by Ryan Meehan
Alexis Guerreros is a comedian living in NYC, also known for his love of food and the sport of soccer. He can be seen performing throughout the country, as well as in NYC at the weekly STACKED show at The Standing Room in LIC, Illuminati Party at The Stand in NYC. He can be seen as the cohost of The Cooligans webseries and heard as the cohost of the Cooligans podcast as well as the host of Show Me Your Bits podcast, and he’s my guest today in 10 questions.
RM: What was the first performance you saw live that changed the way you looked at comedy? How long after seeing that did you actually envision yourself on stage telling jokes in front of a room full of strangers?
AG: The first performance I ever saw that made me want to be funny was when I was a kid and my family was throwing a house party. I was 8 years old and already asleep but the sound of laughter woke me up, and I went downstairs to the kitchen to see what was going on. I peeked in the door and I saw my grandfather controlling the room with every word. I don’t know what he was saying, but I could tell he controlled how everyone felt and was reacting. He looked as big as anyone has ever looked. I said I wanted to be a comedian from that point on, regardless of how much my mother hated the idea. After college I went to see comedy and when Mike DiStefano finished performing, I looked around and said “That’s the guy I want to be like on stage”. He’s from a rough place, he’s himself, but he’s vulnerable and real. He was everything I thought I was in my personal life, but he did it on stage. I’ve been trying to catch up to those two moments since then.
RM: A lot of comics will tell you that you don’t really learn as much from a set that went well as you do when you end up bombing…Why do you think that is; and what’s the most important thing you’ve learned from having a set where it seemed like everything went wrong?
AG: You learn everything to NOT do when you’re bombing. The audience isn’t a critic when they’re laughing, they’re a critic when they’re quiet. When they’re laughing you think the joke is perfect. When they’re quiet you hear all of the unnecessary words. You start to cut it down after that and really refine your jokes. It reminds you that you suck and you have a ton of work to do. You always will, so it’s great to be reminded of it. Also, if you hacked your way out of it, listening back to it you should be disgusted with yourself, as I am when I have done it, and you learn to work around the uncomfortable situation. I don’t love bombing, but I love what comes out of it.
RM: On an average week, how many nights would you say you get the opportunity to step on stage? Do you have any sort of personal minimum requirement with regards to the number of times per week you have to get up in order to keep your act toned and fresh?
AG: I used to try and get on stage 20 times a week (mics and shows). I’ve recently gotten a lot busier with other comedy related things (podcasts, videos, writing, traveling, etc) so I haven’t been able to keep that up. I’m really lucky lately to be booked roughly 5-6 out of 7 days a week. I can’t thank the folks/bookers who work me enough. I try and put in some new material all of the time and really work on my craft. I’ve been lucky lately to work with some comics I really respect and I’m learning so much from watching them on and off stage.
RM: You do a soccer podcast called “The Cooligans” with Christian Polanco…How would you sell soccer to the average American football fan who knows nothing about the sport in a paragraph or less?
AG: Just fucking watch a match with us. Thats it! It’s 90 min with only a halftime break. No commercials, no bullshit, two 45 min halves of non-stop action. Not enough scoring? Go fuck yourself. You’ll watch a 4 hour baseball game that ends 1-0 but not a soccer game? You’re an idiot. Watch the Cooligans episode with Pete Lee and watch what happens at these matches and how he enjoys it. You’re out of your mind if you think you wouldn’t enjoy it. Also, Euro soccer is Saturday mornings. Meet me at a pub at 11am. We’ll eat breakfast sandwiches and drink beer and be out of there by 1pm. You can go enjoy the rest of your day. If you still hate the sport, you’re ancient and you’re going to be left behind. This came off way meaner than I expected BUT IT’S WHATS IN MY HEART.
RM: The New York City comedy scene seems to be full of people that you consider to be your friends…Who are the three people – other than Christian – that you find yourself most comfortable working with and why?
AG: Other than Christian, and in the NYC scene only…
Mike Cannon, I love hosting Illuminati Party with him. He’s like someone I didn’t know I needed in my life. We don’t talk on the phone every day or text like high school girls but I’m incredibly comfortable with him on stage and love bantering with him. He and his fiancée are A+ in my book. He’s also going to be upset that I said he’s not like a high school girl, because I’m sure he fancies himself that way.
Paul Virzi, more than being a great comic, he’s a great mentor and a great friend. I learn more about comedy watching him perform than I do anyone else. I come up with more material I immediately forget about just sharing stories with him and over drinks and cigars. He’s a close friend and if I ever get mouth cancer, it’s from him being a bad influence and us continuing our tour of every cigar bar in NYC and the surrounding area. If he’s reading this, yeah I blame you, my wife accepts that easier.
Third I’d say Robby Slowik. He may not know it but he’s one of my favorite comics in NYC. His ceiling is incredibly high and I am inspired having seen him develop since he’s moved to NYC from LA. I saw him perform once when he got here, and I wanted to hate him for just getting here and already getting up on shows I wanted to be on. I talked to him once and I immediately wanted to be his friend. We’ve done some road gigs together and without asking we both watch each other and offer honest critiques of each others sets. I believe I’m a better comic the more I’m around him. He’s one of those guys, that the moment I hear of an opportunity, I check with him to make sure he’s aware of it as well. I hope to work with him more in 2016.
RM: How does one differentiate between a particular dig at Hispanic or Cuban culture being just plain hack, in poor taste, or possessing racist tendencies? How often would you say that you work off of your ethnicity in general?
