Known cheekily to his crew as Smooth-E, California-based comedian, YouTuber and parody musician Eric Schwartz will make his Bayou City debut next Friday, pumping his showbiz brakes at Houston’s own Secret Group for a stop on his Eric Schwartz: Gringo De Mayo tour. “I’ve never been to Houston before,” the stand-up admits. “But about a year ago, my videos started going really viral on Facebook and my biggest market [spike] was Houston. I talk a lot about my upbringing with my stepdad, who is Mexican. And I talk a lot about the cultural connection and my place in it, so that’s really resonated with Latinos, [of which] Houston has a few. But I’m a Gringo!”
Then again, the bald and bespectacled jokester is used to surprising people. “I’ve always been the kind of guy [who] is unassuming,” he shares. “People never expect this kind of [comedy] from me. It probably is my look or something, but I’m glad that happens. Don’t judge a book by its cover.”
As Schwartz tours to prep for his next special, he looks back on the unique idea to release his first hour-long, 2015’s Surrender to the Blender, on his social media accounts for free. “It’s like offering samples at a food court,” the comic explains. “You want people to watch the whole thing, but some people, my fans, who will come to the show after only seeing a minute, which is fine with me.”
Schwartz has always considered himself a bit of a trendsetter for the digital age of comedy, finding viewers across platforms. “I think I’m a very early adopter of social media, I was on social media basically before it existed,” he pitches. “It started when I used to post MP3s on my website, and one time somebody animated it into a video and it went really viral…over email! Then radio and TV places started picking it up; that was like 2003.
"Then when MySpace came out, they were featuring my videos on the front page every couple of weeks," he adds. "That was my No. 1 [hit]; I was their most viewed comedian ever. Then with YouTube, I was part of their development program in 2013 and that led to a lot of cool collaborations with other YouTubers. Now, I guess, Facebook is hitting for me the best.”
After the “devastating” fall of MySpace a few years back, the comedian says he's learned a valuable lesson: diversification. “The things I’ve learned out of necessity, I never thought I’d learn. The stage stuff is all content, and I want it all to be the focus. All the peripheral stuff you have to learn as a performer, you have to learn by yourself. You can do everything, but it doesn’t mean you want to. You’re just forced into learning Photoshop or video editing or social media marketing, and I never thought I’d know all that stuff."
Between his impressions (On Blender, he does a mean T-Pain take-off and a literally pitch perfect Justin Timberlake) and full-on parody songs like his Rick Ross spoof on “Everyday I’m Hustlin” about finding confidence buffing his head while being the only hairless dancer out clubbin’, Schwartz is tuned up and ready to blend.
Blend, in fact, is a descriptive word the comedian really likes. “When I was 14, I started DJ-ing,” he says, adding with a smirk, “I spent all my Bar Mitzvah money on DJ equipment. My mom and dad were like: ‘You gotta go to college,’ and I was like: I gotta spin records!” After he breaking into the stand-up scene early in college, Schwartz traced back to what made his DJ gigs successful.
“I started thinking about what if I put some music into [my act], putting that feeling of a DJ in the stand-up," he says. "I actually started seeing the two as very similar. When you’re a DJ, you’re watching the crowd and thinking about how you can take them to the next level? How do I want to control them, and the dance floor?
"There’s a similar aspect in stand-up: if I say this first, what I can follow-up with to heighten it?" he adds. "You do that with the whole set, and it’s almost a DJ set. Rest them, them get them back up. The big difference is stand-up, of course, more personal.”
Eric Schwartz is scheduled to perform 7:30 p.m. Friday May 26 at The Secret Group, 2101 Polk. For information, call 832-999-9999 or visit thesecretgrouphtx.com. $12-25.
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