Grant Redmond Is One Of Dallas’ Sketchiest Comedians, And That’s A Good Thing.
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.
Grant Redmond has an intimidating aptitude for comedy.
As a stand-up, he wrings a wealth of impeccable punchlines from whatever topic he’s exploring, and he maintains his charisma even as he delves into self-deprecating and sometimes terrifically strange ideas. He’s also an ace at sketch comedy, with experience writing and performing for the stage and screen.
He’s finding plenty of opportunities to produce sketch work of late, too. He’s led the new Sketch for Screen classes at Dallas Comedy House (DCH), and released work through the theater. He also appears in several of their live shows — you can see him in DCH’s upcoming Halloween Sketch Show triple-feature, which will run the last two weekends in October.
He’s also started producing online sketches as part of Grant & Cody, a collaborative effort with his best friend and writing partner, Cody Tidmore. The two have already released “The Problem with Group Texts” and “Bad Egg,” with a new sketch called “Sticky” coming soon.
Recently, I spoke with Redmond about his stand-up, and the (many) different projects he’s working on. We also discussed whether comics should try and branch out to do more than just comedy, and his thoughts on the best approach to producing stand-up showcases.
You just announced an upcoming sketch show.
The Halloween Sketch Show triple-feature! We did a Halloween sketch show last year, and the guy who put it on, Michael Corbett, wanted to do another one with Cody Tidmore, my writing partner, and myself. And Cody is so busy with work, and I’m just busy doing literally everything else. We decided let’s not commit to an hour-long show, let’s just do a triple-feature. The show is an hour-long show — three directors, three writers, three separate casts. Each take over 15 to 20 minutes. Our 15 to 20 started as something else. We were going to imitate a horror movie, but we decided to do kind of like a Seinfeld spoof, called “Dracula.” Dracula is Jerry Seinfeld. George Costanza is the Wolf Man. Elaine is a witch. Kramer is Frankenstein, and Newman is Igor. We wrote a 20-page script for a TV show where it’s just basically those characters in Seinfeld‘s setting. That is our third of the Halloween show. And it’s hosted by Sallie Bowen, who’s just one of the best character actors I’ve ever seen. It’s gonna be that, and also there’s a Ghostbusters parody, and then an Alien parody. So that’ll all be within one hour, for Halloween, the last two weekends in October here at Dallas Comedy House.
How long have you been working in sketch? If I’m not mistaken, you started as a comic.
I started as a stand-up. Let me take that back. I started as a sketch writer. Ever since I was a kid, I wanted to be an actor. I remember back when I was… however old I was when Ace Ventura came out. I turned to my mom during the movie and I said, “How much does it cost to be an actor?” And she said, “They pay you.” They pay you?! I’m gonna to do that. [Laughs.] So I wanted to be an actor. I took the family camera, and I was making my own movies when I was a kid. In high school, I was in a sketch writing group with Christian Hughes, and we wrote sketches and performed them to the entire school at every pep rally. Once I was out of high school, I didn’t have a creative outlet. My friend Marshall Townsend posted a video of him doing an open mic, which I didn’t know was a thing. So I was like, “Oh, wow, anybody can do an open mic? I’ll do that.” So I stayed up all night and wrote a set, and I did it at the old Hyena’s in Arlington location, which is now closed. It was terrible, and I decided I’ll do that forever. [Laughs.]
It’s weird how many people have that first experience that’s just so rough, and they say, “I’m gonna do that again.”
Pete Holmes talked on that. It takes a certain kind of crazy person to start out in stand-up, because it will always go badly at the beginning. And to walk away from that and go, “I’m gonna do that again,” which I love that quote, because that’s what we have to do. It takes a long time to view open mics that way. Early on, you invite your friends and family to open mics because you’re proud to be onstage. But then soon you realize open mics are meant to find out what’s not funny, not what is funny, right? So you’re kind of filtering all this stuff, you don’t want to invite people to this. It took a while to stop inviting people to watch me bomb, and then it took a while to get booked, and actually have something worth inviting people to. So that was how I got involved in stand-up. I was used to writing stuff and doing it in front of crowds, but once I graduated high school I had no outlet for it, and that became stand-up.
In addition to sketch shows you’ve done onstage, you’ve also released work online, some through Dallas Comedy House, some independently.
