By Ryan Meehan
Comedian Tony Baker has been featured on the second season of Comedy Central’s “Gabriel Iglesias Presents Stand-Up Revolution” as well as NBC’s “Last Comic Standing”. He is the winner of the 37th Annual San Francisco International Comedy Competition in addition to being the winner of Uncle Clyde’s Comedy Competition at the Ice House and L.A.’s Funniest Comic. Tony was a semi-finalist in the Boston Comedy Festival, and has also showcased for the Just For Laughs Comedy Festival and NACA Nationals (NBC Diversity Stand Up Search). Tony is a paid regular at The Comedy Store, The Laugh Factory, The Comedy and Magic Club and the Comedy Union. He has also featured at Flappers, Pepper Belly’s, The Punch Line (Sacramento), The Ha Ha Cafe, The Ice House & The Improv Comedy clubs (Hollywood, Ontario, Brea & Irvine). Tony co-hosts “Crack’em Up Thursdays”- a weekly comedy show at the Comedy Store and is a crowd favorite on the college circuit nationwide. He is featured in as well as co-written numerous comedy sketches and drama/horror short films. He was the winner of LA’s Funniest Comic in 2010 hosted by the Jon Lovitz Comedy Club, and did a ten day stint entertaining the troops in Okinawa, Japan that same year. He’s featured for such industry heavy hitters as Jo Koy, Tom Rhodes, Lavell Crawford, Damon Wayans Jr., Marlon Wayans, Whitney Cummings, Owen Benjamin, and Joey Medina. We are very lucky to have Tony Baker as our guest today in 10 Questions.
RM: What do you remember most about the first time you were on stage? Which joke you told was the first one that you can remember really connecting with the audience; and what was it about the feeling you had in that moment that made you want to get up there and do it again?
TB: What I remember most is the nervousness. I was scared pissless. (laughs) Yes, pissless. My first set consisted of me comparing LA to New Mexico (I lived in New Mexico for year) and the differences between how men and women manage wedgies. The Wedgie joke really connected with the audience. (laughs) My very first time on stage as a stand-up comedian was a success. I was no stranger to the stage because I would host shows in college and I’ve done theater. There is no feeling like making an audience truly laugh. Once I did that open mic, I went every day after that and never stopped. I often wonder had I had a bad set, would I have felt the same and returned the next day? Hmmmmmm…
RM: You are known for your impression of a jazz radio station host with a very smooth voice…When it comes to critiquing your own pitch and tone, how analytically concerned are you with those tendencies? Have you modified either of those two facets of your vocal delivery over the years?
TB: I don’t really critique my voice pitch and tone when I’m doing stand-up comedy. More so if I was doing voiceover work I would be more concerned. People compliment my voice a lot, I never really knew that my voice was that interesting to people, and learning this is what made create the smooth jazz bit.
RM: You’ve had success in some of the biggest comedy competitions in the country, but now you’re set to be a part of “Last Comic Standing” which is the most visible one of all given the fact that it’s on national network television. How do you plan to approach this competition differently considering the invitational round doesn’t take place in a club setting?
TB: The key for me is just delivering. I would like to think I won those competitions because I came in prepared – Set list-wise – I was cognizant of the judging criteria and above all, having fun on stage. The audience can feel that. I’ll approach this one differently because I will not only have the audience to play to, but the camera as well. I have to be mindful of the camera and performing for the people at home as well.
RM: As somebody who’s done plenty of shows on both coasts as well as the Midwest, what can you tell us about the way comedy is received in all three of those geographic regions of the United States? Do you ever switch up your routine depending on what part of the country you happen to be performing?
TB: Yes, there is a difference I can feel with audiences across the country and what they react to. The West Coast has in many cases seen it all. The East Coasts audiences prefer a more grounded and real feel, and the Midwest just wants you to be relatable and funny. I don’t really switch up my routine all that much whether I’m in certain states, or even countries for that matter. However overseas I may not use any cultural references like I do in the states. My energy does shift depending on the crowd and the energy of the room. But as far as the routine, I may make subtle adjustments depending on the venue and energy more so than the actual city.
RM: Back in February you performed in Dubai…What was the most surreal part of that whole experience for you; and was it really as luxurious as the rest of the world perceives it to be?
TB: The most surreal part about performing in Dubai is the fact that things that I have written as well as just thought of and observed has given me a trip and opportunity to perform in a country I’ve never been to. That always amazes and humbles me. I’m able to see the world because of my thoughts. It’s an amazing blessing. Truly blessed. And yes, it’s luxurious as hell. It’s like a clean Vegas. Extravagant architecture and fancy cars all over the place. It looks like money out there.
