Last Laugh Continues... Bobby Jaycox

Thomas Crone highlights the standup comedians performing at the "Last Laugh Comedy Continues" program at Southtown Pub on Saturday. Today’s featured comic: Bobby Jaycox.

 

The expectation is that Bobby Jaycox is having a good day on any day ending in “y,” but when you phone up Bobby Jaycox and he’s just hopped off a train in Chicago and he’s having a mid-week, refresh-button-hitting, rip-roaring time with friends and colleagues in our frenemy city to the north… well, on those days, his enthusiasm is contagious.

 

In fact, if was just last week that we caught up with Jaycox by phone. He was in Chicago to perform a one-night engagement with Taylor Williamson, known nationally, in part, for long runs on America's Got Talent Last Comic Standing.

 

At this point, it’s not necessarily a financial win for Jaycox to go out on the road for one-nighters. But all the intangibles point to an unqualified “yes” when he’s asked to appear on some regional gigs.

 

“You’re probably not making money,” he says, honestly, “when you’re traveling and just doing one show. Stage time, though; that’s what you need. I feel like, right now, standup is the one thing that’s getting my full attention. I think I’m having the most fun doing that now. I’ve been getting a lot of work on the road and at home.”

 

That said, as someone who’s enjoyed a lot of time and work in forms such as sketch and improv, he’ll likely retain a keen interest in maintaining those skills. Of late, with the help of a local agency, Azalea, he’s also scored a bit commercial work, for both online and over-the-air purposes. And, in doing so, he’s got another side project that he hopes to keep alive.

 

But the priority: standup. And the immediate benchmark for his efforts comes this Saturday as We Are Live brings a full afternoon and evening of comedy to the Southtown Pub. The event will be part of a scene that pleases a scene-success-sharing Jaycox.

 

“A lot of people are recognizing St. Louis through Flyover Comedy,” he adds. “It’s all putting St. Louis on the map. There’s a validation that as comedians are touring, they can come here, sell some CDs. People are coming around to that more and more. And it’s cool that we’re all a part of that.”

 

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'Bobby Jaycox is sad about LouFest, but will soldier on today at Southtown Pub'

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LouFest Last Laugh Profile: Duke Taylor

Thomas Crone highlights the standup comedians performing at the "Last Laugh Comedy Stage" at LouFest. Today’s featured comic: Duke Taylor.

 On Sunday afternoon, Duke Taylor spent his entire Sunday afternoon at the Funny Bone Comedy Club. Not performing, mind you. But drafting players for that venue’s fantasy football league.

“This is my second year with them,” he says. “I’ve played three years, overall. So not that long. They say that once you try, you become addicted. I shouldn’t have tried. Now I’m in five different leagues.”

With the NFL on the cusp of play, it’s a good time for Taylor to have his Sundays free. Luckily, for him, he’ll be performing at LouFest’s Last Laugh Comedy stage this coming Saturday, rather than Sunday, and he’s free in admitting that “I’ve never been to LouFest, period. To play it the first time I’m going there is pretty dope. I’m going to enjoy the whole experience. Just watching the headliners, checking out a little bit of the musicians and bands. I actually look forward to it. Now that’s on Saturday; on Sunday, it’s football.”

Taylor says that he’s digging the lead-up to the event including, yes, “the press and publicity. If you’re not known in your city… well, you gotta take over your city first, before you take over other cities.”

In the last couple of years, that takeover attempt’s been finding some traction. He won Funny Bone’s competition in 2016, finishing second at Helium’s competition a year later. In just the past few months, he’s shared stage time in those same rooms with folks such as Gary Owen, John Witherspoon, David Arnold and Jak Knight.

“It’s been a dope year, so far,” he says. “I want to get into more festival and comedy club competitions outside of St. Louis now. I want to branch out and hit shows in other cities.”

When he travels, his material travels, too.

“Personally,” he says, “I don’t write jokes that only St. Louis people understand. I stay away from the location and regional stuff. It should work as well outta town as it works here. The difference is in yourself. If it’s a completely new crowd, a place you haven’t been, it can bring a different mindset, I guess.”

Asked where he feels as if his growth is most-marked --  be that writing, performance, nailing down the business aspects of the craft -- Taylor feels confident in saying that everything’s feeling pretty solid these days. So, yeah, check all the boxes.

