If America has learned anything in the past few years, it’s that reality shows can lead to unbelievable opportunities. Last Comic Standing’s Season 8 Champion Rod Man is getting to make good on his NBC first impression and bring his charming southern wit to the Houston Improv for a special event of five shows.
With the pressure of the reality competition behind him, Rod Man admits to digging being a full night of entertainment on his own. “The fame thing and people knowing ya – that just means the expectations are changed,” he stated. “When people have paid to see you, its very different from them just showing up or getting free tickets. I’m learning I gotta be the event, like it’s the Rockets playing tonight or that Rod Man is playing over at the Improv. If people pick Rod Man, I gotta, you know… I enjoy being an event for people.”
While impressing the likes of Keenen Ivory Wayans and Roseanne Barr (or as he calls her: “DJ and them’s mama”), the NBC reality series forced Rod Man adapt his comedy for multiple venues. “I call it a launching pad show, because it’s like going to college every day. You do different disciplines of comedy from improv to crowd work to roasting people to being a tour guide. I learned about myself, and about the different ways to do my funny, so it was a learning process. It was something I needed, my audience grew and I’m still growing from it too. I became a fan of myself after watching the show with my family!”
Since launching himself on a national platform, the comic discovered he has a special kinship with the Bayou City. “According to Facebook, Houston is my No. 1 city!” he exclaims. “I got the most concentrated followers in Houston and Dallas, those my one and two. They come out to see me and they show me the love. Houston Improv, it’s one of the bigger Improvs in the chain. So if you can’t do a theater, it’s the next best thing. They gotta a good staff and they always treat me right.”
Despite finding success as a stand-up comic, the Funny People actor had a couple other careers in mind when he was just starting out. Among many dreams was to be a sports star, he says. “When I was a kid I used to play baseball, and the whole goal to make it on ABC’s Wide World of Sports for the Little League World Series. Doing Last Comic Standing took me to Williamsburg, Pennsylvania, home of the Little League World Series and that whole town is all about those little leaguers, they’re dedicated to them.”
Another career plan was to be the next “Weird Al” Yankovic. “In my bedroom in my momma’s house, I used to write parody songs and tape them in my little tape cassette machine. I’d let my momma and my cousins listen to it, but they’d be like, ‘You can’t sing! You ain’t gonna be no singer! You sound funny!’”
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Fortunately for Atlanta native, Rod Man says he discovered the vast world of spoken word comedy through a accidental viewing of Def Comedy Jam. “It was the rawest comedy I had ever seen in my life and seein’ cats that looked like me [was significant]. They could be my cousin or family or whatever. It changed my mind, ‘cause that’s what I’m trying to do! I found Uptown Comedy Club in Atlanta. That’s where it all started, man, an open mike on a Tuesday. I was surprised they had a comedy scene in Atlanta. They had a club called the Comedy Act and it got everybody, all the urban comics played the Comedy Act, but that club was closing down right as I started. So Uptown with Earthquake, that was the new hot spot. It was a hot audience and Earthquake was the host and the open mic was a good learning route because he was SO FUNNY. If you could follow him a little bit you thought I might have something here.”
While fans of Rod Man know his flair to be easy going and relatable, but his early persona was far from it, he says. “I was nervous a lot. And nerves still can take over sometimes if you don’t calm them. But I hated the sound of silence, so I would just talk fast so they wouldn’t have time to boo. People booed in my day, when I first started you could get boos. I know I didn’t want to get booed. I would just keep going and going and going, then it became my thing, my signature style. Another comedian friend said to me, “Rod Man, they’re listened to everything you are saying so don’t worry about the silence! You got punches throughout all your different stories and they just like hearing you talk.’ So that became my thing, that I don’t take a breath. Eventually, I’ve learned to take a breath, but back then it was like a big run on sentence.”
Among many things that success in stand-up has brought the funny man, was the opportunity to keep his eyes peeled and focused on his true interest: other people. “I live and stuff comes to me. I look around, man. I go to different places, where people may be and I study them a little bit. Great comedians are great observers. I try to be an astute observer of people, how they move or talk or why they do what they do. At my show, I like to open the floor and ask couples about what makes [their] marriages work. And you’ll be amazing by what people will tell you. I had a couple tell me: Homicide and Suicide, that’s what works for them! That’s a killer relationship right there. I enjoy just talking to people, man. Like my mom always said, “You ain’t never met a stranger” Go up to people and just talk to ‘em, all walks of life. That’s served me well.”
Performances are scheduled for 8 p.m. on Thursday, January 18, 7:30 and 9:45 p.m. on Friday, January 19 and 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. on Saturday, January 20 at Houston Improv on 7620 Katy Freeway. For information, call 713-333-8800 or visit improvhouston.com. $25-35.