Alex Orozco is one of the comedians that hosted the Latino Fest at UIC, which I wrote about. He was very funny and a good host. When I approached him and told him about The Runt he was unhesitant to do an interview. We chatted about his comedy history and how his comedy is different from others. Here it is.
Olivia: Let’s cut to the chase. Want to give me a rundown on where you’re from and how you got started doing comedy?
Alex Orozco: I’m from Aurora, IL. I started doing comedy as a dare and got addicted. I went to an open mic when I lived in Denver. The guys trying jokes absolutely sucked ass. I hated them. I told my roommate that I could do better and he dared me to try, so next week I did.
How did it go?
My first joke was one about a cop asking me what kind of brown person I was and if I was “under the influence.” I told him that it depends on what scholarships were still available. I don’t really remember the exact joke, but it worked. I did really well and found the love of my life.
So how long did you do it in Denver?
Then back to Chicago?
I needed to be in a bigger training city, and I missed my family. Chicago to comedians is like Philadelphia to boxers.
We’ve been gathering that from a lot of people lately. So did you go into some sort of training program when you got here?
No, I did an official training in Denver. I had a comedy coach but in Chicago my training was all street justice.
Can you tell me more about your comedy coach?
His name was David Gray. He was all about pushing the way you presented yourself. He said that the audience believes what you do more than what you say. So, if you come up with confidence you’re halfway there. We just sort of fell into it
How did he become your coach?
He cornered me and told me he loved my confidence. I guess I was just lucky. Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good, I was both. I know it’s egotistical, but that’s what comedians are.
So then you came back to Chicago. What did you do from there?
The more open mics I did, the more showcases I got booked for. That’s how it works. You just go out on a weekday, show your A game, then hope somebody invites you to do the weekend. I realized, and this is still true, that my comedy is immature. I tried to get away from the sexual, alcoholic jokes.
So what did you try to get into from there if you were trying to steer away from the immature jokes?
I ended up doing a lot of racial stuff which is the same old song. I feel like mine was smarter than most, but still not where I wanted it to be.
So are you still trying to find your maturity?
Yes, but at the same time it has to be you. It’s hard to be funny and mature. People don’t go to a comedy show to be “grown up,” but teaching your audience something valuable is what separates you from the rest.
So if you’re not happy with your “immature” style, is it hard to try to transform yourself?
That’s just the thing; I’ve realized that comedy is being yourself. You are funny, not the shit you write.
So what if you are immature and can only work with dick and fart jokes? Is it worth trying to change yourself to be different?
No, that’s my point. I can look at film from 5 years ago and really see a difference. Not even with the jokes, just the way they’re presented. I found a way to be classy and crude.
So why try to put an end to your immature style if that’s what you’re good at? Or is it just finding a different way to be immature?
Because I’m not proud of that. It’s not exactly the legacy I want to leave my children. Eddie Murphy went through the same thing, on a much bigger success scale. It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.
So what have you been up to lately?
Building a board game.
Really? How did that come about?
I think it’s great. It’s difficult to explain and I need a name for it. I used to do “toss-ups” at the bar I was working at. It’d be a toss-up between something like Lance Armstrong and Michael Phelps for better American athlete. People would be arguing for hours on some of them, I started writing them down.
And you’re turning that into a board game somehow?
Yes. The problem is I need more topics. I have around 90. I need like 300.
Sounds like a lot of work.
It is. I don’t know if it’s even a good idea, but I’m doing it.
Is this a project that you just picked up on your own?
Yes. That’s how random my brain can be.
But you’re going for it. So what else are you up to?
I’m always writing and doing shows, trying to kill that stage fright. No matter how long you’ve done it, the bugs are still there. Nerve-wrecking is the right term.
Are you anywhere near as nervous on stage now as you were when you first started though?
No way! The first time I was literally shaking. As soon as I get a laugh, it’s over, I’m fine. It helps me with life. Talking to girls. Doing interviews. I can think faster than my mouth can talk now. Memory is a big thing too, the more you write the more you have to remember. Taking notes on stage is for amateurs.
But you still get a little nervous?
Oh yeah, especially if you like someone in the audience. You want to do well for them. I’d be a little bit nervous if you were in the audience, to be honest. You write a comedy blog. To me, you’re not exactly a civilian.
(Laughs) No need to be nervous with me.
You know more than the average person about joke-telling. It’s not as bad as if my mom was there, but still.
(Laughs) Has your mom come to any of your shows?
Yeah, lots. She produces shows sometimes.
So she’s a fan of yours?
That must feel pretty good.
She thinks it’s smart comedy – go figure.
Lots of comedians talk about their parents being disappointed in their decisions to become comics. Did she support you from the beginning?
Yeah, My parents were always supportive one thing you should know though, I’m one to change my material to cater to the audience. That’s one of the oldest arguments in comedy. Do you stick to the set, or roll with punches and change things to do well?
So do you change it when Mom is around?
No! I try not to let one person determine the audience’s demeanor. I treat them as a whole, if they like sports, I’ll do Michael Vick jokes.
So it’s more about how the audience is reacting than who is in the audience?
Yeah. The audience is number one.
So what do you do when it’s a tough crowd?
Focus. Confidence comes from proven material. I know these jokes work. I’ve done them over and over again for many different types of people.
So you just keep trying and try harder?
Sort of. It’s almost like making love. You can’t exactly try too hard, there has to be some finesse.
Oh boy, can’t wait to hear this analogy (laughs).
Well if you try too hard, it’s pathetic, right?
So you need a comedian with confidence. I haven’t bombed for years, though – knock on wood.
Well, that’s good.
I like hecklers, too.
Are you good at working the hecklers?
Yes. When people try to fuck with me, I usually have the last laugh. I’m quick on my feet.
So do you do anything other than comedy, or is it enough to pay the bills?
I have a day job. It’s never enough.
Do you have any big shows coming up?
Detroit Comedy Festival. Last year Lewis Black hosted. I’m the 2nd funniest person in Kentucky.
How did you become the 2nd funniest person in Kentucky?
By driving there three times and coming damn close to winning the contest. I should’ve won. The order does a lot.
Have you done any other contests like that?
Yes. At the Edge Comedy Club I won 1st place. He always has contests though.
It’s still good to win! So are there any other comics in the area that you’re a big fan of right now? Anyone people should keep an eye out for?
Yeah. The ones I brought to the show I hosted at UIC. Emily Lake is clever as hell. I love her, she’s funny. Drew Michael is like nobody’s business.
[On hosting the show at UIC] I feel like I have a much better grip on reading the audience than almost anyone in Chicago – which is why I’m such a good host.
Well, that’s confidence.
(Laughs) It’s sort of like a teacher being anal – a comic has to be confident.
Not to be confused with a teacher doing anal, of course. Which I’d say is equally as important. But I digress.
Here’s your chance for free reign, is there anything you want to end it with? Final words, of sorts? Alex Orozco’s words of wisdom.
My favorite lyrics are from Billy Joel’s “The Entertainer.” He really nails it. It makes me emotional.
I am the entertainer and I know just where I stand. Another serenader and another long haired band. Today I am your champion. I may have won your hearts. But I know that game, and you’ll forget my name. Oh, I won’t be here in another year if I don’t stay on the charts.
It’s so true. Keep spillin’ the hits. The day I stop writing is the day I’m dead. Also – don’t be over confident (laughs).
So the top of the charts better watch out for you, eh?
Alex can be contacted at email@example.com
Interview by Olivia, The Runt staff