Brad LaCour Prefers A Captive Audience. Like One That’s Literally Being Held Captive.
Welcome to Humor Us, our column in which Dallas comedian Alex Gaskin interviews other area comedians about the ol’ funny business in order to help introduce DFW at large to the burgeoning comedy scene blooming right under its nose.
During our talk, Brad LaCour alludes to feeling constrained as an actor. I get it — I’ve seen enough of his stand-up to know what a waste it is to let someone else put words in his mouth. LaCour is a fantastic performer, one who is nimble enough to be caustically self-deprecating at the start of a joke, then build on his idea with a mix of wonderfully specific, borderline absurd concepts that can absolutely floor an audience.
LaCour has a couple of shows coming up — on Saturday, July 23, he’s headlining the Second Anniversary show at Arlington’s Sunshine Bar. Those are run by Brian Breckenridge, who offered details about his showcase in an earlier edition of this column. Then, he’ll take part in Central Track’s monthly Oh, Snap! Variety Show next Thursday, July 28, at the Whippersnapper.
You’re headlining the anniversary show at Arlington’s Sunshine Bar. Have you performed there before?
I think I’ve done it a few times — I’ve done it at least twice, to varying effects.
Well, it’s kind of, I think, based upon…there was one night where it was just people at the bar, kind of thinking, “What the hell is this?” I think that was pretty early on. The second go-round — he’s [Brian Breckenridge, the booker for Sunshine’s monthly comedy shows] done a great job with it — you’ve done it before, right?
Yes, I have.
It’s like, you have this old bar kind of atmosphere, where it seems like it’s just veterans and shit that go to it. The second time, it actually kind of felt like a show room. Brian’s done a great job with putting everyone in there, everybody has seats, and they’re looking at you like they’re interested. He’s done a great job. But pull that, I don’t want him to think I complimented him in any way. [Laughs.]
You’re also doing the second Oh, Snap! Variety Show with Central Track. Did you get details on the show?
Nothing, virtually nothing. Pete [Freedman] sent me a message saying, “Hey, do you want to do this?” And I said yes. That was pretty much it. I’m a really hard sell as far as getting me booked.
As far as on-stage comfort, or personal preference, are you more interested in performing in bar or club settings — purely in terms of the performance, not factoring money, etc.?
I like the club setting. Any organized setup like that, they’re there to see you. There’s a lot of those shows you do where you’re kind of flash-mobbing a few people who just wanted to get drunk on a Wednesday and didn’t know there was a comedy show. And then you’ve ruined their day so much. [Laughs.] For something like comedy, that’s supposed to make people happy, I’ve seen it ruin so many people’s nights at bars. But at a comedy club, even the shitty ones, I’ve had fun being there on the weekends, just because everybody’s set up like they want to have a good time. That energy is a much better energy to feed off of.
Last year you performed on the side stage at Oddball. What can you tell us about that?
That was very surreal, just to have my name on the same bill as really famous comics. That was kind of a cool moment. They wouldn’t let me sell any of my merch there, that was unfortunate. I had a lot of bumper stickers and air fresheners I wanted to sell, but they said no.
You actually have air fresheners?
No, but would you buy it? I’m gonna turn this interview back around on you. If I sold air fresheners, one through five, would you buy it? One being “not interested,” five being “very interested.”
I’ll say a three, but it goes up to four if I start Uber-ing.
OK, good, I’m learning about my target audience. No, it was crazy. I’ve never really performed outdoors that much. It’s never really called for. It was just kind of crazy that it was still daylight out, and there were so many people standing there watching. Granted, that was because the gates were locked, and they couldn’t just sit on the grass and stare at an empty stage where famous comics would be in about an hour. But either way, I’ll take a hostage audience, I don’t give a shit. I don’t even think a lot of the huts that were selling whatever they were selling were open yet. That’s where I want ’em — when they have no place else to go. That’s the best audience.
When you started comedy, you were acting, correct?
Yeah, I was doing commercials and stuff.
So was your plan to add comedy to what you were doing, or were you looking to shift away?
There was no plan in any of that. I had a friend who was an actor, and was also doing a little bit of stand-up. I went to one of his… I guess they were doing a showcase, there were about ten or twelve comics on the show, and they let me go up at the end. And I was really, really drunk, and I guess I was being really gracious, and saying things like, “Oh, I’m better than these people,” and I’d never done it. But I was being a dick, and they said, “Well, why don’t you go up there and do it?” My recollection was it went pretty decent, and then for about the next three or four months I started doing it on a regular basis, and I was just dogshit for a long time. Like, really bad. But I ended up starting to do that more than acting, because I was getting frustrated. There’s not any creative control [in acting]. I was auditioning for commercials, so there’s nothing you’re bringing to the table. I was the right height, and I looked like the right person to sell Hot Pockets, or whatever. They didn’t care. They weren’t like, “Oh, you went to theater training camp?” No one cares. Just go up there and say, “That’s some spicy chicken.” And then you get paid. Comedy was very interesting. I write this, I created this, and when I get up and fail, I did that. With the idea that, “Well one day I’ll say something right, and it’ll work,” and I did that, too. I like having my control over everything.
