For stand-up Joe Sib, punk rock was always the passion. “My background starts in music, I played music my entire life,” the singer-turned-record producer says of his early years. “The best analogy is I was just in the right place at the right time when punk rock took off in the '80s suburbs, and I was in the right cul-de-sac. From 15 to about 33, I played bass in my first band – then went on to found a group called Wax and 22 Jacks. Both of those groups toured constantly, came through Houston a million times and that was the foundation for my stage experience.”
Yet, live comedy was something that always interested the West Coast native. “Living here in LA, I drive by the comedy store every other day for years,” the comic says. “The Improv, The Laugh Factory, for years! I would be on my way to the Roxy, and part of me would look at the comedy clubs and think they were cool. I loved stand-up.
"Growing up, I had parents that were really in touch with current comedians, Richard Pryor, Steve Martin, George Carlin – the three biggies. I had an education in it and my dad was a funny, smart guy. I think growing up around my dad – he liked funny, but it also had to be smart and have a resolution at the end. He didn’t just like dick jokes. So as a kid, I was always told what to check out or listen to, Monty Python, Not Ready For Prime Time Players – all of that was put into me through my dad.”
Sib admits his fleeting interested in a non-musical career was all hobby, until he got the opportunity to work with the famed Indie 103.1, and got to program his own morning show. “I was managing a guy that got the morning show, and he said I should be on the radio. It was a station called Indie 103.1, and that station was amazing because it had like Henry Rollins, Steve Jones from the Sex Pistols, Steve Navarro from Jane’s Addiction, and me.
"I was in the middle of this great group of guys, and it really allowed me to tell stories on air. People would say they loved my stories, and it was just a natural progression where I was telling stories and a friend of mine on tour was like, “You should record a bunch of your stories, put ‘em on a CD and give them to friends when they go on the road, because it will be like being on the road with them.” It was a cool idea, and I had all the gear from doing radio – so I recorded the CD and just started giving it out to friends.”
Before the front man knew it, his homemade disc had made the rounds in the music world – and had even ended up in the hands of a few comics.
“I started giving it to bands, and those bands would make copies and give ‘em to other bands and that’s really what started turning this into a live version, so I wrote this show called California Calling, and it was straight up one man show. I went everywhere with it – Austin, Boston, New York, Philly. And it was this show, an hour’s worth of stories, backed up with photographs and music, but it turned into this thing – at the time I thought it was stand-up. But comic friends were like: ‘No, this is storytelling.’ At a certain point, after two years, people really dug it. But it had a beginning, a middle and an end – so I couldn’t come back and do it again, because they knew the stories. So I knew I still wanted to take a stab at stand-up.”
Putting his solo show behind him, Sib admits to getting geeky with his scientific curiosity about how stand-up is built. “I remember other comics telling me not to do, that it was a nightmare. But I was like, I know how to be funny in an hour. I want to be funny in 10 minutes, I want to be funny in 7, I want to be funny in 5, I want to be funny in 3 minutes. I nerded out fully and anybody I could ask questions of, I did. I got really fortunate, the club in LA, the Laugh Factory, the owner Jamie Masada, let me host.
"And I hosted regularly for like a year, and that changed everything. I was in a sink or swim situation where if I didn’t do well in the first ten minutes, they wouldn’t ask me back. Then secondly, I just sat in the club bringing everyone from Chris D’Elia, to Dave Chappelle, to Erik Griffin, to Neal Brennon, to Maz Jobrani, to Amir K, to Eliza Schlesinger, it was just a crash course in great comedy and I got to literally 15 feet away and watch these guys work, over and over again. I was in the right place again, and I’m taking mental notes, digest it, and come back next week with a new bit.
"That was the first hand experience that so important early on, to know the right thing and the wrong thing, when a bit’s not working. How to make a bit better, to commit - they’re all comedians who can commit to the moment, and that was big for me.”
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Sib’s comedy world continues to expand after the April release of his album, Nowhere Near the
Top. “The last thing I really thought, I don’t shy away from being a 50-year-old dude, but I also know I started comedy late. Because I had a full on career, I’ve owned Side One Dummy Records for 23 years and my career has been in music. When I came over to comedy, I just knew I wanted to get good at it.
"The big thing about me is the more I get into something, the more I want to achieve at it. [The album] opened up the whole Sirius XM thing, and I got on Laughs USA – because unbeknownst to me…. I swear in real life, but for some reason I never did on stage and that got the record a ton of airplay. And once again, this opened up another thing where I’m opening up for Jim Breuer! He needed a guy who was funny with an edge, but he was like, ‘But you don’t swear!’ He’s just an east coast version of me, and he plays theaters, so now I’m doing comedy for between 500-2,000 people. It’s another level of being funny in 20 minutes and before a headliner, where they’re obviously there to see him and not you. So you want to connect with this Fonzie looking, slicked back hair, black T-shirt and jeans guy. I know everyone uses the word grateful, but that’s the only word I have to describe this moment in time.”
With his name out there and gigs continuing to pile up, Sib now getting to go back to the fun part of the stand-up gig: the comedy. “When I started was me writing “jokes” and it just wasn’t working. But me being me and just talking about what’s going on in my life right now, talking about having 13-year-old son and 16- year-old daughter and being married for coming up on 20 years. Just bringing out the things that happen on a daily basis in my life as a dad, and the irony of how hard I fought authority so much as a kid. And I’m why karma exists, because my kids give push-back constantly. And I’m the authority! And I’m so bad at it!”
Sib's performance is scheduled for 10 p.m. Saturday. December 2 at The Secret Group, 2101 Polk. For information, call 832-898-4688 or visit thesecretgrouphtx.com. $8.