Aaron Cheatham: Confident Family Man

June 25, 2023

Photo Credit

Justin Palermo (IG @JJBootleg)


Valerie Lopez


Richard Goodwin


One of our favorite moments is when a guest, after hear­ing Valerie’s intro about them, seems hum­ble and awestruck at hear­ing their own accom­plish­ments. This week, Aaron Cheatham is that per­son.

With a new spe­cial, Fam­i­ly Man, released in April, Cheatham has so much going on that we for­give a lapse in mem­o­ry regard­ing his own his­to­ry. He’s on mul­ti­ple pod­casts, includ­ing his own Gray Area, Black & Tan, and fre­quent guest on Bak’s Feed­bak, per­forms sketch & standup, and has even done com­men­tary for wrestling events. In a six-degrees-of-com­e­dy moment, Cheatham is also writ­ing part­ner for fre­quent Com­e­dy Wham colum­nist Rochelle McConico. 

Growing up, I used to try to make my dad laugh…that was my thing
Aaron Cheatham

When explor­ing Cheatham’s per­sona, his album title makes more and more sense. Grow­ing up, I used to try to make my dad laugh…that was my thing,” he recalls when asked about how com­e­dy entered his life. It was a con­stant in a life full of tem­po­rary, with the DC-born mil­i­tary brat mov­ing with his fam­i­ly to the Philip­pines, Mis­sis­sip­pi, and even­tu­al­ly set­tling in San Anto­nio. It’s nev­er easy being the new kid, much less always being the new kid.

Adding to every­thing being in flux”, Cheatham’s par­ents divorced when he was twelve, and a new out­let was need­ed for the habit he’d built for per­form­ing. I went from the qui­et kid in school to all of a sud­den the class clown,” Cheatham says, and took to car­ry­ing a cas­sette tape full of record­ed HBO spe­cials like those of Damon Wayans. While he wasn’t ready to start per­form­ing yet, the prac­tice began build­ing the crit­i­cal arts of mem­o­riza­tion and per­for­mance study.

I could recite entire spe­cials, man­ner­isms, word for word,” says Cheatham, call­ing back to ground­break­ing spe­cials from Steve Har­vey and Dave Chapelle. When life pre­sent­ed odd oppor­tu­ni­ties, like being pulled onstage at a fam­i­ly reunion, or sell­ing Kir­by vac­u­ums door to door, he found him­self con­sis­tent­ly per­form­ing” for crowds large and small, but he wasn’t quite yet sure who he was going to be. I had to live first,” he says, so even when his name on the Kir­by sales board was Standup”, he wasn’t quite ready to own it…yet.

Final­ly, enough time passed, or the right time arrived, or both. Come­di­an Sonia Smith was at the local Wal­mart — Cheatham’s day job at the time — buy­ing some shoes, and urged him to get onstage and do his first five”. I sucked…objectively I sucked,” he laughs when recount­ing the expe­ri­ence at the River­center Com­e­dy Club, which was a sta­ple of the San Anto­nio com­e­dy scene for many years. Thus land­ed the impor­tance of anoth­er key skill: writ­ing: I thought that they just had all this stuff in their head, and they just spit it out”. Between Jay White­cot­tons encour­age­ment and the River­center Com­e­dy Club man­ager’s strong encour­age­ment”, sud­den­ly the Wal­mart shoe depart­ment no longer sole­ly (ahem) pro­vid­ed footwear. It became a read­i­ly avail­able source of card­board slips that became the de-fac­to begin­ner com­e­dy note­book for Cheatham. I had like trash bags full of card­board things I’d writ­ten down,” he jokes, often leav­ing work with his smock stuffed beyond capac­i­ty. (He’s since moved to an actu­al bound writ­ing medium. )

I understand who I am…I’m confident in who I am
Aaron Cheatham

In the movie biopic of a comedian’s life, this is when the mon­tage would roll of Cheatham shoot­ing straight to star­dom; real­i­ty is of course a dif­fer­ent sto­ry. He shares mul­ti­ple set­backs and on-again off-again events with Valerie, includ­ing a mul­ti-year break from com­e­dy (before COVID), and adjust­ing (by being dif­fer­ent) to Austin’s com­e­dy style after devel­op­ing a strong San Anto­nio-style sto­ry­telling approach. It led to a new phase of Cheatham’s per­form­ing life, accept­ing who he was and the val­ue his dif­fer­ences brought: I under­stand who I am…I’m con­fi­dent in who I am”.

And who Cheatham is, at the moment, is a man who has a new spe­cial out. Fam­i­ly Man (avail­able on Youtube) start­ed its own life pre-COVID, but the record­ing wasn’t up to stan­dards and he knew it had to be redone. While he found ways to per­form dur­ing the pan­dem­ic, it’s no sur­prise that record­ing a spe­cial is an alto­geth­er dif­fer­ent mat­ter. The pause ulti­mate­ly gave him the time to mar­i­nate and work the mate­r­i­al, cul­mi­nat­ing in the new record­ing hap­pen­ing at the delight­ful (and visu­al­ly entic­ing) East Austin Com­e­dy Club.

While Fam­i­ly Man is, in its way, a lov­ing let­ter to Cheatham’s recent com­e­dy his­to­ry, he’s already look­ing to the future. In a Com­e­dy Wham exclu­sive (tech­ni­cal­ly; we haven’t heard it any­where else!) he dropped the news that he plans to record his next album in the com­ing months. He’s in an invig­o­rat­ed phase, and loves what the com­e­dy scene Austin has to offer post-pan­dem­ic, rav­ing about the oppor­tu­ni­ties to get on stage, or even just to catch a great show.

You can learn so much right now in this scene, just by going and watch­ing,” Cheatham says, per­fect for a phase where he’s thirsty for knowl­edge”. As the inter­view wraps, this is where we’d nor­mal­ly look for plugs for future projects, more hints about what’s next, but Cheatham prefers to leave it open”, and his atti­tude about the cur­rent moment seems to say it all. This is the best place for me to be, any night of the week,” he says, being able to just show up some­where and see great comedy…Like, what more can you ask for?”

We couldn’t agree more.

Fol­low Aaron

Aaron can be seen and heard:

  • Sec­ond spe­cial will be taped in Fall 2023
  • Launch­ing Boot­leg Media (Jan­u­ary 2024)
  • Pod­casts
    • Gray Area Podcast 
    • Black and Tan Podcast
  • Spe­cials
Support Comedy Wham

Follow @ComedyWham on Instagram, Facebook, Youtube, Twitch, and Tiktok

If you'd like to support our independent podcast, check out our Patreon page at: Patreon.com/comedywham . You can also support us on Venmo or Paypal - just search for ComedyWham.

Aaron Cheatham