Laughter is hard to come by in these hard quaran-times – and live comedy is almost a concept out of time. But for Steve Trevino, who’ll be doing a weekend for the newly plexiglassed tables of the Houston Improv – nothing could be more important.
“Its been obviously a very interesting year for everybody,” the funny man says. “COVID is obviously very serious. I just think that to find I out I was unessential pretty much hurt — but you know what? I disagree with that! I think comedians and entertainment are very essential. And the crowds that come out, man – they just need a laugh. You know, with the political situation, and COVID and everything that’s happening in our country at the moment, it’s nice to come to a show and just forget about all of it, and just have a laugh. I have found that the audiences are more appreciative, and the laughter is coming a little bit harder. It’s just necessary.”
Since semi-lockdown hit the country near mid-March, Trevino is among the crowd of comedians who had their whole world rocked by lost bookings. With so many established comedy houses closing, Trevino admits to finding satisfaction in his state’s response during this uncertain time for live performance venues. “It’s been really nice to be a Texan and be able to get back out there and get onstage. I say to be a Texan because, you know, a lot of the country is still closed. So I think we’ve been really lucky. I think we need that comic relief, and I’m happy to provide it. I don’t talk about any politics. At the moment, I’m talking about what me and my wife went through during quarantine. I go back through some of the old bits, and talk about life before COVID. So it’s just been a really interesting different part of our lives, and we just have to adapt.”
While empathetic to the loss of life during the health crisis, Trevino is less sympathetic to those fellow performers out of work. “In Texas, especially, part of that is also their fault. I don’t mean that to anyone in specific, but I’ll perform in front of ten people and I’ll perform in front of 10,000. And you’ll have some of these artists that say, I can’t do that arena. Or I can’t do that… like, I didn’t get to do the Houston Rodeo! Well that doesn’t mean you can’t go and do a thousand venue in front of 200 people. You know? You can entertain people. That’s kind of the attitude I took to it. If we’re at 25 percent capacity, fine, we’re still doing a show! Because for me: yes, I need money to pay the bills. But number one, it was never about money. So yes I agree 1,000 percent that we have not been cared about like other industries, but also if you’re an artist and want to perform… the state is allowing us to. Obviously not AT&T stadium or Reliant stadium… but hey man, if you want to play, play!”
While solo stand-up comedians may comparatively have more autonomy when it comes to making the decision to share their craft face-to-face, Trevino has actually begun to work with a comedy partner during the pandemic: his wife. “You know, everybody wants to see the woman behind the jokes,” he explains. “So we started a podcast called Steve and Captain Evil!”
Wait, hold the phone – what was that co-host’s name? Trevino, laughs, continuing: “Captain Evil is my wife! It’s a nickname I gave her because she is super for sure, but she can also be very evil. I’m very lucky to have a wife who is in on the joke, and she’s got thick skin. We have a lot of fun together. At the end of the day in my house, I don’t know how it is in your house, but its equal, man. We got an equal fight, when we fight, and it just stuck. People really enjoyed it and we sell Captain Evil merchandise, and women will go: ‘Oh my god I AM Captain Evil to my husband.’ It’s just become something very special and my wife loves it, and we’ve kind of embraced it. It’s a brand! You’re an average male who married an above average woman. So she’s a Captain Evil and you better keep her happy.”
So while Trevino is comfortable braving the unknown terrains of the Houston Improv — where he notes that guests “have to be as responsible as possible! The plexiglass is up. If you want to continue to wear a mask, you’re more than welcome to do so” – what about those not yet ready for a return to the in-person experience? The comic has a unique solution: a live-stream taped before a live audience, with a catch. “I was unemployed for several months,” Trevino says. “Even though I’m back employed, I’m not making nearly the same amount of money. I constantly was getting: ‘Do a live-stream show!’ And as a stand-up, I’m not a musician. I can’t just do my stand up without crowd reaction.
"So for a long time I was just like: nah, not for me. But then I started doing all of this material about COVID and I thought well, I thought: here’s a way to get that material out for the world. Because I am allowed to perform in front of an audience, so I’ll film it. And instead of waiting for the networks or waiting for somebody to buy it, or sell it to them. I said let’s put it out there and entertain people during COVID. Let’s make a little bit of money so we can keep the lights on, and keep my employees paid. And so to me it was a win-win-win.”
Trevino says he’s taken his opportunity to shine a light on the issue of veteran’s affairs with the release of My Life in Quarantine. "After it was all said and done, because I love the veterans, part of the proceeds will also go the veterans. People don’t realize that we have lost more soldiers in the United States of America to suicide, than we have to the Vietnam War. And now with COVID, not only people with PTSD, but people with mental health [problems] and mental illness, suicides have gone through the roof. So if I can raise a couple of bucks, make you laugh where you sit in your living room and see a little bit of material of what we’re all living through.”
Performances are scheduled for 8 p.m. on Thursday, October 29, 7:30 p.m. and 9:45 p.m. on Friday, October 30, 7 and 9:30 p.m. on Saturday, October 31, and 7:30 p.m. on Sunday, November 1 at Houston Improv, 7620 Katy Freeway. For information, call 713-333-8800 or visit improvhouston.com. $50-150.