|Photo Credit||Savannah Petty|
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.
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