RM: What do we need to know about the podcast that you are planning to start up?
TB: Peeps tell me that I really need to be in broadcasting because of my voice and humor. I really love music and movies and can talk about those things all day. I would like that to be the focus but all topics are welcomed on the table. I’m not a real political or religious type of guy though. But I’ll talk about the most random things and hope someone, somewhere finds it all entertaining.
RM: What’s the most common misconception you think people outside of the entertainment industry have about the world of stand-up comedy? Why do you think that inaccuracy is so recurrent; and what is the most unlikely tidbit about the life of a stand-up comic that most people wouldn’t expect to be fact?
TB: I think the most common misconception is that some people think just ANYONE can do this. “Hey I’m funny at the cookouts and family get-togethers so I can do this stand-up comedy stuff EASY”. NO it’s not that easy. You have people that respect how difficult it looks and is, and you have those that think because they are funny with their friends and family that they will be funny on stage to strangers. Yes being funny to your associates off stage is important, but you need more to be funny on stage. Preparation of material. Delivery of that material. How you connect to the audience. Stage presence. And that intangible factor of “likability”. All of these go into making a great stand-up comedian. The most unlikely tidbit is probably how lonely the road can be. When people see that someone is traveling the world, going city to city, it looks exciting to some. But the reality of it is – especially on my level – that you travel alone most of the time and that can get pretty lonely. At least to me anyway.
RM: How did you get the opportunity to be a part of Gabriel Iglesias’ “Stand Up Revolution”; and what was it like getting to talk the business of comedy with someone who is that well-liked by almost everybody associated with the medium?
TB: A comedian by the name of Alfred Robles who tours with Gabriel saw me perform at the Ha Ha Comedy Club in North Hollywood. He told me he really enjoyed my set and that he wanted to show Gabriel and try to get me on Stand Up Revolution. Of course I took it with a grain of salt initially but he really came through and got me to showcase for Gabriel. Gabriel liked me and is responsible for my television debut as a stand-up comedian. Honestly I can be shy at times so I didn’t really talk to Gabriel about the business of stand-up, I just had regular conversations but I pretty much stayed quiet. (laughs)
RM: You have sons of your own, and you feature them in several internet videos such as this one…How comfortable are you with sharing stories from your family life; and what are their opinions about the material that you do in your act? Do you ever try stuff out in everyday conversation with them to see how other people who might be more critical of your work think about newer jokes?
TB: I’m very comfortable about doing most – not all – material about my life and family. If I’m talking about family members I usually try to make it something that they won’t be too embarrassed about. I don’t want to embarrass or hurt my family, but at the same time I love to tell my stories. My sons like that I talk about them on stage which is a blessing, and my parents like it as well. The way I write is, I’ll observe something or think of something, talk about it with a person and if they laugh I say “hmmmmm, I’m gonna try that on stage” and I’ll try it IMMEDIATELY and bam, it’s pretty much YAY or NAY at that point. A lot of comedians are like “Wow, how do you take it to the stage that quickly?” That’s just how I write, I write on stage and memorize the delivery and what worked. I’m always on the hunt for new material, but I don’t sit in a quiet room and try to create out of thin air though. I can’t work and create effectively like that.
RM: Speaking of your videos, looking at your Facebook account it seems like you’ve produced quite a few of them in a short amount of time…Do you set a certain quota for yourself with regards to the number of videos you aim to make in a given week or month; and how important do you consider those clips to be when it comes to keeping your social media presence fresh?
TB: As I just post as it comes, I really don’t have a quota or a limit. It’s just like how I do my stand up material, if I have an idea or a premise, I put it out there and post. (laughs) I probably should set some quotas and guidelines but I don’t, I just put it up and out there.
RM: Which aspect of writing jokes would you consider to be your specialty; and why do you think you excel at that particular component of the practice?
TB: I love a good callback, I feel like I’ve kind of fallen back from my callback game and I need to get back on that. Shoot, as a matter of fact, someone gave me a good idea for a callback recently but I FORGOT it. CRAP! I used to do a lot of callbacks though when I first started out. Hmmmm….Thanks for this question, I have to get back at it. I think I excelled because I like to connect everything together…a good callback does just that and the audience can feel like they are part of an inside joke. It’s wonderful.
RM: What’s up next for you in the remainder of 2015 and beyond? Anything big in the works that we should know about?
TB: Still hashing out a Tony Baker pilot, Last Comic Standing and a new podcast. This year is starting off great, it’s gonna be hard to top these first couple of months but here’s hoping for the best. Cheers to 2015.
Tony on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ComedianTonyBaker
Tony on Twitter: https://twitter.com/tonybakercomedy
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