Zac Brooks: When He Was Young

July 2, 2018

Interview by

Valerie Lopez

Article by

Lara Smith

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I’m pret­ty sure my first intro­duc­tion to Zac Brooks was about four years ago at Sure Thing, the show that ran for over five years at Austin Java and returns this July to its new home, Fall­out The­ater. The recent trans­plant from Hous­ton took the stage with his smooth voice and a very tight set and absolute­ly destroyed the room. Brooks has a calm, but com­mand­ing per­son­al­i­ty that con­veys to the audi­ence, I got this.” And believe me, he does. Valerie Lopez recent­ly sat down with Brooks to find out how he got his start in com­e­dy and what process he uses to make such mem­o­rable performances.

Born in Louisiana, with some ear­ly years in Bolivia, and set­tling in Hous­ton, Brooks had a pret­ty diverse start to his child­hood. Learn­ing Span­ish in Bolivia, he was flu­ent as a child, but quick­ly real­ized how quick­ly flu­en­cy fades when he took Span­ish in high school. Zac Brooks was a self-described delin­quent as a kid, which trans­lat­ed into prank calls and jok­ing around with friends. By the age of 18, he and friend Andrew Cook­sey decid­ed to try an open mic at Sherlock’s in Hous­ton. It went so bad­ly for him, even his friends weren’t laugh­ing. Brooks walked away from the expe­ri­ence feel­ing that was it for his com­e­dy career.

It was not until three years lat­er that he would give com­e­dy anoth­er go. Brooks had a back­ground in the­ater, but stand up was dif­fer­ent, stat­ing, I think that’s what scared me the most was that it’s like all you. There’s not a cast up there that you could blame it on, it’s not the writing…it’s all you.” Hav­ing worked with a group and scripts, it was so very dif­fer­ent from stand up com­e­dy, where you are writ­ing the jokes and alone on the stage, vul­ner­a­ble. By the time he was one month into his sec­ond attempt at com­e­dy, he dropped out of col­lege. He had been bit­ten with the com­e­dy bug and would find him­self writ­ing jokes dur­ing class rather than focus­ing on school.

I think that’s what scared me the most was that it’s like all you. There’s not a cast up there that you could blame it on, it’s not the writing…it’s all you.”Zac Brooks

Unfor­tu­nate­ly the Hous­ton scene was not very active at the time. Clubs were scarce and stage time was hard to come by. Brooks admits that some of that was not putting in the work to build shows on the Hous­ton cir­cuit, but he found it eas­i­er to get stage time in Austin. Soon he made Austin home, but he learned his les­son about putting in the work. Zac Brooks now curates two of the most orig­i­nal con­cept shows in town, When We Were Young with co-host Andrew Cook­sey (yes, from his first open mic) and Peep Show with co-host Lisa Friedrich. When We Were Young fea­tures comics and their child­hood pho­tos, as their col­leagues roast them in all their awk­ward child­hood glo­ry. Peep Show is sort of a MST3000 of vin­tage porn movies in front of a live audience. 

Brooks seems to have a nat­ur­al tal­ent for find­ing con­cepts that add a unique spin to stand up with­out requir­ing a lot of com­plex plan­ning and logis­tics. Brooks seems to have a prag­mat­ic approach to com­e­dy, self-described as a slow writer, but nev­er real­ly writ­ing out a bit, Brooks says, If it’s good enough I should remem­ber it…It should be in my head if it’s good enough.” This slow evo­lu­tion of joke writ­ing can be seen in a cer­tain, now infa­mous, air­plane bit that Brooks has devel­oped, changed, and all-but retired in the last four years. While it’s still a crowd-pleas­er, it seems Brooks feels it’s time to move on and devel­op some­thing dif­fer­ent. His will­ing­ness to evolve an act or adapt a show keeps his work fresh and compelling.

When you see some­one bring such unique con­cepts to life the way Brooks does, it makes you cheer him on more, in the hopes that fes­ti­vals will take greater notice. Just as they have with Ian Abramson’s 7 Min­utes in Pur­ga­to­ry, we at Com­e­dy Wham hope they take note of When We Were Young and Peep Show. I mean who wouldn’t want to see the stars of Moon­tow­er Com­e­dy hav­ing their child­hood pho­tos roast­ed in 2019? We will all be wait­ing with antic­i­pa­tion for that ado­les­cent head­lin­er to take the stage.

See Zac Brooks co-host one of his sig­na­ture shows at:

  • When We Were Young: every sec­ond Mon­day at Spi­der House
  • Peep Show: every sec­ond Wednes­day at Spi­der House
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