Bone, the Improv, or the Chuckle Bucket.
LAWLESS: To prepare for the interview, I watched your set at the DC Improv, which I recommend to everyone reading. I noticed you do an excellent job of establishing who you are as a person quickly at the beginning of your set.
CHRIS: That’s what I try to do, especially in short sets. I try to establish my personality early. Once you do that it lets people know where you’re coming from, and opens them up to laughing a little more. You can make certain types of jokes when you open up about who you are personally.
L: I've seen some reviews where you’ve been favorably compared to Hannibal Buress.
C: I think it’s our voices. I’ve always been really self-conscious about the way I sound. When I got into comedy and found Hannibal Buress, I thought “this guy sounds like me, and he’s successful”. Seeing Hannibal, and how he’s successful doing mainstream rooms, really made me comfortable with being myself and not trying to be a comic that I’m not.
L: On your podcast, Negro Please Radio, you break down the craft of stand up comedy. You give the rest of us a peek behind the curtain.
C: When you look at comedians who are really good, it seems like they’re just talking, telling you a story. You don’t know the small nuances behind that, how hard that really is. A lot of people try stand up comedy and quit after the first time because they realize this is a lot harder than it looks on TV.
I still have good nights and bad nights. But I love the process of having an idea that starts at your kitchen table and grows into something you do in front of a large audience. You get everyone laughing at what started as this small nugget of an idea.
You can change one little word in a joke and it completely takes off, or you take a word away, and it completely takes off. In one of my jokes I say Organic Raspberry Vinaigrette—it wouldn’t hit the same if I said Fat Free Ranch. Word economy is so big in comedy.
L: After spending 18 years in the Air Force, what did you take from that experience that has helped you in comedy?
C: In the military you meet so many people of different backgrounds. That helps me relate to different audiences. I can understand this conservative country guy from Alabama. My friend is from Tennessee and he’s kinda the same way. These are the words I have to use, or this is the approach I have to take for this audience. It's made me a better comic. It makes my material more diverse. I want to be a comic like Chappelle. When you look at his audience, he’s got whites, blacks, Asians, young and old.
L: For a comic coming up, it seems like it can be a grind getting your name out there, performing for as many people as you can in your area, and going out on the road.
C: That's right. I live in Charlottesville, Virginia. A couple nights a week I’ll drive to DC or Bethesda, do a show, and not get home until 1 o’clock in the morning. I'll get up at 5:30am to take my son to daycare, go to work, and the next night I’m in Richmond. Then I might go out to Waynesboro or I’ll go to Harrisonburg to do some shows.
I stay on the road. People are surprised when I tell them I have a day job. I don’t sleep a lot. I want this so bad. I don’t sleep. There are weeks when I might get 15 hours of sleep in a week.
L: I suspect you initially came across Lawless Jerky on one of your many road trips.
C: Yeah, I’m in the car all the time. Instead of eating fast food, I stop into Sheetz and grab some jerky. The jerky is great, by the way. The Sweet Sriracha was great, the Habanero is good. All of them are great. I like the BBQ Spare Rib. It is great stuff. Just overall a great product.
L: We wish you the best. The future is looking bright for Chris Alan.
C: Yeah, I had a [Amy] Schumer gig. I got to work with her. She really liked me. My friend Mark Normand got me a gig with Louis CK in DC. Louis liked my stuff. I think I’m on the right track. I won’t let you down. You can say “we were the first, we sent Chris Alan jerky!”