Chris Cubas sits down across from me at a Jack-N-The Box, takes a sip from a grape Sprite and we talk about comedy, Austin, venues, and ever-present hecklers.
“I bought a Bill Cosby cassette tape at the store,” he begins. “I took it with me to school and ran a headphone wire up my sleeve. I would sit like this (he rests his head on his hand as if he was tired) and listen to it until the batteries in my cassette player died. I bought the video too and would watch it. I watched how he held the mike, and how he used his voice to control the crowd. He was a great storyteller. He did a fifteen minute bit called ‘To Russell My Brother, Whom I Slept With.’ Who else can talk for fifteen minutes about something like that and make it funny?”
Like Cosby, Cubas is a storyteller. But his stories are not Cosby-esque. Instead he prefers to juxtapose the goings on in his life, his neighborhood on East Riverside Drive, and the shenanigans of its denizens. He moved from upstate New York in 2008 and, with Austin being known for its weirdness, he has not been short of material in the four years of his professional career.
Austin and Comedy
Cubas credits his move to Austin with helping him find his voice (an industry term for creating a style and rhythm). He credits the city’s artistic vibe and its acceptance of new comedians. He readily admits Los Angeles and New York City are major league cities for comedians. But Austin is a place for comedians to find their voices, work on new material, and not get chewed up and spit out by the industry.
He has observed that the stand-up comedy scene is on the rise in Austin. Open mic nights can be found all over the city, as well as comedy showcases. Festivals like the Moon Tower Comedy Fest and Fun Fun Fun Fest are either directly dedicated to the art of stand-up comedy, or use it as a key feature in their activities. Cubas says that, with the way things are going in Austin, it would be more difficult for a comedian to not find a place to perform than it would be to find one. More participants equal more exposure for stand-up comedy, and more exposure is better for stand-up comedy.
His time spent doing bar gigs and performing at clubs like Cap City Comedy Club and the Velveeta Room has given him the opportunity and audience needed to develop his craft. His work paid off in the form of opening for nationally-known comedian Ralphie May over the course of several weeks this summer. Things are looking good and Chris Cubas is excited.
Hecklers have been at the forefront of the comedy scene recently. Of note are the incidents centered around Daniel Tosh in Florida and Dave Chappelle here in Austin. Heckling seems to have ramped up. The Monkeyshine Monday Showcase seems to be an especially hard venue for comics to work in. The hecklers (usually with alcohol-soaked brains) are not shy. Cubas did one show there. After a heckler tried to smack him in the crotch, he decided it would be a while before he went back.
“Don’t [expletive] heckle,” he states emphatically. “Whether the show is free or paying, people are there to see the comic, not hear someone in the crowd who thinks they are funny. Because usually they are not.”
Hecklers are not only annoying to other members of the crowd, but they distract the comedian and throw off his or her timing. This will draw the ire of the comic and one of two things will happen: they will either ask the person to be quiet, or they will embarrass them into silence – which usually leaves the heckler offended and seeking sympathy about the experience on the Internet. To put things in the simplest terms, do not [expletive] heckle.
Chris Cubas is a busy man. Along with his 9-5 job, he has several dates and shows coming up. Find him, listen and laugh. Here is a list of upcoming dates and events:
- 10/19 – EARP! At the Salvage Vanguard Theater at 8pm
- 10/20 – EARP! At the Salvage Vanguard Theater at 8pm
- 11/02 – Fun Fun Fun Fest: Yellow Stage at 3:55pm
David Thomas is a freelance writer living, writing and experiencing life in Austin, Texas. He lives with his girlfriend in their mid-80’s duplex in the Wells Branch neighborhood. Find him on Twitter.
Photos courtesy of Alison Narro.