Do you feel like your acting background changes how you approach stand-up?
I suppose it did, but it never felt like it did. I wasn’t really much of a stage actor. I was always doing on-camera stuff. I think when you’re on stage, especially with comedy, you’re having to take into account the room, and the size of the room, and who’s in that room. There’s a lot of immediate reactions. There’s not this very safe, sterile environment where you can say, “OK, I’ll do the take, and if it’s terrible we’ll just do seven more until we get it right.” I did something with a midget once in front of a camera. A commercial, not a… Anyways, I filmed this thing, and the midget could never say any of his lines right. It took all day to do [the commercial]. We don’t get that luxury [in stand-up].
You’ve recently come back after spending some time in Los Angeles? What was your experience like performing out there? What other areas have you performed in outside of Dallas?
I actually always felt like Dallas and Fort Worth were really different as far as what kind of crowds you would get, and the way you would throw that pitch to your audience.
You feel like the audience changes between Dallas and Fort Worth?
I think they’re pretty different. Between a Dallas club to a Fort Worth club, I feel like there’s a few things you take into account. It’s weird, it’s nothing I can even explain, or something really tangible, where I can say, “Oh, you have to do this kind of joke.” It’s just…you know you have to calibrate a little bit differently. Dallas is weird. You kind of have to — every club — you kind of have to have a different mental approach for each room, because the rooms are so different. I’ve found whenever I go out of the state, and I’m performing at a club, or a hotel lobby, or whatever, you can be a little bit more…you almost have to be a little bit more middle-of-the-road, just because you don’t have the intimacy you do with your hometown, where you know the kind of references you can slip in there that are going to go over well. You don’t have that, I’m-talking-to-friends-I’ve-known-for-ten-years thing. It has to be a little more polished, calibrated for everybody. I was — where the hell was I? — Fargo, something around Fargo, in North Dakota. You almost start psyching yourself out, like, “What do people in North Dakota laugh at?” The same fucking shit everybody else laughs at. That’s the thing — you find the common denominators that work for everybody.
You’ve spent quite a bit of time in LA lately. Do you think it approached how you do things onstage?
Yes. At this point now, I’m kind of more interested in hitting my own benchmarks, and finding my own things I’d like to get better at. I’m not as concerned with working at some particular club, or making my way up this imaginary ladder I’ve created. It’s just, “Oh, I’d like to do more jokes about this topic,” or I’d like to get better at going off the cuff. I felt like it was a worker kind of town, LA, where you were so allowed to say whatever you wanted, however you wanted to say it. You could say the most awful, vile thing, and nobody would bat an eye necessarily, because everybody was at least trying. You were throwing shit out there, and just kind of seeing what could be created out of this. There was an understanding that, “OK, that’s not the finished product, but we like where you’re going with this,” and [they would] go with you on that level. I liked being there a lot.
As someone who’s spent more time outside of it, how would you characterize the comedy scene in DFW?
I feel like it’s very tight-knit. I feel like at this point it’s kind of a family unit. Everybody seems to get along pretty well, everyone seems to have a decent rapport with one another. I don’t think there’s a lot of in-fighting, or anything like that. I think it’s competition in a very friendly way, rather than competition in a more cutthroat way. I think that’s good for people, you have a safe environment to try stuff in, you like the people you’re around.
Describe to me your worst-case scenario as far as the kind of show you’re performing on?
Worst-case scenario for me is, I’m super anal and want to have everything planned out. Which at its core is ridiculous, and won’t work, because this is comedy. It’s too malleable to try and say, “Oh this is going to go exactly like this.” There’ve been times where I’ve had ten minutes prepared, because when we talked about it before hand, they told me, “Brad, you’re gonna do 10 minutes.” And then you get there, and they go, “Hey, change of plans. You’re going to go up there and do 30 minutes.” That’s kind of my worst-case scenario, just for the fact that I had this [set] planned in my head where it’s going to map out from A to B to C to D, and now it’s like, “Oh no, we want you to go to fucking Z.” [Laughs.] Also any time anyone has told me, “Hey, just keep going and we’ll let you know when to get off stage.”
I hate that.
It’s something you’re going to be asked to do a ridiculous amount of times, and it’s something that’s just part of working at clubs. But at the same time, it’s so hard to be in the moment, perform for this crowd, make sure they’re having a good time because that’s the number one job, but also [thinking], “When do I end this? How do I even wrap this up?” Because for me, I kind of want to build everything up a little bit higher, and a little bit higher, and I kind of have this direction of where I want to go, and where I want to land. When you take away my landing spot, I kind of go like, “OK, so I’m just gonna talk about the fucking weather for 20 minutes and kind of see what happens?” [Laughs.] That’s where I want to be more adjustable, to be off the cuff, so that I can just dick around. But I’m not really great at the, “So what do you do for a living? Are you two guys even really dating?” Some people are really good at that. I’d rather just read my shit and say it.