“I like my growth in every aspect you just named,” he says. “I can tell my writing’s tighter. My business savvy is still based in the same: you show respect. A lot of people act arrogant or entitled. You can win a contest, but you still have to work the whole time. What you do today doesn’t matter tomorrow and a win in one city’s contest doesn’t mean anything to the audience in another city. You gotta keep grinding, keep moving forward. I do notice the growth in my performance; some jokes are easier to tell, they’re more comfortable on-stage now. In between jokes, you’ll people say something (‘er,’ ‘um’) and not leave it dry. I can tell I’ve passed that point.

“I’m kinda figuring out who I am,” he concludes.

Well, he concludes by saying that he’s got a few small goals for the week leading up to LouFest and those’ll involve performance of the low-key variety.

“I’m gonna hit up a bunch of the open mics,” he says. “No major shows before Saturday.”

Like his fantasy football players, “I’ll get some practice in, some reps going. Then the show. And that’s it.”

 

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LouFest Last Laugh Profile: Tina Dybal

By Thomas Crone

 

Thomas Crone highlights the standup comedians performing at the "Last Laugh Comedy Stage" at LouFest. Today’s featured comic: Tina Dybal.

In 2018, Tina Dybal scored a win as the Funniest Person in St. Louis, via Helium’s annual competition. She’s hosted shows at the same club and has begun a podcast with Jeremy Essig. She’s performed club and indie gigs with a variety of touring comics, giving Chad Wallace a run for his money as the most-seen-and-heard performer on the stage of the Heavy Anchor. She’s busy enough to familiarize St. Louis comedy-goers with her youthful love of Aaliyah and her beloved mutt. And, yeah: she’s playing LouFest this fall, duh.

In some respects, the next step on her journey involves many steps (or the turning of wheels, we suppose) as she tackles some regional touring, which has started in earnest this year and will only trend up in 2019.

“Yeah, I think I’m in a good place,” Dybal says. “I’ve had a lot of cool opportunities, which were all really exciting. That doesn’t mean the work is done. I could win that competition and that’s it; I’m done with comedy. I wanted to win so badly in years past and it was a great accomplishment. But I still have work to do. You’re onto the next thing, always looking for the next next thing. I’m still finding my voice within standup, so I’m really starting to dig deep, to peel the next layer off, to get to my true self onstage. I’m definitely on my way to doing that and it’s been very cool.” 

 

What’s interesting in talking with Dybal is to hear discuss the responsibilities of comedy, or at least, the empathy that you might/should bring to material. For many of her contemporaries, Dybal’s viewed as one of the boldest voices on the scene. But there’s still a humanity to be kept in focus, whether it’s in a full-fledged set or a bit being worked out at an open mic.

“You need to be sensitive and empathetic if you’re going to work in touchy subjects,” she says. “You can’t just go onstage and use the n-word or do insensitive shit like that. I think you can touch on things like race, abortion, immigration, the police. Of course, you can not touch on that, too. What matters is your point-of-view If you have no business talking about it, don’t. Have a fully-formed argument, or a fully-formed joke. Don’t just go onstage yelling about politics. Be well-versed if you’re going to touch on a topic like that. Your message has to have some insight to get across.”

Those are maybe the “what not to’s”, but what are the ways in which she creates material that becomes the spin of a set. In early 2017, she told St. Louis Magazine: “I think a good premise for a bit starts with some emotion attached to it. The emotion could range from happy, sad, angry, tired, or just a moment that made you feel something. I write notes in my phone when I think of an idea for a joke. I have written premises down while crying, drunk, laughing hysterically, waiting in line at a coffee shop, or even on the toilet. The bit gets good after you sit down and hash it out, not just writing an idea in your phone. I think that includes holding onto the first feeling you had when you wrote it, but also looking at it objectively to really make it a solid bit. I am a serial procrastinator in all aspects of my life; especially when it comes to comedy. So, deadlines do help nudge me in the right direction, but I end up hating myself all the same for waiting until the very last second. I’m working on that. For sure, I’ve definitely talked about something that happened day of in a set. It’s usually when I’m mad at someone, myself, or something.”

While this covers her stage material, Dybal’s more than able to riff extemporaneously. A good way to catch her in that mode is on the podcast, “Where’d You Fuc* Up?,” which she co-founded with Essig earlier this year, based on an innocuous note that she sent him: “Do you like podcasts?” Turns out, he (did and does) and also has audio equipment and reporting skills. Together, the pair’s very different personalities and interests have created a podcast that touches, as the name might suggest, on folks not having their best days in life, how they recovered, and how you can eventually laugh at the toughest moments you’ll know.

