Interviewed Stand up Comedian Santi Espinosa at The New York Comedy Club
We sat down with Santi Espinosa after his set at The New York Comedy Club.
What do you wish someone had told you about show business before you entered it?
I wish someone had told me that standup comedy was a ten year unpaid internship. But honestly, I wish someone had told me that a career in standup comedy is longer than becoming a doctor.
What was your process in developing this special?
I moved from Montreal Canada about four years ago. New York is an amazing city. When I first moved I was already two years into comedy and thought I was ready to be booked at the Comedy Cellar. Something that was crushed when I got to experience the NYC comedy scene. I have been doing stand-up for over six years and I think now it’s the right time to tape my act because I feel that I am ready to take things to the next level.
Do you think your stand-up has changed a lot over the years?
I think the essence of stand-up is the same, but the actual business model has changed a lot. Performers have a much easier way to upload their content to media outlets (i.e. YouTube). This has made stand-up more competitive, increasing the supply of comics while demand has remained rather flat. Making it more difficult for comics to make a living. Consequently, only genuinely funny people really make it to the top. There are always some exceptions, but I believe we live in the best era of stand-up comedy.
What happens if they don’t laugh
If they don’t laugh… You must roll with the punches. Don’t take it personal. Just do your jokes and walk off the stage, there will be another show.
How often do you perform comedy per week?
I try to get on stage at least four times a week. That includes shows and open mics.
What are you favorite comedy clubs that you perform at?
How often do you write jokes?
One new joke a week is my formula. It doesn’t have to necessarily make it to my set, but I like developing new ideas every week.
When did you feel like you were a pro comedian?
When I performed in London, England at the Comedy Store in front of four hundred people on a Friday night.
How did you know you wanted to be a comedian or did it just happen?
I really started thinking about comedy seriously when I made my mom laugh when she was going through a rough time in her life. I remember we were both waiting in the hospital and I said to her in Spanish “no seria muy chistoso si los hospitales se llamaran Casi Muertos”, which translates “wouldn’t it be hilarious if hospitals were called Almost Dead”. She literally laughed out loud and it made me so happy. Granted it wasn’t a good joke, but she loved it and told me that I should be telling more jokes. So, I decided to take an improv class, which changed my life as it led to stand-up and all the amazing things that have happened to me in recent years.
Who would you say are your influences in the comedy world?
My top five influences in comedy are: George Carlin, Louis C.K., Gary Gulman. Sugar Sammy and Dave Chappelle. They are all different types of comics, but what I have always loved about them is that they are not telling you jokes… They are telling you a story with jokes.
What is one of your more embarrassing memories from childhood?
I was an immigrant child so I didn’t speak English very well, but I looked white. So I remember hanging out with all the white kids and saying things in English that didn’t make any sense. One day, this friend of mine Timmy told me to call Miss. Molina (our teacher) the F word. He told me it meant beautiful and I believed him. I got suspended and was made fun of for a while.
What are the most important rules you live by?
Work hard, go to bed when you’re exhausted. Also, treat others like you want to be treated. Remember that we are in this crazy world together.
What was your favorite book as a kid, and what does that say about you?
I will be completely honest. I didn’t read a lot when I was kid. I hated reading, it felt like homework. But when I got older I read the book One Hundred Years of Solitude. This was a big deal for Colombians because the author Gabriel Garcia Marquez won the Nobel Prize in Literature. To put it in very simple terms, the book is a fictitious multi-generational story that talks about the evolution and invention of things in a little town. I have always been eager to learn new things in areas that are completely out of comfort zone. I have also always been intrigued by the creation of things (which is the focal point of One Hundred Years of Solitude).
What’s the best advice you’ve ever gotten?
Don’t compare yourself with others. Do what you have to do in order to do what you want to do.
Given your feelings about the state of our culture, how do you avoid despair?
I’m an immigrant that looks white. So, I deal with uncomfortable situations all the time. I believe the key to understanding each other is to educate our population as much as we can. We need to make sure people are aware of the facts and exposed to the global world that we live in.
What three things would you take with you to a deserted island?
A water container, a notebook and a pen.
Do you have any quotes that you live your life by or think of often?”
My favorite quote is from Michael Jordan: “I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life and that is why I succeed.”
How to handle hecklers from the stage?
Dealing with hecklers is always hard, but I just let them struggle with their own non-sense. I try to stay away from engaging into a fight with them. I just use one-liners to get rid of them or ask them what they do for a living and say “well, that’s just not even close to stand-up comedy… let me do my job”. I also always remind myself that I have the mic and I always have control.
“What advice would you give your younger self?”
Be patient. Keep working hard and everything will come together and make sense at some point. Trust yourself.
What most important lesson you learned in comedy?
Don’t take rejection personal. It happens. Just move on and when the right comes along you will be part of it.
Advice to your younger self just starting in comedy career?
Do it because you like doing it NOT because you want to be famous.
How long do you spend developing new material?
I brain storm with my girlfriend (Selahna) and best friend (Brad) all the time, that’s how my jokes develop and grow.
Why is there so much sadness—depression, addiction—in the comedy world?
Because comedy is not supposed to be happy. Comedy is supposed to make fun of the horrible things that we have to deal with on a daily basis. No one starts performing for drunk strangers because they are happy with how things are going in their life. If you really had your act together you wouldn’t be doing stand-up comedy. Trust me.
What’s your drink of choice?
Greatest cartoon of all time?
Let’s say you could live the life of any animal in the wilderness for one day: What would it be?
A lion. I have always associate myself with a lion. I like how they always seem to keep calm and lead their packs.
So the stereotype of comedians being horribly depressed and neurotic is true?
I think it is on some level. I started doing comedy because I was sad. I am not sad anymore, but sadness originated my thirst for standup. I wouldn’t say I suffer from depression, but I absolutely have my lows.
Do you ever get tired of being a comedian?
About once a week… But it’s like everything, we all get tired of something at some point (or someone), but if you truly love it (them). You will never give up on it (them).
So at the end of your day, what’s your ultimate goal?
I just want to be funny.
What would you say troubles you the most about the world today?
We live in one of the greatest countries on the entire planet and somehow we are not able to get access to the facts and what really matters. Not being able to accept each other despite race, gender, etc… is frustrating in this day and age. Our insecurities make us go backwards. That said, I always believe we continue moving ahead. I treat our world today as two steps forwards one step backwards.
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