There are many comedians in Dallas, but not many that have albums that have hit the top 10 on the Billboard comedy chart and No. 1 on the iTunes comedy chart. There are many comedians in Dallas, but not many that have made the semifinals in comedy competitions for both Comedy Central and NBC. There are many comedians in Dallas, but not many that are super nice and willing to pass along their knowledge unpretentiously. But Aaron Aryanpur is all of those things, and he teaches standup classes at Stomping Ground Comedy in Dallas when he’s not touring. His 2016 album In Spite Of made it the top of the iTunes comedy chart. His 2018 album Employee of the Day was released in May.
Here’s what Aaron had to say to TheaterJones.
TheaterJones: What's unique about the Dallas Comedy scene compared to others you have traveled to?
Aaron Aryanpur: The number of comedians keeps growing every year. Different people tackling different disciplines: improv, sketch, standup. You get a really good chance to grow here, virtually under the radar. Lots of opportunities for stage time, opportunities for longer sets that you're not going to get in L.A., for instance. You can develop a voice here and decide where to go from there. Lot of different comics too, so you hear so many different perspectives. I'm glad that "Texas Comedy " doesn't have to mean any specific thing anymore, like based on stereotypes. Texas, or DFW Comedy just gets to mean "really good." Hopefully "fucking fantastic."
Why did you decide to teach standup?
I decided to teach standup because Chad [Cline] and Lindsay [Goldapp, both of Stomping Ground] offered me the opportunity. I don't think I would have pushed it on my own. I certainly have advice I can give, and lots and lots of war stories to draw from. I'm finding that teaching it is very hard. There is no "formula," despite what the books say. People have different ways of being funny. I just hope that I can help them cut through the nonsense and get to what's pure and funny about each person. We all have tools to get there - we just may not be that aware of them.
One thing I heard you say in a conversation at Stomping Ground was (and I think you were referring to teaching) was that things that are very easy and second nature to you as an experienced comedian looks like impossible magic to newcomers. Can you elaborate on that? What was the crystallizing example of that?
I forget when writing jokes, that there are several steps involved. It's pretty instinctual, but we all do it to a degree. Some people don't recognize those steps. Something strikes you funny, you ask yourself why? You start making associations, you pull from your memories, you choose a point of view and show the ridiculousness of the topic and then you prove your case. We emphasize certain words, we whisper, we adopt accents when telling stories to our friends and family. You'd be amazed how many people who try to do standup forget all of the comedic weapons in our arsenals.
How has getting to No. 1 on the iTunes Comedy charts affected you and your mindset? Is it all gravy and awesomeness, or does is mess with your head in any way?
Getting to No. 1 is a wonderful feeling when it happens and it certainly looks nice on a résumé, but nothing fundamentally changes. I didn't know what to expect when releasing the first album...I just wanted the thing done and out in the world and out of my hands. I thought I'd feel this great pressure lift away. Then the pressure didn't go away, and other complications set in. I'm still trying to get myself booked, still trying to convince exiting audience members to maybe buy my album on their ways out the door...nothing is necessarily "easier." I'm just happy that's it was done. Then the second one. I like most of that material, a lot of it I don't do anymore—I'm glad I have a quality recording of it.
What's something you wish you knew about cutting a comedy album that you could tell yourself before you started?
This was the third time I had tried recording an album. There are many things I wish I had known, just about the recording process: properly mic-ing yourself, mic-ing the audience to capture laughter. There's nothing worse than hearing a great set and then barely hearing the laughter—you don't feel like you're in the room. The illusion is broken. And the biggest cliché of all: I wish I could tell myself to have a better time. If I'm stressed—and recording an album or headlining a weekend of just going up can be stressful enough—you can hear it. It should sound fun. Having fun is the best way to look/sound like you're having fun.
To me at least, you sort of project a warm friendliness. Is that cultivated or natural? Do you get any flak from the pride-in-being-a-jerk standup faction? Have you tried on different stage personas?
I don't know if I've tried different personas. I know I've tried different jokes, and certain things hit while a lot of things don't. If you're talking about the Daniel Toshes and Anthony Jeselniks of the world (and their spawn), those guys are still insanely likeable. Tosh has a “Gee Whiz” smile and Jeselnik has an ironic “better than you, but not really” smirk. When you get people laughing and on your side, if they like you, you can get away with nearly anything. Lately, I've been feeling the most "myself" on stage, getting to talk about whatever I want. I talk about cancer and some nasty stuff, I'll use foul language and I'll still be considered clean sometimes. It's weird. You don't hump a stool and you immediately stand out.
» Aryanpur has Texas and out-of-state tour dates over the next few months; you can catch him Oct. 18-20 at Hyena’s Comedy Night Club in Fort Worth; and Dec. 14 at the Dallas Comedy House; as well as teaching at Stomping Ground Comedy.