Mike Eaton Handles the Ebbs and Flows

December 23, 2021

Photo Credit

Dulce Mac

Interview by

Valerie Lopez

Article by

Sara Cline

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The old say­ing is true: Com­e­dy is a cru­el and fick­le mis­tress. Actu­al­ly, I don’t think any­one has ever said that. It has been said about all kinds of things, though: fate, lady luck, the sea, actu­al mis­tress­es… We might as well throw com­e­dy into the mix; every­thing capri­cious yet allur­ing is char­ac­ter­ized as female. In fact, Ari­ana Grande’s hit song was actu­al­ly going to be called Com­e­dy Is a Woman,” but that was too many syl­la­bles. Per­haps no one knows this sim­ple truth more than our guest this week, who marks Valerie’s (…wait for it…) 198th inter­view! (200 is so close that we can taste it!) 

That guest is none oth­er than Mike Eaton — a beloved local come­di­an and self-described gig­gle­boy” with a child­like Tele­tub­by appear­ance.” For our final episode to close out the year, we can think of no time­li­er guest than Mike; tru­ly, there’s no one jol­lier, and it’s our absolute hol­i­day treat to have him. Don’t let his endear­ing, sun­shiney, poke­able appear­ance total­ly fool you, though. He’s got a foul mouth and a pen­chant for taboo top­ics, and he’s also weath­ered his fair share of ups and downs with our fair lady, com­e­dy. (I should men­tion that those ups include some crazy viral­i­ty on Tik Tok and Twit­ter, includ­ing a joke tweet that, odd­ly enough, was repost­ed by Don­ald Trump Jr.) But let’s start at the begin­ning, shall we?

Though Eaton was always a class clown, he actu­al­ly grew up plan­ning to be a pro foot­baller. When those dreams were unfor­tu­nate­ly dashed, he piv­ot­ed towards pol­i­tics. A lit­tle too much par­ty­ing piv­ot­ed him right back out of those plans, lead­ing him to join a 12-step pro­gram, where he actu­al­ly gained quite a bit of moti­va­tion­al speak­ing expe­ri­ence. How­ev­er, he began to feel like he was putting a ceil­ing on before [he’d] even fig­ured out what the house [was] going to be.” So, in an attempt to find his call­ing, he tried all kinds of jobs — from hard­ware store employ­ee to piz­za deliv­ery boy to knives sales­man to web­site builder. Even­tu­al­ly, he land­ed back in the realm of moti­va­tion­al speak­ing, and while there was a glim­mer of some­thing spe­cial there, Eaton relents that the juice wasn’t ever worth the squeeze.” It required a lot of train­ing, and, frankly, it wasn’t that fun.

I love learning. [It] fuels all of your material.
Mike Eaton

When Eaton found com­e­dy — that love­ly lady — he felt like all of his past expe­ri­ences just crys­tal­lized.” It just made sense. I love talk­ing about inter­est­ing stuff,” he asserts. (And jokes are def­i­nite­ly much more inter­est­ing than the moti­va­tion­al stuff.) I love learn­ing. [It] fuels all of your mate­r­i­al.” More than that, stand up res­onat­ed with him per­son­al­ly: Lis­ten­ing to come­di­ans turn their own pains into humor helped him through his low­est peri­ods. Now, Eaton loves return­ing the same favor to the uni­verse, decon­struct­ing weird and painful parts of [his] past” in fun­ny, relat­able ways.

Eaton’s first taste of the stage hap­pened in Dal­las, fresh off a bad break up. (Girl­friends are also harsh mis­tress­es some­times.) Once he moved to Austin, that ini­tial sam­pling led him to the Cap City open mic for more. Even­tu­al­ly he branched out to anoth­er mic — where he got so ner­vous that he threw up. Still, as months of doing mics passed by, he couldn’t real­ly seem to get booked. But, as lady luck would have it, a friend invit­ed him out to Los Ange­les, and he quick­ly found him­self smit­ten with the Com­e­dy Store and the city; it didn’t take him long to quit his job and move. On his sec­ond day there, he went to a 10-minute mic — a prospect which daunt­ed him, giv­en that his final open mic set in Austin was a rough sev­en min­utes. And I crushed it,” Eaton recalls. Like, I just did so well that I could do every joke that I’d ever done. And I could put them all togeth­er. And I was like, Oh, I have a set.’”

