Teddy Margas Was Born With It

August 9, 2021

Photo Credit

Teddy Margas

Interview by

Valerie Lopez

Article by

Sara Cline

2021 Summer Vacation Series

Destination - Los Angeles, California

The world is in the midst of a host of debuts, including the blinding sight of faces that haven’t seen true sunlight for many months, poking out of doors and taking the cautious first steps back into the great outside.
It’s only fitting that we debut something of our own for the podcast: the 2021 Summer Vacation Series. While we’re in no way on vacation, the theme speaks more to that most summer-y of concepts, traveling to new places near and far. Many of our guests are local to Austin, but during the pandemic we had the honor of “hosting” comics from around the world on our Isolation Comedy series, and the Vacation Series is our way of bringing them back for the full Comedy Wham interview treatment.

Everybody has their own comedy origin story — kind of like superheroes. Some get into comedy from radioactive spider bites… some are aliens from destroyed planets… a few were billionaire orphans raised by their butlers. But Teddy Margas? Teddy was born with it.

“I was an actor from birth, literally,” Margas says. He recounts a story that his mother probably loves to tell time and time again: It was Margas’s due date, his mother had been in labor all day, and it was getting close to midnight. Then, The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson comes on the delivery room TV. The theme music plays, and Margas comes out from backstage (the green womb, if you will) right on cue at 11:31 PM.

Of course, it helps when comedy is in your blood. “My dad was always the guy at the holiday parties who... came with a joke or two,” Margas explains. “Granted, they were corny or inappropriate or dirty. But he was known for that.” Margas’s mother’s side of the family was equally saturated with “just constant, constant humor,” which he soaked up like a sponge… or my dad’s expensive wood floor… or a supersize feminine sanitary product. Whatever absorbent simile you want, really. He hearkens back to an especially vivid memory: He was at the nickel movie theater with his Aunt Estelle, when the marquee for some odd reason was showing “Mask” but also “Mask with Cher” on two different screens. When the attendant asked which movie she wanted to see, she responded, “The other kids want it with Cher. Can I get Cher on the side?”

You pretty much know how school went down for him after that: class clown, go-to guy for comedic roles in plays, all of that. Then he was off to study acting. Duh. But stand-up? Stand-up took a little longer to find. It only really began to percolate when some disenchantment with acting began to crop up. It wasn’t the acting that was the problem, though; it was the fact that only so many auditions result in an actual role to work on. Teddy yearned to be creatively challenged on a more regular basis. Of course, when his peers provided the obvious answer (stand-up), Margas recoiled. “I was like, ‘Oh, there's no way,’” he recollects, “… I need a script; I need to analyze it; I need to take it apart; I need to find the character.” And that was that, for a while.

Fast forward a bit and, somehow or another, Margas found himself sitting in a job worlds away from acting or stand-up: organizing pamphlets at a travel agency. Did your heart just sink reading that? Mine too. Simply going through the motions, he wasn’t struck by the reality of it until a few months in, when a customer called and asked to speak to a travel agent. “And I said, ‘Oh, I'm a travel agent,’ and when I heard it, I thought, ‘How the heck am I a travel agent?’” Margas exclaims, “Like, what? How did this happen?’” He gave his two weeks’ notice that same day.

Stand-up embodies everything. [It] embodies being a writer. It embodies acting. It embodies producing, promoting.
Teddy Margas

Finally, the travel agency scare gave him the kick in the pants he needed; he was ready to try stand-up. When he got on stage, he couldn’t believe he had waited so long. He relished the freedom of having absolute control over the whole thing; he was the performer, script-writer, and director. Even now, Margas steadfastly asserts, “Stand-up embodies everything. [It] embodies being a writer. It embodies acting. It embodies producing, promoting.” He was so enthralled that he set his sights singularly on comedy, leaving acting by the wayside, but then the two serendipitously coalesced as directors began to approach him for roles because of his comedy. Of course, there’s room for both worlds inside a personality as big as his.

