A while ago I performed at The Comedy Store. That place is gorgeous, but a lot of comics have told me that it's a tough gig. I had performed there before, so it was my second time (just in the Belly Room because I'm a little bitty comedian) and I kind of knew what to expect.
I went up there, did my act, and got a pretty mellow 50/50 ratio. That is, people laughed at half of my jokes. Not screaming laughs, mind you, but real laughs that were not polite, but genuine.
After I walked off the stage I felt pretty lame. Compared to The Ice House, it seemed like my act was weak. But you don't get up a big damn stair case in one giant step.
I sat down to watch another comic go up. I can't remember his name, but he had performed at The Ice House before and he was funny. I could tell the way he talked and moved that he had been performing for a while, and his jokes were good.
Nothing happened. He fell flat on his face. He didn't lose his cool, but not a single damn joke worked for the poor guy. The crowd wasn't hostile; they just weren't affected. It was extremely depressing to watch.
The comic was a total pro. He finished his set as relaxed as possible and got off the stage. The thing was, he was a much more experienced comedian, but it just wasn't his night, that night.
So after that I didn't feel so bad.
Steve Trevino is a stand-up comic from Texas who infuses his blue-collar humor with a Mexican-American cultural perspective. His comedy veers away from the predictable ethnic references, instead focusing on observational humor about life as a member of the working class, infused with an energy only a guy from Texas could generate.
Trevino recently performed in San Bernardino for the Laugh Out Loud Comedy Festival Art Show. His hour-long comedy was filmed for a Showtime special, along with routines by Rita Rudner, Jay Mohr, Tommy Chong, Willie Barcena and Monique Marvez.
As a Mexican-American, Trevino says he sometimes has to deal with an entertainment industry that expects his work to just be a series of jokes based on racial stereotypes.
“I write material about life. Whether you are black, white or Asian, you can relate.”
“I’m very proud to be Mexican-American, but I set out to make my material as broad as possible,” he adds. “George Lopez does a lot of racial humor, but we are different types of comedians.”
Trevino’s persistence has paid off, and he’s currently working on a pilot for a sitcom that will be bankrolled by legendary producers David Himelfarb and Vic Kaplan.
“We are working on a show about my life with my family, the woman I live with and the love/hate relationship a couple can have.”
He points out that since it’s about him, the show is going to have a cultural element. “I want to show a Mexican-American couple in a good light.”
Trevino talks about how the network got so carried away with the racial vibe of The George Lopez Show in that they even asked that comic to have a tortilla machine on the show. It doesn’t get more one-dimensional than that.
“I think George Lopez’s sitcom was great, but the networks really pigeonholed him.”
Trevino also admits that for all its glitter and glamour, L.A. can bring an audience that might be too cynical to laugh.
“When you play in Hollywood, it’s like there’s a big attitude problem. When you perform in the Inland Empire, it’s for people who work like I do,” he says. “I’m a story teller, I talk about my life. You have to be sincere. People can tell if you are lying.”
As a stand-up comic, he’s met a lot of pot comedians. Does that get old?
“I think, ‘Oh boy, here he goes with the pot material.’ It’s kind of like race humor. It was funny 10 years ago. Now it’s like, ‘Really, dude, those jokes again?’”
Trevino points out that pot humor can be just as one-dimensional as racial humor. “They never make fun of weed in a good way. Why not tell a joke about how cannabis helps a person’s life?”