She sees these types of endeavors as the rule, rather than the exception. Not the fuc*ing up part, but the creation of new and interesting multi-media opportunities, of mutual support and a collective push to bigger things. As a performer (and as a bartender at the Improv Shop, as well), she’s firmly embedded in the community in which he’s now an established performer.

“I think I’m in the camp of staying around after a show, supporting people,” she says. “Hang around after show, go to new shows that’re starting up, support new talent.”

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LouFest Last Laugh Profile: Angela Smith

Thomas Crone highlights the standup comedians performing at the "Last Laugh Comedy Stage" at LouFest. Today’s featured comic: Angela Smith.

If you were to poll the entire standup comic community in St. Louis, in order to knit together a list of day jobs, well, you’d wind up with an interesting list.

And while we won’t sketch out the exact nature of Angela Smith’s worklife, it’s safe to say that’s she’s got a career, not just a gig, with a heavy dose of traveling accompanying said career. That’s a good thing, overall. And for her comedy, it’s a bit of mixed blessing.

“I travel around the country for my day job,” she says. “You'd think that would lend itself to booking gigs wherever I go, but I usually don't perform when I'm out of town. I've done shows here and there, but when I'm on business, I'm on business. I try to give 100% of my focus to that work so that I can feel good about giving 100% to comedy when it's time for that.”

On the other hand...

“I do write a lot of new jokes when I travel, though,” she adds. “I'm alone so I notice things more and I have to keep myself entertained. A few weeks ago, a stranger held my hand for an entire plane ride and told me if the plane crashed he'd ‘see me in Heaven.’ It just got creepier from there. I'm terrible at establishing boundaries, and I often don't realize until later that I could have told a strange man on an airplane not to hold my hand. When I reflect on it and take it to the stage, it helps me re-frame a creepy experience into something absurd, yet hilarious. It makes me feel like I had the last word about the situation.”

When discussing Smith’s skills, comics in St. Louis cite her sharp writing. Not to suggest that other elements of her game aren’t there, but the pinpoint nature of her jokes isn’t lost on her contemporaries.

She says that “I appreciate other comics believing in my writing. If I could work behind the scenes and only write for other people, that'd be my preference. Going on stage is the hardest part for me because that same awareness that makes me a good writer is also what puts great fear into me in front of a crowd. I've gotten more comfortable with performing, but I hope my writing is always the strongest part of my game. You can be totally comfortable in front of a big crowd, but if you're not funny, it'll get uncomfortable really fast. If that happens, I'll probably start bringing a puppet on stage or something. An emotional support puppet. Also, if you think I'm good at writing jokes, you should try fighting with me some time. I will hurt feelings you didn't think you had. The pendulum swings both ways.”

Asked to give a general, layperson's sense of how her material’s changed in recent days, and what type of material might be introducing itself… she’s got an answer.

The founder of the storytelling show “All the Feels” says that, “If my material has changed at all, it's hopefully gotten more honest and is a better representation of who I am. A lot of my comedy is what I wish I'd said to people in the moment and getting some twisted, one-sided closure about things that play on a loop in my little Australian Shepherd brain. It's like when your therapist tells you to write an honest letter to your mother, but DO NOT SEND IT. Only I send it three-four times a week to a different room full of strangers.”

While her earlier answer might suggest a comic who takes more pleasure in the creation of the punchline than the execution of same, there are nights that work for Smith. Those unadulterated evenings of good vibes then and happy memories later.

Smith says that “opening for Nikki Glaser at the Funny Bone a few weeks ago was one of the best feelings. It was a sold out crowd ready for a female headliner. It's a cliche, but after almost every show I do, someone tells me I'm ‘funny for a girl’ or that they usually don't like female comics, but I was ‘pretty good.’ Thank you? To have a sold out room receptive to every beat of my material, it felt so gratifying. Also, getting to work with Nikki is incredible. She's one of the best writers out there and watching her inspires me to work harder.”

The next major step in Smith’s hard work comes with LouFest, with a Saturday performance slated. As with the others involved in next weekend’s Last Laugh Stage experience, she’s curious about the direction in which things’ll roll.

“A music festival is new territory for me,” she says. “It's really up to the crowd how they want things to go. I've performed in clubs where people should have been listening, but they talked over the comics the whole time. I've performed for 30 people at the American Legion and we all had a great night. If the crowd shows up ready to laugh and have a good time, we'll have a good time. I'm bringing the puppet just in case.”

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LouFest Last Laugh Profile: Chris Cyr

Thomas Crone highlights the standup comedians performing at the "Last Laugh Comedy Stage" at LouFest. Today’s featured comic: Chris Cyr.

