I think every comedian has that moment when they watch a stand-up set from a particular comic and think, “This is my life now.” “I always had an interest in comedy when I was growing up, but I never thought of it as something I could or would do,” says comedian Chris Thayer. “When I was 18, I heard David Cross' album Shut Up You Fucking Baby!, which was conversational in a way that made me think that maybe I could do stand-up too.” Thayer, who will be at The Guild (3405 Central Avenue NE) on June 1, moved to San Francisco, a city that has spawned such comedy legends as Robin Williams at Margaret Cho, at the age of nineteen but waited three whole years before trying comedy. He finally sat down one night and began to write; a week later he did an open mic, and “within a year I had done over 200 sets,” says Thayer. “Now I’ve been doing comedy for seven years.”
It’s this dedication that got him a writing gig on the Pete Holmes show. Thayer has a dry sense of humor and often talks about his life on stage. His uncompromising style is reflected in his ideas on comedy. “The thing that terrified me most when I started performing was the fear that an audience would hate me,” says Thayer. With time this slowly abated and Thayer began to focus more on what he thought was funny rather than appealing to any given crowd. “I'd like as many people as possible to like me without having to compromise myself or what I think is funny. I would drive myself crazy if I were trying to change my stuff to get 100% of people to love me, so if only maybe 67% of people are into me, I'm totally okay with that,” says Thayer. “Not sure if that number sounds too high or too low. I'm trying to be modest without sounding unambitious.”
It’s not an unwavering ambition though. Thayer sees comedy as something that needs to avoid stagnation. “My favorite parts of performing are the times when I'm present enough and comfortable enough to try or add new stuff,” says Thayer. “I enjoy doing my material that I've been working on, but there's always a danger of feeling like you're on autopilot when you're doing stuff that you've memorized and said hundreds of times before. Thinking of new stuff for old jokes or trying to talk out new bits lets me know that I'm engaged in the moment and makes it fun for me.” Thayer has a way of balancing his strong and steadfast ideas on comedy with being open and present in the moment so he can engage with the live audience. “I want the audience to think, ‘Wow that guy is really funny despite being boringly sincere in interviews.’”
Chris Thayer: No One Asked for this Tour
The Guild (3405 Central Avenue NE)
Monday June 1 10:30 pm $5
The Greeks had it right. Socrates searched for real knowledge untainted by pride, and Plato was so done with irrational humanity he just wanted to crawl out of a cave and find a friend. It’s been 2,400 years since the fall of Ancient Greece and we’re all still tragically surprised we’re flawed and yet there’s something hilarious about that. “I start with a flaw like narcissism,” says comedian David Koechner about his creative process. “We all have narcissistic tendencies, but there are some who are fully narcissistic. We all are afraid of things at times, but there are some who live their life in fear. I look at that and think, That’s annoying, so I’ll make fun of it.” Koechner, who performs at Santa Ana Star Casino (54 Jemez Dam Rd., Bernalillo) on Thursday, May 21, satirizes these defective human tendencies through rich and outlandish characters.
Initially a political science major, in his third year at university he visited a friend in Chicago, watched a show at Second City, decided then he wanted to be a comedian and never looked back. “Once I decided this was what I wanted to do, I never had any doubts,” says Koechner. “I know that’s not the sexy answer. I love show business and doing comedy. I have a proclivity for it. If I could build things I would do that. If I was smart I would do that.” Koechner looks at comedy as his vocation, and it’s the small things about it that draws him to perform. “The best part is knowing that I was successful at something. My experiment worked. Something I created worked.”
Part observational humor and part hyperbolic storytelling, his shows are an experiment in human behavior. “I start from a small piece of behavior I notice. Something universal. Something we all share but an individual might live by,” says Koechner, “and then I blow up that aspect of my personality and create a character.” Admittedly, this process seems to be second nature to Koechner. “For whatever reason I’m able to access those parts of me. It's like algebra for me. I got the formula, and I can just keep plugging in numbers and getting results."
Known best for playing Champ Kind in the Anchorman movies, Koechner puts a lot of himself into his roles. “Describing your act is kind of like describing your personality. I’m loud and my comedy is loud,” says Koechner. “My comedy is wet, as opposed to dry.” It’s Sophocles’ Greek tragedy intersected with jokes, but with fewer people dying. Koechner has the rare ability to be silly and bombastic but maintain an underlying satirical tone that is smart and cutting. “It all has a satirical center,” says Koechner. “We all have flaws. We all have to deal with institutions. Whether it’s a child or a parent or a school, or work, government, church—everything is an institution that we have to interact with. I think ‘What are the rules of that behavior?’ And then I break them.”
The Stage at Santa Ana Star Casino
54 Jemez Dam Rd., Bernalillo
Thursday, May 21, 7 and 9:30pm
$15-$35 Ages: 21+
Janire Nájera apparently likes her road trips 19th-century-style. The Spanish photojournalist and curator is taking a cue from Antonio Armijo—who laid the groundwork for successful trade along what's now known as the Old Spanish Trail when he successfully hoofed it from New Mexico to California and back (and managed to make a profit in the process)—with a voyage through northern New Mexico, parts of Utah and Arizona, and into Southern California. For the journey, Nájera's own pack animal of choice is an RV from 1984, a bit of an upgrade from the 100 mules of Armijo's trip in 1829-1830. Her goals are social and artistic in nature as she explores, according to the description on her website, how “the traditions of the first settlers [of European descent] ... have merged with domestic cultures, influencing the creation and identity of today's pueblos and modern cities.”
Nájera's journey began in Santa Fe on March 10, and she's already building a fascinating portrait of modern-day descendants of our region's Spanish heritage. See Nájera's video below featuring Julia Gómez talking about the famous Colcha stitch, and her latest blog entry has another great one with Santa Fe hairdresser Faustino Herrera de Vargas, entirely in Spanish, speaking about his storied life.
Follow Janire Nájera's travels along the Old Spanish Trail at her blog Looking Forward, Moving Back, and keep a weather eye out for the book and photography exhibit that will be the eventual result.