Of all his com­e­dy expe­ri­ences in LA — and there were many — one of Eaton’s stand­out mem­o­ries comes from run­ning a show at a dive bar in Hunt­ing­ton Beach, where he lucked into book­ing Josh Adam Mey­ers. As he watched Mey­ers begin his mate­r­i­al, Eaton could see that it just wasn’t work­ing — but then he watched as Mey­ers quick­ly piv­ot­ed into crowd work. “[H]e just change[d] the whole vibe and the ener­gy. And then he goes back into the same mate­r­i­al he start­ed at the begin­ning, and it mur­ders.” At first, Eaton was cer­tain this was witch­craft, but Mey­ers let him in on the real secret: “‘[Com­e­dy] is all about con­nec­tion […] Let them know that you’re here right now. Then you can do your jokes,’” Eaton reit­er­ates. That’s the most valu­able les­son I’ve ever got­ten in comedy.”

Still, Eaton acknowl­edges that there was def­i­nite­ly a tran­si­tion once he moved back to Austin. I had devel­oped and built basi­cal­ly like these bar sets where I could just talk about drugs,” Eaton recalls, and there would be some­one there [at the bar] on that drug.” Here, he could tell that those kinds of jokes would be inside base­ball at most shows; so, he had to fig­ure out how he could make his jokes more relat­able to dif­fer­ent audi­ences. You know, I still teeter tot­ter with it,” he admits. There are cer­tain parts of Austin that don’t like cer­tain sto­ries. And there’s some nights where I’m stub­born — I just want to do that sto­ry and fig­ure out how to make it work.” In fact, one of Eaton’s first shows back in town (well, George­town) went espe­cial­ly side­ways after an acci­den­tal, mis­cal­cu­lat­ed quip: I got chased out of town. [The host] had to help me get out the back door while they were com­ing out of the front door to find me.”

It's just an endlessly changing and fascinating puzzle. […] It's better than crack,
Mike Eaton

Even when faced with ornery crowds like that, he is as stead­fast as ever. There’s always a new chal­lenge,” Eaton says earnest­ly. Lit­er­al­ly, every day is a new thing. Every room. I can tell the same jokes two nights in a row. And […] even if it was the exact same group of peo­ple, it would be a dif­fer­ent expe­ri­ence.” Prac­tic­ing stand-up, then, becomes an exer­cise in try­ing dif­fer­ent com­bi­na­tions and per­mu­ta­tions of words and accru­ing an arse­nal of skills to deal with any sit­u­a­tion that could arise from them. It’s just an end­less­ly chang­ing and fas­ci­nat­ing puz­zle. […] It’s bet­ter than crack,” he says. I tried crack, and I pre­fer stand up.”

Ulti­mate­ly, Eaton’s phi­los­o­phy is that com­e­dy is all about the ener­gy in a room. It lit­er­al­ly feels like an orches­tra,” he remarks. And I can feel — like, if you were able to freeze time and take a pic­ture […] I could rate on a zero-to-100 scale the enjoy­ment of every­one […] And all that data is just com­ing in con­stant­ly. Like you feel the ebbs and flows.” Dur­ing a set, he will fre­quent­ly shift where he directs his ener­gy, based on those ebbs and flows in dif­fer­ent areas of the crowd. And it sounds, like, so stu­pid to say out loud,” he con­fess­es, but that’s real. That’s super real for me.”

Com­e­dy is like the sea — unpre­dictable and tem­pes­tu­ous — and we’re all sailors fol­low­ing her siren song. But even as Austin weath­ers the tur­bu­lent dynam­ics between old guard’ comics and new­er trans­plants, Mike Eaton cham­pi­ons the ami­able notion that a ris­ing tide rais­es all ships. Let’s all make each oth­er bet­ter,” he says. It seems to us like Eaton has the mind of a mariner and a pret­ty sea­wor­thy boat. We wish him fair winds and fol­low­ing seas.

Fol­low Mike


Mike can be seen and heard:

  • Pod­casts Host­ed — Gig­gle Boys Podcast
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Mike Eaton