Lando Shepard's Got Something

March 22, 2020

Photo Credit

Lando Shepard


Valerie Lopez


Richard Goodwin


Wait­ing in the wings, either ahead of a set or just enjoy­ing a show, Lan­do Shep­ard is sur­pris­ing­ly unas­sum­ing. When he walks onstage, sip­ping from a con­sis­tent­ly present cock­tail tum­bler, there’s no grand tran­si­tion in his demeanor, no sud­den char­ac­ter change. Shep­ard feels like a friend that came upon your group at a par­ty, always with a coterie of sto­ries deliv­ered casu­al­ly and with innate confidence. 

As a sin­gle par­ent run­ning his own busi­ness, Shep­ard has no short­age of real world expe­ri­ences for inspi­ra­tion. One of the rare breed of Austin natives, he’s also in the fair­ly exclu­sive club of peo­ple named after a Star Wars char­ac­ter. His full, and very real, name is Lan­do Cal­riss­ian Shep­ard, in a nod from his Star Wars fan moth­er to Bil­ly Dee Williams’ role in the orig­i­nal (and some might say only”) tril­o­gy. Hey, let’s name a child after the black guy, which is not cool because he was a trai­tor,” he jokes, adding it’s kin­da hard grow­ing up in the ghet­to when you got a snitch’s name.” 

In con­trast to the gre­gar­i­ous fic­tion­al Cal­riss­ian, Shep­ard presents as a bit more reserved, espe­cial­ly as Valerie Lopez starts to dig into ques­tions about his life. I don’t like talk­ing about myself, [but] a lot of what I talk about on stage is my real life,” he admits. There’s no grand arc of a comedic back­sto­ry in his past, he jokes; one evening he just made his way to Mr Tramps to do his first ever set. (While it went very well, the next time he ate a bowl of dicks”.) 

Shep­ard does divide his run in com­e­dy so far in terms of the ear­ly days, and when I [start­ed] writ­ing”, mark­ing the tran­si­tion to devot­ing more time and effort to prepar­ing mate­r­i­al. In the con­tin­ued theme of unique firsts with Shep­ard, he’s also (our first?) Toast­mas­ters mem­ber, a fact that thrilled Valerie to no end (as a mem­ber and advo­cate herself). 

When you have a burning desire [to do something], you’ve gotta do it….It’ll eat you up.
Lando Shepard

For those of us who have seen Shep­ard grow from those ear­ly per­for­mances and into his cur­rent style, it’s not like there’s a notice­able night-and-day dif­fer­ence. His musi­cal bari­tone and con­ver­sa­tion­al deliv­ery are very much the same, if per­haps a bit more pol­ished. I think it speaks to how, over his 4 years in the scene, what he brings to the stage is still sim­ply an hon­est shar­ing of his life and expe­ri­ences. It’s part of his core phi­los­o­phy of talk­ing about what he knows about. I don’t have a Tin­der joke, I don’t have an Uber joke,” he says, and feels it wouldn’t be hon­est to try and patch one togeth­er to try to reach the var­ied age groups in today’s audiences.

Shep­ard does share freely about some aspects of his per­son­al life that def­i­nite­ly will forge a con­nec­tion for some, with jokes about his own strug­gles with dyslex­ia and poten­tial­ly autism. As with most of the chal­lenges he dis­cuss­es, he speaks of them less as road­blocks than ben­e­fits. He explains that the traits have borne in his com­e­dy some strate­gic tools: mem­o­riz­ing his sets, rec­og­niz­ing when the audience’s atten­tion span drifts so he knows when to quick­ly switch up mate­r­i­al. Once he decid­ed to pur­sue com­e­dy, he sim­ply began adapt­ing and deliv­er­ing with the toolset he had. When you have a burn­ing desire [to do some­thing], you’ve got­ta do it,“ he advis­es, dif­fi­cul­ties be damned. It’ll eat you up.” 

Being ready to adapt to the audi­ence at a moment’s notice is some­thing Shep­ard feels is crit­i­cal­ly impor­tant. He sees Austin as a melt­ing pot”, and the crowds here don’t always rep­re­sent the kind of recep­tion you’ll get out­side the city lim­its. He struc­tures his mate­r­i­al to han­dle the process of tak­ing the tem­pera­ment of the room: Most of my jokes start off as one-lin­ers,” he says, giv­ing him a quick read on whether the con­tent is going to land, and a method to quick­ly piv­ot if it doesn’t. When some­one con­sis­tent­ly pulls this off, with­out jar­ring tran­si­tions, it makes the whole process seem effort­less, bely­ing the expe­ri­ence and work that went into mak­ing it look that way.

I want to [be known] as that type of comic that...shows up on time, and is able to deliver.
Lando Shepard

I still think I suck,” Shep­ard half-jok­ing­ly tells Lopez, when asked about the great year he’s been hav­ing. When I get asked to do some­thing, I [still] go, Wow, me?’!” He lets slip that he’s also been booked for the first time for the Moon­tow­er Com­e­dy fes­ti­val (with the post­pone­ment of the fes­ti­val to Sep­tem­ber, we expect no change to this great announce­ment) this year. A life­time of tack­ling chal­lenges he was told he’d nev­er be able to man­age – being a par­ent, run­ning a busi­ness, going to col­lege – con­tin­ues to cast a shad­ow on his per­cep­tion of his successes. 

While he may not emo­tion­al­ly be ready to ful­ly embrace that progress, log­i­cal­ly Shep­ard knows things are trend­ing upward and will keep doing so as long he keeps the heat on his goals. He talks about grander desires, like want­i­ng to book an entire stretch in Atlanta, Geor­gia, mixed right in with a sim­pler through-line of build­ing a rep­u­ta­tion as a con­sis­tent, reli­able per­former. I want to [be known] as that type of com­ic that…shows up on time, and is able to deliver.” 

There’s not a drug out there [that compares with the laughter of an audience]...
Lando Shepard

What fuels Shepard’s fires to keep him moti­vat­ed on this jour­ney? “[The] roar of laugh­ter” from the crowd, he says with a chuck­le: There’s not a drug out there [that com­pares], and I’ve done a lot!” His focus on get­ting that – some­times elu­sive – reac­tion, keeps him com­ing back to the stage, always aim­ing to make each set bet­ter than the last. He remains end­less­ly fas­ci­nat­ed about being that some­one dif­fer­ent” in a lot of rooms, and car­ries that won­der with him into his performances. 

The com­bi­na­tion of feel­ing like you’re watch­ing an old friend, yet see­ing a com­plete­ly new side of them under the lights, is a pow­er­ful one. For Lan­do Shep­ard, his act is almost that he’s not act­ing at all, and we’re ready to pull up a chair and lis­ten any­time he’s ready to share. 

Lan­do can be seen:

Fol­low Lando

Lando Shepard