Erik Escobar - Brings Us Together

August 30, 2021

Photo Credit
Cameron Wright/Stacy Vandergriff
Interview by

Valerie Lopez

Article by

Valerie Lopez

Listen
2021 Summer Vacation Series

Destination - Los Angeles, California

The world is in the midst of a host of debuts, including the blinding sight of faces that haven’t seen true sunlight for many months, poking out of doors and taking the cautious first steps back into the great outside.
It’s only fitting that we debut something of our own for the podcast: the 2021 Summer Vacation Series. While we’re in no way on vacation, the theme speaks more to that most summer-y of concepts, traveling to new places near and far. Many of our guests are local to Austin, but during the pandemic we had the honor of “hosting” comics from around the world on our Isolation Comedy series, and the Vacation Series is our way of bringing them back for the full Comedy Wham interview treatment.

We all know the col­or­ful fruit chews (or we should, they’re so irre­sistible) ad logo Taste the rain­bow”, right? This week’s guest is a vari­a­tion on that logo Hear the rain­bow”. Erik Esco­bar gives us such a col­or­ful, enthu­si­as­tic, hap­py ener­gy, that sit­ting down with him was almost like talk­ing with a rain­bow. And no, I did not over­dose on caf­feine and choco­late before I wrote that. 

Hail­ing from Los Ange­les (born and bred) Esco­bar’s tall build and frame were per­fect­ly suit­ed for foot­ball. In high school, this was his pur­suit, but unlike most play­ers on the foot­ball team, he was a self-described intro­vert. Imag­ine the scene, then, of a young Esco­bar faced with can­celled foot­ball prac­tice wan­der­ing around the emp­ty halls of his school killing time and stum­bling upon, and you’ll nev­er guess this, the school’s improv team deep into prac­tice. To me, the scene before us is a very blue pill vs red pill moment. Will he walk on by, con­tin­u­ing his path as an intro­vert­ed foot­ball play­er then fol­low­ing that path into college? 

But we already know the answer, since we absolute­ly loved hav­ing Esco­bar on our 2020 Iso­la­tion Com­e­dy show last year. Young Esco­bar took the improv pill and joined the team imme­di­ate­ly, lit­er­al­ly burst­ing out of his shell and lov­ing every moment of it. For him, the improv team and com­e­dy in par­tic­u­lar “…was a way to be more social and less introverted.”

"...comedy was a way to be more social and be less introverted."
Erik Escobar

It’s from this foun­da­tion­al point in Esco­bar’s life that I start­ed notic­ing how his entire ener­gy is built upon bring­ing peo­ple togeth­er. Imag­ine all his foot­ball and improv team mates cheer­ing each oth­er on (I like to imag­ine the cheers from the stands Yes, and.…get that touch­down!’) because he brought those two worlds togeth­er. His abil­i­ty to bring 2 worlds togeth­er did­n’t stop in high school. In col­lege, he again pur­sued 2 dif­fer­ent worlds — the­ater and social work. 

It’s an unusu­al com­bi­na­tion, but Esco­bar’s con­ta­gious ener­gy makes it all work. He want­ed to do good in the world while doing good on stage and for a good while he did just that. Work­ing as a behav­ioral ther­a­pist until land­ing with The Unusu­al Sus­pects The­ater Com­pa­ny, whose mis­sion is to work with under­served youth, where he con­tin­ues to share his love of per­for­mance. Ear­ly on in his train­ing in the­ater, he con­nect­ed with Tom Clark, a com­ic and a teacher with notable cred­its (spe­cials, Conan, etc) and real­ized that standup was where he want­ed to focus his ener­gies. It was­n’t just about con­nect­ing with the right men­tor or teacher for Esco­bar, it was about prag­ma­tism, too. Look­ing into the prover­bial crys­tal ball and see­ing what his future was, Esco­bar thought Well, how can I sus­tain a career? How can I build a career and you know, have a sol­id income. I think I can do it more with stand up per­son­al­ly than I can with improv.” And so it was.