Yes. I have my own sketch series called “Grant and Cody,” where my roommate/writing partner/best friend Cody Tidmore and I write and film our own sketches, with the help of some friends who work in the film business through Cody’s job in advertising. They have very nicely helped us film and edit and produce these sketches. We’ve done two so far – “Bad Egg,” and “The Problem with Group Texts,” and our third one, which is called “Sticky,” should come out soon. As far as Dallas Comedy House, I teach Sketch for Screen. I’ve taken the same class from Level 1 to Level 3. Level 1 was we wrote a sketch that was about three and a half minutes, and produced it and released it. Level 2 is we wrote some shorter sketches, produced those, released those. Level 3, which we’re in now, is they wrote an original pilot that DCH will help produce a sizzle reel for. So we’ll make a trailer for it, and shop it around a little bit.
You have the outlet with stand-up, you have your acting and writing in sketches. Do you feel like comics hurt themselves when they’re just doing stand-up? Are you losing out?
I think that can be said for any opportunity. You could say a comic is missing out by not doing architecture. I guess it’s all relative to what you’re passionate about. Some people are passionate only to stand-up. I’m passionate about stand-up, but I’m also passionate about writing, acting, directing. I’m really just… I want to create, and if that means writing something and not being part of the acting process, I don’t have to be on the screen, I just like to create stuff. That really depends on the person, I think. There are purists and only want to be stand-ups, which is completely fine. Those tend to be the best type of stand-up. So I guess that would have to do with what your talents are. If you’re doing stand-up and you might have a talent for acting, but you won’t do it because you only want to do stand-up, then in that case, yes, you’re holding yourself back. But there are some stand-ups who just can’t act, which is completely fine. But I think if you’re in the creative field, explore as many things as possible, because making it in stand-up is not likely. If you’re gonna be a creative person, and you’re able, write, act, improvise, do sketch, direct. You can do things behind the camera. There’s a bunch of different ways to create. If you can find what you’re good at and what you’re passionate about, you don’t have to limit yourself to one thing. That’s kind of what I’ve been doing the past two years. A lot of people have completely forgotten that I even do stand-up, because I don’t go to the other open mics at other places. I work here at Dallas Comedy House, I run the open mic with Paulos [Feerow]. I remember back when Tony Compian [a local comic] first started, he knew me as the open mic host. He was booked on a show with me and he watched me do a set, and he came up with me after the show and said, “I had no idea you did stand-up.” What? [Laughs.] You think I do this for fun? I don’t host open mics because I think it’s fun, that’s the worst part about stand-up, the open mics. But I like to spread myself thin, which some people would say it’s counter-productive, but sometimes casting a wide net can catch more fish.
Regarding the other clubs and open mics, you are more selective about where you perform. What led to that?
I live in Watauga, which is just north of Fort Worth, it’s a 45-minute drive away from Dallas without any traffic. So driving to the Dallas Comedy House open mic was something I did whenever I lived in Austin, and I eventually started working here. But driving to Hyena’s or any other open mic, it just seemed like I could get all of that done at the Dallas Comedy House, I can work out all of my new stuff at the Dallas Comedy House. This place seemed like a stage where I could kind of do anything and gauge what’s funny. Whereas a place like Hyena’s, there was often talk about, “Hey, somebody’s watching that could book you,” so I felt compelled to do the stuff that worked. I didn’t necessarily want to drive 45 minutes there and do four minutes of stuff I’m already comfortable with, just to drive 45 minutes back. So it was like a time thing, but also DCH just felt like a place where it’s like, as far as comedic growing goes, I can do whatever I want. I can bomb completely, and no one will care after I’m gone.
That’s interesting, because so many of us get this idea drilled in our heads where you have to be everywhere, and the most visible. Was it hard to kind of break away from that mindset? Or did you ever have that mindset?
I think it was a slow process. There are comics that say stage time is stage time, and it’s important. There is value to that. If you’re not comfortable onstage, yeah, go up everywhere, and get comfortable in front of every type of stage. It is important to be comfortable in front of a bar set. A bar crowd is very different from a club crowd, a DCH crowd is very different from an Improv crowd on a weekend. So it’s important to know how to handle those types of things. I think running an open mic has helped me out a lot, because I am used to the worst crowds in the world. Open mic inherently is just a bad crowd, because it’s people working out their stuff. It’s not necessarily meant to be great, people are weeding out what’s bad. So the crowd isn’t going to get a great show. But then as the host I have to get up there and be energetic, and like, “Yes! Isn’t this fun?” I think my stage presence has improved based on that. And I think because of that, I don’t think I need to go to all the other open mics to just go up for the sake of going up. And also I think that comes with learning who you are as a writer. I think at the very beginning, yeah, go up in front of crowds and find out what kind of writer you are. But now I kind of have a feel, if I write something, I can say, yeah, this will probably work. If I’m booked on a show, I can do something I just wrote, and it will at least get a chuckle.
