John Rabon: A Ghost and a Machine

October 27, 2017


Valerie Lopez


Richard Goodwin


John Rabon is an oft-men­tioned name in Austin com­e­dy and pod­cast cir­cles, and I was excit­ed that Valerie Lopez got a chance to sit down with him to get the sto­ries behind the man.

It turns out we had some­thing in com­mon right from the begin­ning: raised in a reli­gious house­hold, with lit­tle access to com­e­dy beyond the rel­a­tive­ly tame (but huge­ly pop­u­lar at the time) Bill Cos­by, Steven Wright, and Steve Mar­tin. They were more than enough for Rabon to catch the com­e­dy bug, though, and he imme­di­ate­ly start­ed per­form­ing (and doing well!) in tal­ent shows and oth­er competitions.

When Rabon moved from his home­town of Lul­ing to Austin in 1996, he head­ed right for the stage. It’s hard to imag­ine now, but there were lim­it­ed options for open-mics at the time, so he spent his ear­ly days refin­ing his tal­ent vis­it­ing and revis­it­ing the The Velv (née The Velvee­ta Room). Which is not to say his tal­ent shone at first; Rabon will be the first to say he did­n’t nail it the first night. Or the sec­ond. Or the third…

But it’s just that kind of per­sis­tence, get­ting back to the stage, and watch­ing from the crowd, that’s required to hone your mate­r­i­al and style. Lopez and Rabon dig deep into how oppor­tu­ni­ties have explod­ed in this area for come­di­ans in Austin, with prac­tice and train­ing avail­able that either did­n’t exist, or would have been sniffed at, in the past. This episode real­ly packs a wealth of infor­ma­tion about the ear­ly” years in the Austin com­e­dy scene. (That’s the 90’s/​2000’s, to you young’uns.)

These days, you’ll find Rabon co-host­ing the local favorite show Spite Club with Pat Dean. Rabon cre­at­ed Spite Club at The Velv in 2000, birthing an instant clas­sic (with plen­ty of help from our friend Matt Bear­den) where two comics do their best to tear each oth­er (and oth­er Austin comics) down with ver­bal slings and arrows. (All in good fun, of course, even if some­times the fun has a mighty sharp edge.) He par­layed his tal­ent (and some tru­ly genius tech­ni­cal sleuthing skills) into per­form­ing with names like Dave Attell, Louis CK, Mitch Hed­berg and Joe Rogan (where I actu­al­ly first saw Rabon). He also placed as a final­ist mul­ti­ple times in Fun­ni­est Per­son in Austin, no small feat.

Around the same time, Rabon head­ed down a road that led to a rock star” lifestyle, at least sub­stance wise; lucky for every­one involved, there even­tu­al­ly came a fork (or turn­ing point) in that road that brought us the clean and sober (and fun­ny as ever) com­ic of today.

This is an episode you don’t want to miss, with ques­tions answered and lessons to learn. After you lis­ten, update your short list to make sure you catch John Rabon at Spite Club at The Velv on Nov 2nd (and every oth­er time it comes up!).

John Rabon