Tyler Groce - Learning by Doing

October 6, 2020

Photo Credit

Tyler Groce

Interview by

Valerie Lopez

Article by

Scott Sticker

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This is our debut Comedy Wham Presents Live Stream! You can see the recorded video interview on the Comedy Wham Twitch or Youtube channels, or on our Comedy Wham Facebook Page.

At any given open mic, this is a common scene: you’ll notice a comic slip the mic back into the stand, slink off the stage and sidle up to Tyler Groce. Groce will lean towards the comic and casually whisper something in their ear. They’ll double over with laughter, pull out their notebook, then sigh, “dammit that’s so much better than what I wrote…”

Groce is one of those comics who seems to have the “natural performer spark.” Infuriating to other comics, infectious to audiences, and intriguing to anyone even thinking of starting standup. And just like so many others with that spark, its main igniting force was hard work.

A keen observer, Groce noticed from a young age that funny people got noticed quickly. He’d watch his mom rolling with laughter at an episode of I Love Lucy (which Groce contends does not hold up) and he’d want that attention. His hard work then was studying – sitcoms, his siblings, strangers who made people laugh – and parsing through what was funny.

The sitcoms he’d studied as a child transformed into comedy podcasts as a college student at Texas A&M, which eventually led him to stumbling into seeing Tommy Johnagin at Cap City Comedy Club.

“It was my first time seeing live stand up,” Groce said, “and it was just a guy on stage talking. And it seems so simple … because it is. That's what so elegant about it is it is simple.”

It seemed simple, but it wasn’t until after Groce was out of college that he treaded into comedy. Even then, he jumped into improv first because he was “too afraid to do standup.” He poured himself into improv for several months before writing enough to decide to get up on the stage by himself.

He first tried standup at an open mic at Austin Java on Lamar. “I didn’t get a laugh, but I got a ‘huh,’” Groce said. “And that was all I needed. That was great. I didn’t need any more than that.”

I didn’t get a laugh, but I got a “huh,” and that was all I needed. It was great. I didn’t need any more than that.
Tyler Groce

If you watch Groce’s standup, you can tell he’s an improvisor – he’s beyond quick on his feet, able to roll with a quick line about the comic before him or unite the audience by noticing something quirky about the room. If you watch him do improv though, you wouldn’t guess he was a standup – and that’s on purpose, he said.

“…the more I got into stand up, it hurt my improv,” he said, “because whenever you do stand up, you want to be funny. You want to do the joke. You want to be clever. You don't want to lose your ego… but you're not helping the scene.” That made him work harder to consider the full team and land jokes when he can, not steal the show to promote himself.

That “huh” that Groce got at his first mic ignited the spark inside him that he would consistently fuel over the next several years by getting on as many stages as possible. He competed in Cap City’s Funniest Person in Austin competition first in 2017 without advancing. The next year, however, he got through as a finalist.

“It was crazy,” Groce said. “It was really exciting. I’m glad that really brought up my clout in the scene.” With that clout came hosting one of the Austin scene’s longest running, most prestigious shows, Buzzkill at the Buzzmill.

His clout and his talent continued to grow exponentially until Groce was seemingly whisked away from the Austin scene to Amsterdam to work with Boom Chicago, a world-famous comedy factory that has churned out notable comedians and writers such as Jordan Peele, Seth Meyers, Ike Barinholtz, and Jason Sudeikis.

At Boom, Groce got to live the life of a performer. Along with six other cast-members, Groce was on stage six nights of the week, performing and pushing himself to try new things. To someone like Groce, this fueled the comedy spark inside him to an inferno.

“I got so much better in that time,” Groce said. “I grew. I not only got better, but, I learned more about what comedy is, how it functions; how it works."

It was a master-lesson in “learning by doing,” he said. Doing comedy in another country taught Groce to deconstruct his jokes and look at everything in a new light. He said that’s the main reason he got better. “You have to consider that every word you say is being hit by ears that may not know what you’re talking about,” he said. The entire year he was in Amsterdam, he worked to tweak his jokes, his references, his set-ups to get the same reaction as he would get in the states.

After a year of this master lesson, Austin’s siren song snagged Groce back. He had plans to relax with his girlfriend in Austin, compete in another FPIA, then head to LA or New York City. Of course, COVID hit and his plans quickly unraveled.

Ever evolving and a nonstop worker though, Groce didn’t let a global pandemic stop him from producing comedy. He has put out consistently funny and thought-provoking videos on Instagram regularly touching on every social issue imaginable.

“There’s always a core, funny thing I want to hit on,” Groce said of his video matter, “but I think just how my brain works is I typically think about race stuff or social issues. And if I find something funny in there, I’m like: ‘oh! Let me try to cram it into video form!’”

You don’t have to wait for someone to say, ‘can you come be funny on stage?’ If you want to be a filmmaker, go make a film!
Tyler Groce

He had plans to take a film course after leaving Amsterdam, but the progression of his Instagram videos really shows Groce’s progression through his commitment to learning by doing. “You don’t have to wait for someone to say, ‘can you come be funny on stage?’” Groce said. “If you want to be a filmmaker, go make a film!”

The fact that Groce’s hard work has brought him literally around the world proves his philosophy of “learning by doing.” Once live comedy comes back, we’ll be watching Groce closely, if not only to see what brilliant lines he slips to someone just coming off stage.

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