We talked about DCH and the open mic, which I know you’ve been doing for a while. If I’m not mistaken, you also book the stand-up showcases. Is it still going by On Point Showcase?
We’ve been doing that for a while, the On Point Showcase. It’s four comedians who get 15 minutes each. But recently I’ve kind of wanted to explore giving local comedians the opportunity to headline if they can. A headlining set for this show in particular would be half an hour. I’m looking at comedians I think can do half an hour with a feature doing 20, and an opener/host doing ten. We did the first one with Brad LaCour, and it went phenomenally. It was really fun. He had a good crowd, and he just crushed. Brad LaCour is somebody that, ever since I started stand-up, I was a fan of his. So now I’m just asking around to see who can do — comfortably — a half hour set. I don’t want to see somebody struggle. [Laughs.] I don’t know if it’ll be called On Point from here on out. We might just call it “So-and-So Live,” but keep it local.
What gave you the idea to give those longer showcase opportunities?
You see showcases all over the city, right? And I guess success is really based on the crowd, and the venue/time. At DCH, we’ve been playing around with it to see what the best fit is. Then DCH got the new theater director, David Allison, and he asked me, “Are you open to maybe kind of switching things up a bit?” I said yes. And he gave me three different time slots in this block where they were doing the schedule. One show was on a Thursday, one show was on a Friday, one show was on a Saturday — each at 11 p.m. And we’re seeing which one does the best ticket sales-wise, and just to see what the reaction from the audience might be.
Based on the new venture, and your being someone who’s been booking traditional showcases for a while, what is your philosophy as far putting together a good show?
For a comedy show, I see a lot of showcases around this town that are… frankly, they just have too many comedians. Maybe not too many comedians, but they’re too long a show. If you’re going to have a show, I would say keep it at an hour. I would say if it’s longer than an hour, they need an intermission. People get tired. I’ve watched a set by Dave Chappelle, who did over an hour, and by the hour mark I was tired. Even though I’m such a huge fan — he’s amazing — I can’t sit still that long. Something I would like to see from local bookers is shorten the shows. Not every show has to be booked like an open mic, where you have to include everybody. I book a show, and of course I want to book everybody I like, but I have to divide it up to make sure it’s palatable for an audience so we can acquire a fan base. I want people to want to come back, rather than leaving tired. I think it’s important to keep it maybe around an hour, and if not, have a break in the middle. That would be my advice to people who are booking locally, not at comedy clubs.
What are your thoughts on the Dallas comedy scene?
We have some phenomenal comedians. I think in terms of just how Texas is viewed outside of Texas, I don’t know how much we’re look at for talent. I think Austin is the go-to place. It’s the place you look at for the arts. Which is valid. I lived there for two years, and there are some amazing comedians in Austin. There are also some amazing comedians in Dallas who can and should be utilized. We have a great comedy scene. I’d like to see more headliners instead of showcases. One thing I hear about L.A. and Austin, and a bunch of places that are popular with comedy, is there are a lot of great comedians that you never see more than 15 minutes of. And after a while, it’s easy to get a good 15 minutes. But if you can do a half-hour, 45 minutes, an hour, that’s where you become successful. I’d like to see more shows where we utilize comedians doing longer sets, that’s what I’d like to see.
As a guy who’s been involved in so many different aspects of the comedy scene here and elsewhere, when you boil it all down, what really matters for a comedy scene? What’s the essence of what a scene needs to sustain itself?
The word I’m trying not to use is “circle jerk.” [Laughs.]
That sounds like a good place to start.
There’s comedy cliques. There’s always comedy cliques, right? I think it’s important to not only book your friends. I think it’s important as a comedian to be likable, and to be fun to be around. That is a huge part of being booked, because you could be the funniest person in the world, but if you’re an asshole, you might not get booked at a lot of places. But I think it’s important not to book people just because they’re your friends. Just because they’re around a lot. As a booker, if you’re at a bar, a comedy club, wherever, you need to really pick and choose who you’re booking to make sure that the audience is having a good time — and not just you, or yourselves. I think that’s a big thing. Without naming names, I see a lot of showcases where it’s just groups of friends going up. And I can see, “Yeah, two of you are great. And then three of you I think need to do some more open mics and figure out what’s going on.” A big component for being booked is being fun, but that’s not the only component. I think bookers need to use a little more discretion.