A funny thing happened to Gabe Bravo on the way to a successful career in music: He found out he was funny.
More precisely, others are finding out Bravo is funny. The well-known and highly regarded Houston musician is notably an outstanding drummer known for his time in acts such as Shotgun Funeral and The Trimms. But since early 2013, Bravo has traded his place at the back of the band for front-and-center as a stand-up comic.
The move hasn't proved too difficult for Bravo, thanks to his established ties to the club scene and his willingness to work hard at honing an abundance of natural talent. As a result, he's just returned from performing at Fun Fun Fun Fest and is on the roster of wildly talented comedians for January's Come and Take It Comedy Take Over at Warehouse Live.
In between those fest dates, Bravo will make an appearance at The Meltdown, the L.A.-based venue run by comics Kumail Nanjiani and Jonah Ray. He'll open for Bobcat Goldthwait at Fitzgerald's next month. Tomorrow, he's opening at Warehouse Live's Studio for Tom Segura, who is touring on the strength of Completely Normal, a new Netflix special.
"My career is kind of blowing up out of nowhere," Bravo says. "I always tried to be funny in high school. I ended up, my senior year, having the most office referrals out of anybody in the school. I was the worst kid."
That's debatable, but what is not is that Bravo, a native Houstonian and Memorial High School grad, is a fast, adept learner. He started playing music as a preteen, beginning with guitar, which he says he hated. From there, he learned trumpet, trombone, piano, bass and mandolin.
He was playing guitar in a high-school garage band when he realized he could add drums to the list of instruments he could master.
"The drummer left the drum kit at my house, so I started to mess around with it," recalls Bravo. "By the next practice, like a week later, I knew the songs better than he did, so they demoted him to bass and I started playing drums."
Someone once said it's a long way to the top if you wanna rock and roll. Bravo has found the path to a working comedy career with lots of potential much shorter to navigate. He says he wrote jokes on Twitter to amuse his friends and got addicted to the retweets, so he decided to give stand-up a try.
"I went to an open mike far away -- I don't remember where it was, but it was way outside of the city limits," he recalls. "I didn't have anything prepared, I just talked, and it went horribly. It was just the worst."
Story continues on the next page.
If a genie offered me one wish, I'd wish that dirty socks could become pregnant, and I'd watch all of my male friends try to skip town.
— Gabe Bravo (@gabe_bravo) October 7, 2014
A second attempt fell flat too, he says. By the third outing, he decided to showcase the tweets he'd written, one punchline after the next, delivered in a deadpan that has followers comparing him to Anthony Jeselnik and Mitch Hedberg.
Bravo hasn't exactly shelved his music pursuits, though. He's still drumming for Dillon Trimm's solo project, but presently his focus is squarely on comedy. He hosts a weekly comedy outing at Hans Bier Haus and is actively working on putting together shows.
His style of comedy isn't your dad's standup, either. It's staged in music venues, for the most part, and is a grassroots movement that takes its cues from independent music artists. That means audiences can seek out the artists they want, rather than showing up at a comedy club for a drink minimum and the standard show.
It allows Bravo and his friends to do things like GODDAMMIT!, a showcase every first Thursday at AvantGarden, or gigs at Warehouse Live.
"It's easy to put a comedy show together," he notes. "You just need amplification and comics."
Bravo says he's proud to be part of a wave of Houston-based comics that have people recalling the Texas Outlaw Comics of the 1980s, names like Bob Biggerstaff, Sam Demaris and John Nguyen. They'll all be featured on Come and Take It, alongside headliners like Norm Macdonald, Whitest Kids U' Know and Maria Bamford.
Bravo will likely be nonplussed by the big names. At FFF, he did a show with Nanjiani, Ray and Silicon Valley's Jimmy O Yang.
"We all went to a bar and hung out afterward. We're best friends now!" Bravo joked.
He said the biggest difference between music and stand-up is there's no one on stage with you to cover your mistakes with their instruments. The endeavor can be nerve-wracking. So, why not stay in the shadows of the drum set?
"It's like sitting around laughing with your buddies. That's essentially what it is," he says of his stand-up shows. "The attention is nice. It's nice having the microphone for awhile and being the only person who's supposed to be talking.
"The thing I really like is unifying people with laughter," Bravo continues. "There's nothing better than a room full of people laughing and having a good time."
Gabe Bravo opens for Tom Segura this Saturday at The Studio at Warehouse Live. He hosts Mic Check Wednesday weekly at Hans Bier Haus, 2523 Quenby.
ROCKS OFF'S GREATEST HITS
Keep the Houston Press Free... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Houston with no paywalls.