The great con­ver­sa­tion with Esco­bar cov­ered a lot of ground that you’d expect of a com­ic — per­form­ing standup in unusu­al venues (12-step recov­ery house stands out), col­leges, and yes, the online Zoom shows. Com­e­dy Wham was a bene­fac­tor of Esco­bar’s will­ing­ness to par­tic­i­pate in Zoom shows, not just for his hilar­i­ous sets on cam­era”, but also because of his infec­tious joy­ful ener­gy in the vir­tu­al green room. What we did­n’t expect to hear was that Esco­bar’s for­ay as a TEDx Talk speak­er occurred right at the start of the world­wide COVID shut­down. When you watch Esco­bar’s TED Talk, you imag­ine a full audi­ence of col­lege stu­dents, but nope, he per­formed to essen­tial­ly only the pro­duc­tion staff. Which is a momen­tous chal­lenge when your TEDx Talk relies on a big audi­ence call and response in the first few min­utes. Lucky for me, I was none the wis­er. Hav­ing watched the TEDx Talk before inter­view­ing him, I thought the TED Talk was won­der­ful and yet again, a great dis­play of his abil­i­ty to bring 2 worlds togeth­er. The title of his TEDx Talk is Cre­at­ing A More Ful­fill­ing Lifestyle Through Humor” which is meant to apply to what­ev­er world you hap­pen to operate. 

Once I picked my jaw off the floor at his accom­plish­ment with the TEDx Talk, it was only nat­ur­al that Esco­bar could no longer fight his teach­ing and help­ing” ten­den­cies. Lots of great advice was shared, but one top­ic that many new­er comics always have a weird reac­tion to is mon­ey. Esco­bar says Don’t be scared of [ask­ing about] the mon­ey. And you want to make them hap­py. So you know, work clean and don’t make any­one mad.” While the advice was spe­cif­ic to book­ing with col­leges, I think this opin­ion works across any venue or book­er you work with (though work­ing clean is most­ly spe­cif­ic to colleges).

Don't be scared of [asking about] the money. And you want to make them happy. So you know, we're clean don't make anyone mad
Erik Escobar

Esco­bar had a wild sum­mer, mak­ing an appear­ance on NBC’s I Can See Your Voice (a spin­off of The Masked Singer) which brought lots of atten­tion to his TEDx Talk (anoth­er exam­ple of 2 worlds brought togeth­er). He’s also had a fair amount of small TV roles and I had to ask, which world does he pre­fer? Will he choose act­ing over standup? The peo­ple (me and Miss Purring­ton) want­ed to know!! In expect­ed Esco­bar-2-Worlds fash­ion, he admit­ted that he loves the act­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties because they become ways of cre­at­ing big­ger fol­low­ings for his standup. If he wants to oper­ate in these two worlds, I am more than hap­py to see Esco­bar thrive and suc­ceed in both. As long as he brings that infec­tious ener­gy along. 

Oh, and if you do see him at a standup show and men­tion you heard this episode, be sure to take him up on his gen­er­ous offer (you’ll have to lis­ten for your­self, though) and tell him Valerie sent you.

Want to know more about com­e­dy in Los Ange­les, Cal­i­for­nia (and out­side LA)?

Erik s rec­om­men­da­tions for comics to check out from LA (and beyond) include: 

LA — Tom Clark, Stephanie Clark, John­ny Flow­ers, Jim­my Bro­gan, Daniel Eachus, Savan­nah Man­hat­tan, Mike Masilot­ti, John Yabes, Alyssa Poteet, Jay Aquino, Ron Josol, Kevin Camia , and Lin Sun

In the North­west — Mon­i­ca nevi, Cameron McCormick, Brent Lowry, Leroy Fir­wood, Ty Boice, and Carl Lee

In Vegas — Kel­ly Lee Williams

Fol­low Erik


Erik can be seen and heard:

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