AG: I have a weird love/hate relationship with talking about my nationality because I think I can often be more universal, and more general because we’re all so similar that what bonds us is greater than what separates us. But then I think that last sentence was bullshit, and we are different – and it’s okay to talk about it. I grew up making fun of my family members’ accents and shit like that so it seems really easy for me to do on stage. Even when I see it my first reaction is “you’re better than that” but I’m not sure that’s the right reaction. Maybe me restricting myself from talking about it helps me or hurts me, I’m not sure. It could also be a hold over from having started in Latin/Urban rooms, where that is all I ever say and heard and I want to differentiate myself from those comics so much. Not because I think they’re hack (not to say there isn’t hack in that scene, there’s hack in every scene) but because I wanted to get into a scene with a higher ceiling. As far as racist tendencies, I think it exists in every culture so I don’t think there is anything that makes Latin culture more or less racist than anyone else. I so think there is something to be said for how far most of us go to differentiate ourselves from other Latin countries. In the US we all get lumped together. The only thing we have in common is the language the guys on the boats who raped all of our ancestors taught us (some foods too depending on the region). Other than that, we’re about as different as European countries are, but we get lumped together because of the language. I can’t understand most Mexicans when they speak to each other in their vernacular, nor could they understand Cubans or Uruguayans, etc. It’s fun to talk about with other Latinos but when it gets to the stage, I can see it being somewhat racist to someone who might be sensitive. Personally I don’t think there is anything you can’t say on stage. I get annoyed with people when they get offended at a joke. It’s a joke. It’s said in jest, or ironically, it’s there to make you think or have a specific reaction. As comedians we’re on the edge of our thoughts on stage and we don’t have time to filter our thoughts for what every individual in the audience might be pre-disposed or triggered by. It’s not of my concern what they’re afraid of hearing. I think you learn more about yourself by sitting through it and asking yourself why you’re having those immediate reactions. That said, I’d rather you laugh more than anything else so if I’m getting a different reaction, I’ll consider changing the joke. Not because I’m worried about getting blogged about, but because I would rather people laugh without concern and I challenge myself to write the joke in a more palatable way if possible. I’m not above rethinking my own material.
RM: I saw in an interview with you on the HOT 97 Comedy Corner where you talked to Cipha Sounds about doing a gig where you were trying to maneuver your way into joining the Illuminati…Is that show still currently running at The Stand NYC; and if not how long were you able to keep that going before you eventually stopped? Aside from The Illuminati, what are some other conspiracy theories that are convincing enough for you to think that they might at least partially be true?
AG: It is still currently running, and the fact that you think it isn’t tells me how well they’re promoting it. I personally am not a massive conspiracy theorist, but to think they’re all wrong makes you a dummy. I’m sure if all the facts come out about all the major conspiracy theories, we’d find that the guy with the foil hat was kind of right.
RM: Staying on that topic…Do you think that the increase in the number of theme shows taking place all over New York City these days has more to do with the fact that there are so many comedy nights throughout the five boroughs, or simply that in order for a show to stand out it needs something to separate itself from the rest of the pack?
AG: It’s mostly a way to market the show. In my case, I knew people would show up to something called Illuminati Meeting, which I eventually changed to party. I also think the fact that networks seem interested in what comedians are doing again, everyone is putting together theme shows so they can try and sell the show idea. As far as I’m concerned I think it’s a fool’s errand. I would rather make something that people enjoy and let networks see if they want to figure out how to put it on TV. This might also be some terrible advice. I don’t know. I’d rather be a great comic and focus more attention on that than anything else.
RM: If you had a friend who was doing stand-up out in Los Angeles and decided to move to the East Coast, what would be some of the things you would tell them to expect when doing their first couple of sets here in the city? Could you ever see yourself making the reverse of that move if you decided to pursue more film or television work?
AG: I used to think I’d hate LA and after being there for a little bit I realize I would hate LA but would find solace in the community of real comedians I found out there. I also got to meet some real Los Angeles born and bred people and they were dope as fuck. Koreatown was dope as fuck. You can find some dope as fuck people and places out there easily, especially in the comedy community, which to me is every towns saving grace. That said I love the energy, speed and attitude of NYC. I love that it’ll spit you out if you blink at the wrong time. If I could advise any LA comic about performing here I would say to be themselves, be brutally honest, and replace “Armenians” with “Jews” in all of your jokes so we understand what you mean.
RM: Which portion of the writing process do you struggle with the most and why? Conversely, which aspect of the procedure would you consider to be your specialty; and why do you think that you excel at particular facet of your craft?
AG: The actual writing process is my biggest struggle. I love going on stage and talking. I have to learn to actually sit in front of a notebook and write something. I can’t do that. I’m not built that way. I need to talk to people. I’m a conversational writer. Maybe thats a cop out, I don’t know. It’s probably cause thats how I got along my whole life. I was one of those people who could say anything and never get in trouble for it. It’s why I love being on stage with a mic. It’s all the stuff teachers and family members tried to tell me not to do, I now get paid to do. It’s pretty awesome.
RM: What’s up next for you in the remainder of 2015 and beyond? Anything big in the works that we should know about?
AG: I’m opening for Paul Virzi a little bit and I have a few other things I can’t really discuss that I’m really excited about. People know me as a food and soccer guy. Hopefully I can both of those passions of mine into a more mainstream audience in a comedic way. I’d like to grow Illuminati Party so that it’s back to what it was when Mike and I started it.Thats the plan at least. I also promise I’m going to get a MUCH better website soon. I mean it, like an actual real website. I’m also going to change the format on Show Me Your Bits so that I’m talking much more to the audience. I know I haven’t done an episode in a while but I’m going to get back to that, probably…..maybe.
Official Website: http://www.alexisguerreros.com/Main/Home.html
Alexis on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/alexisguerreros
Alexis on Twitter: https://twitter.com/NotAlexis
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