Mr. John Hilder graced It’s Always Funny in Salt Lake City with his presence this week. He is in town to perform at the K-Town Komedy this Saturday. Go!
We were very portentous to discuss Salt Lake, Las Vegas, Idaho Falls and Billings.
Tyler Perry might have come up too. Not sure how or why. I blame Obama.
Describe yourself in 10 words or less?
A guy who got his tooth pulled 20 minutes ago.
At a Danish zoo they fed a giraffe to lions to prevent inbreeding. What else would you like to be feed to lions? What is your reasoning?
First of all, it’s about time a zoo took a stand against inbreeding. As far as what I would feed to lions, I would feed them Velveeta, just to see if there is any animal out there who thinks that shit is tasty.
Make a list of 5 to 13 things that you would sell if you had your own Etsy store?
I would sell cocaine, weed, ecstasy. day old donuts and the store itself, because why the hell would I want to own an Etsy store?
What is your favorite Tyler Perry movie?
I’m hoping he will be convicted of some horrible crime, sentenced to death and he makes a movie out of that, but until that happens, Big Momma’s House was pretty good! While that’s not a Tyler Perry movie it was clearly a prequel to all the Madea movies, so I count it anyway.
I got into stand up when I realized being funny was actually important to me. All of my friends were funny but I was the only one who seemed to really care about being funny. I would get mad if I wasn’t funny, which is still the case today.
Who are your biggest inspirations in comedy?
The comics I really idolize are guys like Louis CK, Dave Chappelle, George Carlin, Chris Rock and Jerry Seinfeld, but my inspirations are actually the road dogs. I’m inspired by the comics who will gladly drive a thousand miles to make $20 because they know they will make that $20 telling jokes. That has been my life for the last several years and I’m oddly proud of that fact.
How long have you been doing comedy?
I’ve been doing stand up for just over 9 years, and I’ve been getting paid poorly to do it for about 5 years.
Who has been the biggest help for you in your comedy career?
Definitely my family. They have been so supportive from day one, emotionally and financially. They have all taken me in at numerous points in my comedy career without charging me rent just so I could keep pursuing this crazy dream of mine. I have promised all of them lavish gifts if I ever defy all logic and expectations and actually have some level of success in this comedy game, so nothing would make me happier than to one day be able to pay them back in any way for everything they have done for me.
What is something unique about the Las Vegas Comedy Scene that doesn’t exist anywhere else?
The fact that at any given show, your toughest competition for attention will be video poker machines. In Vegas every bar, gas station, grocery store and anywhere else you can imagine has video poker and slot machines, so very often in Vegas your crowd is the backs of 10 guys who just lost their entire paycheck in 3 hands of video poker. It makes for hostile crowds, to say the least, but it thickens your skin up in a hurry. I’m a firm believer that if you can survive in the Vegas bar scene for a few years no show anywhere will ever intimidate you, unless it’s full of children.
Have you had a chance to work in the Casinos? How does that differ from the bar scene?
I have been lucky enough to work the casinos quite a bit. I’ve done shows at Bally’s, Planet Hollywood, Mandalay Bay, the Rio, the Palms and a lot of other casinos, and the biggest difference is the crowds. For starters, at a casino show, there might actually be a crowd! In a local bar, a crowd is, as I described before, a bunch of people playing video poker. The casinos can be rough, though, because while there is a crowd, the crowd is VERY touristy, which means you’ve got people from almost every state in America all sitting together in one room together. It can be really difficult to find something that all those people find funny, because with 50 different states comes 50 different political views, religious backgrounds, ages, sizes and colors. On the road you know what town you’re in and you can pretty easily figure out what they will and won’t respond to, but that’s a much tougher challenge in a casino. It’s a fun challenge to get that whole room laughing at once, but it’s not so fun on those nights when I fail miserably.
My favorite club is probably the LA Comedy Club at Bally’s or Sin City Comedy at Planet Hollywood, and my favorite local show is at a shitty little bar, but they pack that place with rowdy locals and I always have a great time, so I might even put that above either of the casinos as my favorite show!
What is something that Salt Lake can learn from the Las Vegas Scene?
Just to hustle your ass off anywhere you can to get shows and start new shows. There should not be a single night in town where comics don’t have a chance to step on at least one stage, so if there is a night right now without a show, approach every bar or venue you can think of and pitch them a show. Plenty will say no, but more than you wold expect will at least be willing to give it a try. Stage time is the only real way to get better at this, so if there aren’t enough stages to hit right now, create your own. It’s a lot of work to start and run a show, but the experience and the opportunity to network with other comics is well worth it. Vegas comics are relentless in their pursuit of new venues to put on a show, and it has really paid off.
What could the Las Vegas Scene learn from the Salt Lake Scene?
Subtlety, assuming I spelled that right and actually know the definition of the word. The Vegas comics have a habit of just launching right into a really delicate subject and immediately ripping it apart in less than delicate ways because they almost have to do that to get the attention of the room. I like seeing how the Salt Lake comics find ways to dance around things a little bit before hitting you with the filthy thunder. That’s not to say bluntness can’t be funny, but I respect the skill it takes to talk about something without reallt talking about it. It’s something I’ve been working on for myself for a long time.
What is the weirdest experience you have had working the road?
