This Wednesday, December 6, Los Angeles comedian Aaron Weaver returns to his comedy hometown to record his debut album in front of a live audience. Like many comedians around the country, he’s chosen “Comedians You Should Know” as his venue. CYSK is known for its intimate atmosphere and smart comedians. You can always count on electricity flowing between audience and performer.
But there’s another bigger reason to be there on Wednesday. Aaron’s shows (at 7:00 and 9:30 p.m.) are your chance to escape the pox of 2017’s unanswerable anxiety-laced questions. Enter Aaron’s world and you’ll hear him ask and more importantly, answer those questions. Most importantly, he’ll get you laughing about them. Where does our fear come from? When is it really time to panic? How can we grow and feel better about life? He promises to ask and answer some of the smaller and “dumber” questions too. Aaron identifies the fault lines in the human psyche and pieces them back together with comedy. I feel confident saying you’ll exit the show feeling energized and existentially better.
Aaron has been recognized as one of Comedy Central’s "Comics to Watch" and by NBC’s Last Comic Standing. Most recently, he was named one of L.A.'s Rising Stars by The Culture Trip. He has also been featured at the Boston and Bridgetown Comedy Festivals and twice been invited to perform at the prestigious TBS Just for Laughs Festival. He is also a producer of “Comedians You Should Know” in Los Angeles.
Aaron kindly spoke with me by phone about starting out in Chicago, moving to L.A., answering life’s questions big and small, and his commitment to making Wednesday night the comic therapy we all need right now.
Teme: What inspired you to go into comedy?
Aaron: First, writing in college. Then what really inspired me was when I moved to Chicago and started working at the Cheesecake Factory. I had four co-workers who were stand-up comedians. I hadn’t known you could just become a comedian. But I saw that they were doing it, so I was like, oh, well I can probably do it, too. The Cheesecake Factory was the thing that really put me over the edge.
Teme: What most influenced your sense of humor?
Aaron: More than anything, the absurdity of the universe. There are comedians who inspire me, like Mitch Hedberg and Bill Hicks. Musical artists inspire me, too; people who can let loose like Jimi Hendrix, where you feel like something is flowing through them when they're performing.
Teme: What did you like best about the Chicago comedy scene?
Aaron: The thing I liked the most was the community. It was a very tight-knit community with a lot of support for each other and a lot of talent, just so much talent brewing. There was the right formula to create good talent between the amount of stage time, the intelligence of the crowd, and the support from other comedians.
Teme: What was the most challenging thing?
Aaron: For me, probably the drinking. Chicago is a big drinking city and the stand-up scene is even more drink heavy. I'd get momentum, do some good shows and feel really good about myself and celebrate, and then I'd be hung over for the next two shows with all the good feelings gone.
Teme: Is the L.A. comedy scene different, like no 4 a.m. bars?
Aaron: In that regard it's one-hundred percent different. Definitely no 4 a.m. bars. You have to drive everywhere and there are D.U.I. check points, so you really can’t go all out like that. Plus, when people get to L.A., they get serious about the business. Less partying, less drinking. The differences are both challenging and beneficial.
Teme: What are the main differences?
Aaron: The main one is that it’s definitely harder to get enough stage time in L.A. There are so many more people trying to make it. Plus, you're competing with celebrities. The community isn’t quite as tight. There are good pockets of community, but it's not blended together as much as Chicago. There are a lot of people trying to make it and they're not trying to make friends quite as much, but there's a lot of cool people there, too, a lot of them just live too far away.
Teme: When did you know it was time to leave Chicago and go to L.A.?
Aaron: That's a good question. It was when I felt I was doing the same shows and I couldn’t see a next step. I’d also started going on the road through the Midwest. It's good practice. It gives you chops, but it’s often not that fun because you're doing one-nighters in bars in some town in Michigan and then the next night you're performing in some casino and it's not glorious.
I found that people weren’t interested in seeing the most original stuff. They just wanted to laugh, which is fine, but if you're trying to be a comedian with your own voice it can be a rude awakening. In the Midwest, you can work your way to headlining and making a living and that's the ceiling, or you can move to one of the coasts and try to build your own following.
Teme: It sounds like completely different worlds.
Aaron: Yes, one-hundred percent different. If you climb your way up the ranks in Chicago, it's awesome and you can do a ton of shows, but if you can climb up in New York or L.A. then you can really change your future.
Teme: What is your advice for comedians looking to make the move?
Aaron: If you’re moving to L.A., set up your structure first - your money-making, your job, your apartment. Get your basic needs met and don’t worry about killing it right away.
A big adjustment for me was realizing that in L.A., you have to just go to shows and hang out and build a network. In Chicago if you're good, you’ll be recognized and booked. In L.A., you have to work the networking muscle. I know a lot of comics, me included, are a little socially awkward so that was a big, big adjustment.
Teme: I was just thinking I would be terrible at that.
