Erik Escobar - Brings Us Together

August 30, 2021

Photo Credit
Cameron Wright/Stacy Vandergriff
Interview by

Valerie Lopez

Article by

Valerie Lopez

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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

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