One time I was doing an all night drive back home after a show in Billings and the comic I was riding with hit a deer. When we got out to check the damage the deer was kind of twitching, then as we walked up to it the thing popped up and ran away. That wasn’t all that weird, but right after we got back in the car, the other comic said, “It’s a good thing that deer ran away or we would have had to take matters into our own hands.” I didn’t know what he meant at first, but a few minutes later I realized he means we would have had to kill that deer ourselves. I asked him how we would have killed the thing and without missing a beat he said, “Crush its head with a big fucking rock.” It was a very quiet and awkward drive after that!
On the flip side, what is the coolest experience you have on the road?
It’s going to sound lame, but my coolest experience was when I was sitting in my hotel room in Indianapolis on a Saturdaynight after two fun shows, I was just sitting there watching TV and thinking about where I was in my life, and I had the stunning realization that I was living my dream in that very moment. My comedy dreams were always realistic. I never imagined myself rich and famous. I would only imagine myself making just enough money to survive and travelling from shitty town to shitty town and staying in shitty hotel room after shitty hotel room. Looking around at that particular shitty hotel room that night after doing shows well over a thousand miles from my own bed, in my mind, I had totally made it.
Favorite city to work on the road, worst city to work on the road?
I am the only person you will ever hear say Idaho Falls is my favorite place to work. There is this terrible bar up there that does comedy once a week and it’s the rowdiest show you could possibly imagine. At least 10 comics warned me about it before I went up there for the first time so I was all nervous about it, but that room is always so much fun! That’s where my Vegas bar days come in handy. The room in Idaho Falls feels just like a hostile bar crowd in Vegas, so I knew how to handle them right away and now every time I go there I end up having an amazing time! I also really enjoyed the Denver scene when I was out there recently. They have some great talent out there and an organized and driven group of local comics.
My least favorite is probably Billings. For some reason I always do very average up there, and I’m not a fan of average. Plus next time I go up there I may have to murder a deer with a giant rock.
What advice would you give to someone that is looking to expand from local gigs to working on the road?
Start talking to headliners who you know are already out working the road and let them know you would be interested in featuring for them anytime. I can’t stress this enough, but DO NOT DO THIS UNTIL YOU ARE FUCKING SURE YOU CAN DO A SOLID 30 MINUTES!!! Featuring on the road is the best practice in the world because you get to do 30 minutes every night. You will never get the chance to do 30 minutes in your hometown, no matter where it is, so the road shows are your chance to really get better, but if you can’t fill that 30 minutes yet, do not lie and say you can. If you don’t do your whole 30, the headliner now has to fill that time, and they will probably not ask you to work with them again. Just be prepared to lose money on the trips and to struggle a lot, but you will get better. That’s a promise, and once you’ve made an impression on all of these clubs as a feature they will gladly bring you back to headline and that’s when you will start making just enough money to not die. You really do have to be prepared to lose money, but think of it as your college tuition because the road is a Masters program in comedy.
What would you consider to be the best moment of your comedy career to this point?
Probably opening for Jim Norton in Vegas in front of about 800 people. I thought the crowd would be chanting for Jim the second I got on stage, but I had an awesome set and the crowd couldn’t have been cooler!
What is one joke that you have done that has stood out or been a crowd favorite?
That’s hard because I find people quote really varying jokes of mine as their favorites. There doesn’t seem to be a consensus, but I actually like that because it means different parts of my act are appealing to all kinds of different people. My closer about my Chinese tattoo is probably the one I hear back about the most, though. I say it means Orange Chicken and Fried Rice so I just flash my tattoo to order at Panda Express, but they still fuck my order because most Mexicans can’t read Chinese.
What do you think of the Utah Comedy Scene?
I love it! I’m not here as often as I would like to be, but the positive side of that is that every time I come here I’m seeing a bunch of new comics who really impress me. Every time I come back I see new talent I didn’t see the last time I was here, and that makes me very happy!
Hopefully way more prominent than it is now. The comics in the SLC and the scene in general are so strong and deserve respect and attention. I think there a lot of comics here working on getting that respect and attention, and I hope to see that continue. I love what Andrew Jensen and Christopher Stephenson did with the SLC Comedy Carnivale. That kind of drive and talent is what makes a scene grow, so I hope everyone will follow their lead and, while not necessarily starting your own festival, just find something, anything you can do to help grow the scene, and if you do that, in five years Salt Lake will be known throughout the land as a comedy town.
What is the thing happening in the comedy scene that you are really excited about?
I’m really excited to see Melissa Merlot take over the hosting duties at K Town! I don’t think Steve could have made a better choice and I’m super excited to see Melissa taking the reigns full time.
Who are some of your favorite Utah comedic performers?
I love too many, and I really don’t want to do the list because, as everyone says, I will leave someone out on accident who I love, but I will always have a special place in my heart for the comics who were around when I first started hitting the SLC scene hard and were incredibly cool and supportive. Those guys are Levi Rounds, Christopher Stephenson, Bob Montana who is in LA now, Cody Eden, Troy Taylor and Andrew Jensen, and of course Melissa Merlot, who is a not a guy.
What shows do you have coming up?
I will be headlining K Town Saturday February 15th and I’ve got a great comic named Bobby Wayne Stauts coming up from Vegas to do that one with me, then I’m heading on the road for almost all of March for shows up in the Northwest.
How can people connect with you?