John Rabon: A Ghost and a Machine

October 27, 2017

Interview by

Valerie Lopez

Article by

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