T’is the season for Christmas tree picking, penny-pinching for the new Gen-Z tech, and prepping the grocery list for a night of gluttony. All is good in the name of giving. When it comes to comedy, you get the good, the ugly, and the BAD. From holding sets out of their homes to performing in front of large crowds at spots like The Well and Room 82, comedy troupe, Bad Neighbor Comedy, offer the gift that keeps on giving-laughter.
I got to speak with the showrunner of this four-man collective, Julian Nieto. Get to know more about how they got their start, what to do when you have a “tough crowd”, and how they keep the community at the forefront of their slapstick comedy (emphasis on slap).
Where did the name “Bad Neighbor Comedy ” come from?
“When we first started this whole thing all we wanted was more stage time. We were and still are extremely hungry comics and I’m not just talking about our fast food orders! Marcos Alvarez had just bought a sound system and we wanted to put it to use. So about eight of us got together, crammed into his living room, and each of us went up and performed our material as if it were a packed club! But it didn’t matter, we were performing for ourselves. The laughs were loud and the sound system was louder, and as Marcos was introducing the next comic he called a round of applause to getting an inevitable notice of eviction for the imminent noise complaint. “Here’s to being a Bad Neighbor!” The name stuck and the rest is history in the making”
What’s your process when preparing for a set?
“My process starts with a simple thought [;] it can happen in the middle of a conversation, a long car ride, or has even woken me up out of a sleep. Regardless of when and where these thoughts happen they all end up in an on-going note on my phone, which at this point is 41 pages long. I consider it casting a wide net that can catch any and all ideas for me to refine later. Next, it’s onto filtering through the funny and unfunny, and the one and only way of finding that out is getting up on stage and speaking it into a microphone, often. It doesn’t matter to me whether it’s ten comics and I paid $5 to do 5 minutes in NoHo or at a packed Thursday mic at our hometown club The Well Comedy Club. Every mic counts.”
Some of your set includes you mentioning your battle with substance abuse; how do you balance your honesty about your struggles with comedy?
“When I started doing comedy I was 3 months sober, my less than tasteful lifestyle before was all still so fresh and recent[.] [T]hat’s all I would talk about, and at times would end up unintentionally glorifying some of the acts I used to partake in. I got to a point in my sobriety where I wasn’t anywhere near that person I was before I got sober, and I started feeling gross with myself as I got off stage. I was at a turning point, either gain a new perspective on my brand of comedy and the persona I want to present on stage, or quit comedy. I prayed to my higher power, talked to people very close to me and made a conscious effort to change my material, dramatically. It worked, I started to find my real voice the crowd started to laugh with me instead of cringe, and now I have enough experience in sobriety to find the funny and be relatable to all different types of audiences throughout California. Today I have over 18 months clean and sober.”
All of the members have their own take on their sets; how do you stand out individually but keep the cohesiveness of the troupe?
“We consider ourselves a collective of comics rather than a group. [W]e are all like minded in the sense of wanting to put on some of the most exciting, unique, and most importantly, to put on shows that we would want to see ourselves. Other than that common goal, we couldn’t be more different from each other, and that is what makes our collective so great. We cover all the bases, and when you come to a Bad Neighbor show you know you’re going to get something fresh and when you leave you can’t wait until the next one.”
How does it feel to start from running shows out of each other’s homes to performing at established businesses?
“Honestly it’s a little surreal at times. [T]o think just over a year ago we were 8 comics in a living room, to now putting together sold out shows is amazing to say the least. It isn’t easy but getting the opportunity to do something you love with your best friends and staying true to ourselves in the process, how could we ever fail.”
How do you handle a show with a “tough crowd”?
“Persistence. Persistence. Persistence. Not every crowd, everywhere, everytime[,] is going to like you[;] heck sometimes they might even hate you[…] regardless you’re there to do a job and that’s to be funny, and if you’re dealing with a tough crowd the last thing you should do as a comic is ruin the crowd even more for the rest of the comics. The best thing to do is to stick to your material, take your licks, walk off stage with your head high, and keep it pushing. You’ll get ’em next time champ.”
You, alongside Anthony Jauregui, offer a comedy open mic to the Bakersfield community. How important was it to bring this type of entertainment to the scene?
“With the new club opening up, we felt there was a need for an open mic geared toward first time and newer comics, to be able to create a space for them to get stage time, and bring in a new crop of comics to the scene. Try It Out Open Mic is that mic. [I]f you’ve ever felt you’re the funniest guy or gal at the water cooler, at the family BBQ, or even in just your own head, then come Try It Out. It’s at The Well Comedy Club every Sunday and starts at 6pm.”
Anything upcoming that you’d like to let us in on?
“Check out the Bad Neighbor Comedy Podcast on YouTube. Also December 17th at the Well Comedy Club Bad Neighbor is back, bringing you another great headliner, Comedy Store door man Quincy Weekly, the whole Bad Neighbor crew will also be there to perform and give you an amazing night of laughs. For more information and to keep up with what’s going on with Bakersfield comedy follow us on Instagram and Facebook @badneighborcomedy and @thewellcomedyclub”