Erica Rhodes has come a long way since Prairie Home Companion, the Minnesota radio program that hired the performer at the age of 10.
Now the writer-comedian has seven years of stand-up comedy under belt and just debuted her first comedy album Sad Lemon to No. 1 on the iTunes comedy charts. “I feel really lucky with how it turned out,” the Newton, Massachusetts-born entertainer reflects. “Everyone is saying it's pretty fresh and unique and fun and interesting but kinda dark. It has a few dark twists to it. It’s not predictable. The feedback’s been really good and positive. I’m really glad I did it with Helium [Records], and I feel like I made all the right choices as far as the title went, and I’m just really glad I did it where I did it.”
The comic was initially reticent to record her material, which was recorded live in Portland, Oregon. “To be honest, I didn’t really know,” she says. “I’ve been doing stand-up for almost seven years and some of these jokes I wrote really early on, some of them later. My manager sort of pushed me to do it, but at the same time I think I just felt like this was the right time now to move on from this material.”
Rhodes, who will be slinging jokes for two nights at the intimate Rec Room, courtesy of Comedy Hub Houston, just got an extra signal bump from the mad marketing blitz of the new NBC comedy competition Bring The Funny. “It’s a competition show but involves different forms of comedy - so they have variety, sketch and stand-up. All the acts that I saw are already professionals, people that are already touring, already kind of have a name for themselves and just need a push to get more traction.”
Not dissimilar to the NBC summer mainstay America’s Got Talent, the elimination-based series features celebrity judges offering feedback to Rhodes and her fellow competitors. Among the panel are Saturday Night Live superstar Kenan Thompson, Lip-Sync Battle co-host Chrissy Teigen and the man who built an empire off of ‘You Might Be a Redneck’ jokes, stand up great Jeff Foxworthy. “Because he was the main stand-up guy, I definitely connected the most with Jeff Foxworthy. He likes to tell about when he didn’t get picked for one of the competition shows like three years in a row. I think it was like Star Search or something. He likes telling his war stories because he’s so successful now, and he had such empathy for all of us. He was like: I know where you all are, and I have such respect for what you’re doing. He was just really, really sweet. I feel like he could be my uncle or something. He’s like part of the family, he feels like a family guy.”
While it may not have been part of the initial appeal for Rhodes to appear on the program, the side benefit was that the 33-year-old knows plenty of her fellow funny folk. “We were hanging out so much, I already knew most of them,” the comic shares. “Even the variety acts, I got really close with some of those people and we had a lot of time backstage. But some people I already knew – I knew Matt Rife already, I know Michael Longfellow, I know Candice Thompson. It’s a really talented group of people.
"For me, it was a little shocking when I realized it was a competition show! I think I was in denial until the day we got there, and then it got really intense. I’m not allowed to give any hints on how I did, but I will say I was denial until the very second I got there. The judges were nice and supportive and they tried to make everyone look good on the show. It's not like anyone was there that shouldn’t be there.”
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Regardless of how she performs on this specific show, Rhodes appears to be a talent to track and with her album release only weeks behind her – her appearance at Rec Room promises a few new bits not on the album. “It's hard to write a whole new hour in three months,” she quips. “. But I’m working in new stuff all the time. I’m trying to write longer story type bits, and I only have a few new bits but I think they’re really different. I think my writing style is sort of shifting - I can feel a shift happening. There’s growing pains with it and I can’t get rid of EVERYTHING yet. It’s a long process.”
Performances are scheduled for 9:30 p.m. on Friday, July 19 and Saturday, July 20 at 100 Jackson. For more information, visit comedyhubtx.com or call 713-344-1291. $15-20.