Son Tran: Maximizing A Hobby

October 6, 2019

Photo Credit

171 Photo

Interview by

Valerie Lopez

Article by

Richard Goodwin

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We’re back this week with another on-location episode in for the 2019 Out of Bounds Comedy Festival. Valerie Lopez gets a chance to sit down with Out of Bounds performer Son Tran, a Houston-based comedian with some solid achievements under his belt. Tran has been a finalist for Funniest Comic in Texas twice, performed for the troops in Afghanistan, and has opened for household names like Rob Schneider and Gilbert Gottfried.

So is Tran’s story like so many we hear, where a young up and comer is entranced by comedy at an early age and set upon a path to achieve the spotlight, damn the cost? Not even close.

Tran’s family emigrated from Vietnam just after the war when he was still a child, settling in Canada and building a pleasant life despite the meager means with which they arrived. He had some limited exposure to comedy, including Eddie Murphy’s Raw. Of Murphy he says, “It never occurred to me that it was his job,” or, in fact, that comedy could be a job.

It wasn’t until age 42, now living in Houston, that Tran actually decided to take the creative energies he was investing in other hobbies (including writing a zombie book called Ghostland) and sink them into comedy. Most of the comics we talk to are, let’s say, a few years more towards the spring chicken age, a trend that isn’t lost on Tran. (Your author notes that he, also 42, just dated himself by using the term “spring chicken”.)

I think you’ve gotta make the most of the time spent away from the mic.
Son Tran

The challenges of starting at that point in Tran’s life, however, were not unlike that of any starting comic: practice, repetition, and refinement. As a family man, he doesn’t have quite the same bandwidth to get out and hit the open mic circuit, so he swaps out that time for working on his material alone. Touring gigs are almost out of the question, so business and vacation trips end up as fertile hunting ground for opportunities to do a quick set. Of course, it doesn’t hurt to leverage osmosis, and Tran applied his work ethic to studying others’ comedy in his free time, or, as he says, “I researched the hell out of it,” and “I think you’ve gotta make the most of the time spent away from the mic.”

The work has paid off since he started, as Tran’s first night on stage ended up a success, despite his nagging urge to bolt before his name was called. He readily admits he’s since bombed his share of times, but that first outing was a key bit of motivation to getting him hooked. He still calls himself a “serious hobbyist”, devoting as much as he can to comedy, but understanding of the fact that he has to maximize his efforts with the fewer overall events he can fit in. “When there’s a new contest announced, I’m the first to sign up...I want to prove myself to myself,” he jokes, with the outing providing validation and motivation until he comes across the opportunity that could take things to the next level.

When there’s a new contest announced, I’m the first to sign up...I want to prove myself to myself.
Son Tran

Tran bemoans a bit that often these events are a bit of an uphill battle, and wonders whether the “new face” kinds of awards will ever be in reach of someone whose friends lovingly call him a “dad comic.” He’s hopeful that persistence will pay off, as are we; all art forms flourish most when a variety of personas are allowed to shine.

Five years into his serious hobby, Tran shows no signs of stopping. He does have some specific goals on the near and far horizons, but, despite what transpires, he’s confident that doing comedy will always be part of his life. In September, he got the opportunity to perform in an all-Asian show in Austin, Standing Dragon, and hopes that Asian performers (and fans!) will continue to become more represented in the art.

So, whether you bump into Tran at the next festival, contest, or club, know that he’s out there somewhere, researching, performing, and maybe even sneaking off to do a set when his wife isn’t looking.

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Son Tran