Hearing all of this, you would think that Margas was totally in his element and loving every minute on stage. You’ll be surprised to hear this, then: “My favorite part of doing comedy was when it was over,” Margas recalls. “It was just so terrifying to me… [I had to tell myself,] ‘it's only for three minutes… for five minutes… for seven minutes. Just get through it.’” When it was over, there was the comforting sensation of certainty again — he knew immediately if he’d done well or not. Even more, he loved when people would come up to him “like a receiving line in a wedding,” to talk to him about a joke they’d loved or that really resonated with them.

It wasn’t until five or six years ago that he couldn’t wait to hit the stage and didn’t want to leave once he was up there. “It takes a long time to find your stage legs, your voice,” he remarks. “They have to know who you are within the first 30 seconds,” he explains, “…either by how you took the mic or… the first thing that you said.” But once you know exactly who you are on stage, “you become like a fine-tuned, well-oiled machine,” Margas says.

Fortunately for us, Margas was quite happy to dish to Valerie about his experiences working with Joan Rivers on Fashion Police, even though he’s probably been asked a thousand times. “It was my favorite job I've ever had,” he gushes, even though he had to be up at 4:30 AM for each show. “To watch her work, I learned so much from her. And she was such a willing teacher, and loved comedy and loved comics… She taught me how to be the star.” He almost talked himself out of the gig though, due to the stigma that warm up roles are for comics who couldn’t hack it. But not only did he learn immensely, it also opened doors for him in casting offices. Casting directors would stop to ask “What was working with Joan Rivers like?” which was pretty astounding, since auditions are usually a very cut and dry process: You read and you leave. Having those extra few minutes to answer that question and make an impression was truly a game changer for him.

My goal is to make people laugh. That said, if I'm making you laugh, I've achieved my goal. If that happens to be in a college, if that happens to be in an audience for another comic, if that happens to be the opener… I don't care.
Teddy Margas

Now, Margas is resolute in his position: “My goal is to make people laugh. That said, if I'm making you laugh, I've achieved my goal. If that happens to be in a college, if that happens to be in an audience for another comic, if that happens to be the opener… I don't care.” In fact, he’s got a bag full of Teddys in his head for every occasion. He can deliver medium level Teddy as an opener, or full throttle Teddy as a headliner, and he’ll gladly walk the balancing act for anything in between, feeding off the audience’s energy all the while.

Hearing him speak, you don’t have to hear him say it explicitly (though he will), you can hear it in his voice: He loves what he does. “I don't see it as work because I love it so much,” he says simply. His passion and commitment to his work is so grandiose that he’s missed birthdays, funerals, weddings — even his own brother’s wedding. “I've missed a lot,” Margas reckons, “and there will be times when I'm like, ‘Oh, did I make the right decision?’ … Yes, I made the right decision, because I'm happy.” Don’t worry though, he still listened to the wedding via his cell phone as he made his way to his callback audition. He’s not heartless, you know; he’s just dedicated and loves what he does. (And he’s worked with the likes of RuPaul and Joan Rivers, so can you really blame him?)

These days, you can catch him telling “Teddy Tales” every Tuesday and Thursday on Instagram Live ­— which he says are essentially “little stories from my big gay life,” and he’s on Tik Tok! We’ll definitely be tuning in to listen; we just hope he doesn’t get bit by any radioactive spiders because he’s already way too super-powered as it is.

Want to know more about comedy in Los Angeles, California?

Teddy's recommendations for comics to check out from LA include: Percy Rustomji, Matt Marr, Oscar Aydin, and Gus Constantellis

If you're in LA, Teddy recommends of course checking out the variety of shows (it's huge, almost too huge, in his words), but if you're a comic and you're reluctant to make the move to LA, as the ad campaign goes "just do it" he says. He says that comics who come to LA can find their niches as long as they keep an open mind and do the work. And importantly, be yourself!

Follow Teddy

Teddy can be seen and heard:

  • Teddy Tales on Instagram Live every Tuesday & Thu Live (5pm PDT)
  • Teddy & The Empress (Cooking the Queens) Podcast
  • Film/TV/Movies - Lethal Weapon (2016), Miss 2059 (2016), Beast Mode (2020), Persianality (TV Series 2019); Fashion Police (2014); AJ & The Queen (Netflix)
  • Comedy Performances - Catch him at the Comedy Store, Laugh Factory, and the Improv
Teddy Margas