 

Forgive the inclusion of the personal in this lead, but it’ll serve a storytelling purpose: on a lot of Monday mornings, I drive a cohabitant to the airport during the 6 a.m. hour. It’s strange to turn on the radio during that timeframe, knowing that we’ll hear the familiar voice of Chris Cyr. Stranger are the episodes in which he’s interviewing other St. Louis comedians we’ve seen, discussing their next gigs, their writing styles, their day jobs and their passions; that said, there are times when none of these topics are discussed and the pair just riff on the day’s topic of choice.

 

The strangest moments of all, though? Those are when Cyr discusses bears. Or robots. Or raising (not his) children. Or outdated social mores. And then, possibly more talk of bears or robots. He’ll do this for an hour, minus station/commercial breaks. During those 6-7 a.m. blocks, it’s Chris vs. Time, his one-man, hour-long monologues some of the most-unusual and delightful radio you’re likely to hear. If it’s even radio, at all.

 

“It’s funny that you call it a radio show,” Cyr says. “I call it a radio show. My parents call it a radio show. Younger people call it a podcast. Recorded live on the radio.”

 

From Monday-through-Thursday, Cyr arrives at the 920 AM studios for these coffee-fueled 6 a.m. sets, though he’s also prone to pre-record some episodes of the show, Impolite Company. Within hours, the finished products are loaded onto a variety of platforms, from Spotify to the impolitecompany.com homepage.

 

“I’m a storyteller at heart,” Cyr says, “who’s learned to tell jokes.”

 

Asked about his comfort level with the show, now that it’s being measured in months, rather than weeks, Cyr says, “I like it now. If you listened to the first 30 or 40 episodes, you’d hear me struggling with what I would do. I used to be terrible being alone. For those first 30 or 40, I felt I was better with a guest, even as I was learning to do live interviews on-air. I wasn’t terribly comfortable being alone for an hour. But I hit my stride and philosophize, or… I don’t know what you’d call it. ‘A stream-of-consciousness, with a point?’

 

“Interviews with comics,” he adds, “are no longer just comics-on-comedy interviews.That sort of thing works well in print, but on a podcast, I might just ask a questions and let tangents happen,” he says. “I’ll take a thread and fill that entire hour with the thread. That’s conversational and can be really cool.”

 

Impolite Company is the name of his podcast/radio show, but it’s also a name he’s used for a (mostly) monthly live show; it’s usually held at the Crack Fox, though it’s also travelled to other venues. On these evenings, Cyr hosts or does short guest spots, while allowing a showcase for local, regional and the occasional traveling comedian some mic time, inside a room that’s built for music, but works well for comedy, too.

 

While he’s been actively working stand-up slots at comedy clubs and indie shows for the past few years, a day job frequently takes him on week-long runs outta town. In those towns, he’ll try to spot-in a show, or two, during the week. And when back in St. Louis, he’s often cooking up a show that bends from the norm. In recent months, for example, he’s taken part in Aaron Sawyer’s two-person sketch/video presentation Boondoggle and he’s offered a “mostly unplugged rock opera” called Chris Cyr Presents: I’m Gonna Buy Cocaine, among other concepts.

 

“I’m doing more one-offs,” he says. “And I wanna throw more shows that aren’t strictly standup. Personally, I love doing standup, but I need other outlets, too, so I like putting together shows are a little different.”

 

That word, “different,” could speak to Cyr’s near-legendary ability to juggle workdays, his morning radio work and gigs at clubs. As example, his Thursday mornings come just hours after his co-created Wild Card Wednesday open mic at the Crow’s Nest, which ends not long after midnight. He’s pushing, always, for inclusiveness and diversity in the comedy scene, advocating for new voices, pushing web and promotional outlets for everyone, all while tending to his own upward trajectory as a standup.

 

It’s a balancing act best achieved when self-satisfaction’s in play and it sounds as if he’s found that place.

 

“It’s good, I can’t complain,” Cyr says, “I’ll tell you, I’m more-comfortable with what I’m saying on-stage now than I’ve ever been. I’ve had other people comment on that. Yeah, my politics and religious views are in there, I’m just not blatantly beating people over the head with them. I feel more like myself, with observations about life filtered through a mentally-healthy hedonism. I’m not a pioneer in that thought; America’s repressed in so many areas.”

 

The message, according to The Book of Cyr 3:14: “Don’t just go to work, go home, eat dinner, go to work the next day.” 

 

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