Aaron: Yeah, I was horrible at it. It's very tempting to stay in your apartment. That's a trap and people fall into it constantly. I fell into it, too, but at some point you’ve got to force yourself out. One of the biggest things out here is making friends and making connections.
I wish it was 100% about talent, but that’s not the reality of a comedy career. You need a sense of entrepreneurship which can be boring when you move from a place like Chicago where you’re used to just having fun and being creative.
Teme: And once I'm out trying to socialize, I'm like, “Now what do I do?”
Aaron: Yeah, that’s a big part of why you stay in. You have to realize that everyone is feeling the same, unless they've been practicing for a while. You just have to push through it. Some nights it doesn't get better. You might think, “That felt horrible. I'm going to go home and eat two burritos.”
Aaron: But sometimes it's like, “I'm so glad I did that. Next time, I’ll know these people and it's not going to be so hard.”
Teme: You’re so right. How did you decide to come back to "Comedians You Should Know" in Chicago to record your album?
Aaron: "Comedians You Should Know" in Chicago is where I felt like a star for the first time, even though I wasn’t actually. It's the best room in the country to me. The crowds are attentive and smart. The room creates an electricity and inspires comics to take new steps and the crowd to laugh harder than they ever have. It's a special room. I feel comfortable there. I came up there and it just made sense to me. Since I've been in L.A. and other cities a lot more lately, I realize that it doesn’t happen everywhere. I have a lot of friends who have recorded albums there, so I couldn't think of a better place
Teme: What should the audience expect at your show?
Aaron: I’ve got some special new things that I learned in L.A. It’ll be interesting to see how Chicago takes it. I think they'll like it. It will be fun. I like to get absurd and I like to get meta. I also like to say the dumb things that we all think about, but feel too dumb to say.
I also have a couple of epic-type jokes that I hope can create the feelings I feel when I'm at an amazing show whether it's comedy or music; that feeling when the hair at the back of your neck starts to tingle. I want to create that same feeling for the audience. I’m hoping that's going to happen and I think it will.
Teme: That sounds like a great show. I really enjoy your comedy. You see things in life that people miss, and then I hear your material and realize those things were there all along.
Aaron: That's the path I want to be on. I’m drawn to the humor of this weird life that we’re all living.
Teme: I always think the best comedians are like physicists. You describe things that were invisible until you point them out and then the audience realizes, yes, that’s the truth and it’s really funny. We just couldn't see it until you said it.
Aaron: Watching comedians do that is my favorite thing. I am definitely trying to create that. With any art, if you can get people’s brain and their heart, that's the ultimate success. The ideal place for an artist is if you can blow their minds and connect emotionally. That's my goal.
Teme: What does your comedy say about you?
Aaron: It says that like everyone, I'm trying to figure out life. Why do we react the way we do? Why do we react so fearfully so often, even when nothing is wrong? Why is it so hard to grow and change? I'm trying to understand the mystery.
Teme: I love that you tackle those questions. Personally, I sometimes feel like I’m going from panic to panic.
Aaron: Yeah, me too. As I've gotten older, I've done more work on myself so you can expect to go along on that ride on the album, too. I want to understand the answers to those questions, whether it's through therapy or meditation or whatever. I want to find the funniness. Also, it just bothers me so I want to figure it out.
Teme: Yeah. Sometimes comedy is therapy.
Aaron: Totally. Life is hard. I just want to make it a little easier for us.
Teme: What's it like the week before you record an album?
Aaron: I don't know what other people do, but I'm on a discipline kick for the week before. I'm not drinking, or eating sugar. It helps me focus and not swing emotionally. No sex. I'm trying to remain as pure as I can until Wednesday night after the second show. Then I'm going to party and have a great time.
I've been setting up shows to practice longer sets and rework everything. I want to just go into a meditative state the week before and be open to any new inspiration and really listen and see if there are any changes or reinforcements that need to be made.
I'm happy about the shifts that are happening. Before, I was worried whether each joke is the best joke for this set and worrying about stuff about me. Lately, as I get closer, I've shifted into how I can create the best thing for you, for the audience. It's a much better, healthier shift to focus on how to create something memorable for you.
Teme: Is there any question about comedy that no one has asked you, but you think should be asked?
Aaron: I’m writing about whether a robot will ever be able to be a comedian or if that's one of the last places where you absolutely need humans?
Teme: That's a great question. I never thought of that! Absolutely anything else you would like people to know?
Aaron: Just come to the show. You're going to have a great time. You may get pushed and pulled in new directions and if you're feeling open to that, you should definitely come.
Aaron Weaver will record his album at two shows on Wednesday, December 6 at Comedians You Should Know at Timothy O’Toole’s, 622 N. Fairbanks Court, Chicago:
7:00 p.m. Hosted by Joe Kilgallon with an opening set by Reena Calm
9:30 p.m. Hosted by Andy Fleming with an opening set by Cameron Gillette.
Tickets are $5 in advance and $10 at the door. Buy tickets here.
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