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. 

  • Vet­er­ans Arts Fes­ti­val Char­i­ty Show — Wednes­day 116 at George Wash­ing­ton Carv­er Museum
  • Two Dol­lar Com­e­dy Show — Wednes­day 109 at The Secret Group
  • Haha for Hope — Char­i­ty Com­e­dy Night Ben­e­fit­ing Sky High for Kids — Wednes­day 1016 at The Secret Group
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Son Tran