Brandon Lewin Finds the Flavor

May 29, 2021

Photo Credit

Brandon Lewin


Valerie Lopez


Valerie Lopez

Freedom should always be discussed within the context of responsibility
Garry Trudeau

In the media world, con­text mat­ters. I could say the sky is red and you, with­out con­text, could say I’ve gone mad. But if I add the flour­ish that I am report­ing from the plan­et Mars, then you have the con­tex­tu­al under­stand­ing of why I made that claim. And set­ting aside the absur­di­ty of me being on the plan­et Mars (is Miss Purry with me?? where do I find cof­fee??), if I do not share that detail with you, then word of my absurd think­ing will spread like wildfire.

And so I choose to open this arti­cle with a com­men­tary about con­text, because many local Austin comics will be read­ing this or lis­ten­ing to the pod­cast sole­ly with an inter­est in how – if at all – the con­tro­ver­sy over Tony Hinch­clif­fe’s use of a racial slur was revealed through the release of an edit­ed video clip released by Dal­las com­ic Peng Dang. The short answer is yes”, we do dis­cuss the con­tro­ver­sy, along with anoth­er where our guest Bran­don Lewin found him­self at the cen­ter of: when a local news chan­nel released a news sto­ry about the Austin com­e­dy scene, and played only a small clip of his 5‑minute-long inter­view. A short clip that many in the long-thriv­ing Austin com­e­dy scene took to mean Lewin felt there was no com­e­dy scene” pri­or to COVID, but was not at all Lewin’s mes­sage had the full inter­view been aired. .

So, with that out of the way, let’s meet our guest: CEO of Big Laugh Com­e­dy, Bran­don Lewin. 

A mar­ket­ing and Sales expert by trade, Lewin loved com­e­dy grow­ing up. He dab­bled in per­for­mance when he relo­cat­ed to Austin from Chica­go, but let’s talk about what it was like grow­ing up in Chica­go for Lewin. Work eth­ic was instilled upon him from a young age: At age 13, Lewin spent the sum­mer work­ing in down­town, com­mut­ing alone from the sub­urbs of Chica­go with only a pager as a com­mu­ni­ca­tion life­line. Unless you’ve spent time in Chica­go, it is hard to imag­ine just how daunt­ing and chal­leng­ing this is to do as a 13 year-old.

I love love learning. But what I don't like is people telling me what to do.
Brandon Lewin

If you love learn­ing, but you don’t love being told what to do, the tra­di­tion­al school and col­lege route aren’t like­ly to lead to a hap­py life. And so it was for Lewin, fueled by a hard work eth­ic and an incred­i­bly strong Emo­tion­al Intel­li­gence Quo­tient (EIQ), who fell nat­u­ral­ly into sales. And let’s dis­pel the notion of the obnox­ious car sales­man; some­times the jour­ney begins with pitch­ing snow-shov­el­ing ser­vices to an elder­ly neigh­bor. One of Lewin’s ear­ly tales of learn­ing the art of sell­ing, it’s fol­lowed by a mem­o­ry of work­ing in the con­cert tick­et resale mar­ket. He real­ized that he loved that feel­ing of help­ing some­one else out to get to a point of being, you know, hap­py and joy­ful. That brought me hap­pi­ness.” Even­tu­al­ly, sales piv­ot­ed to mar­ket­ing and a pletho­ra of skills learned along the way — from web­site build­ing to video (or con­tent cre­ation as the kids say) to relent­less pro­mo­tion. The themes for what it takes to be a suc­cess­ful com­e­dy pro­duc­er are start­ing to take form, but it would take a move to Austin before that could tru­ly take shape. 

Hav­ing also made the deci­sion to flee the bru­tal win­ters and con­crete jun­gles of Chica­go for nicer cli­mates avail­able to us in Austin, I can relate to the sen­ti­ment – expressed by Lewin’s daugh­ter – that final­ly prompt­ed him to leave his roots of 32 years: I don’t want to go back to snow. I want to wear san­dals all the time”. 

It was­n’t easy. It was relo­cat­ing with­out the cer­tain­ty of job secu­ri­ty. All with a wife and 2 kids. Of that time, Lewin admits When you tru­ly take your­self out of the com­fort zone and you get uncom­fort­able. It is fuck­ing hard and can be very, very hard.” We can pre­dict that the work eth­ic that has been instilled in him will soon take hold and help him find his foot­ing in Austin. 

In 2019, Lewin took to pro­duc­ing live shows. The tick­et sales were doing great and his ambi­tion kicked into gear to start book­ing larg­er names, but he could­n’t get trac­tion with agents who rep­re­sent­ed the big names he want­ed to bring in. The big goal for 2020 was to go all-in on com­e­dy pro­duc­tion, and things start­ed com­ing togeth­er when he booked a big name for a 300 seat venue. On March 72020

We all know what hap­pened in March of 2020. Despite the world abrupt­ly trans­form­ing, because he had com­mit­ted to pro­duc­ing com­e­dy full-time, Lewin launched an online video chan­nel which had a hand­ful of suc­cess­es. In fact, the show In the Meme Time had been launched as a live show by his pro­duc­tion com­pa­ny in ear­ly 2020, and became a hall­mark show on the video net­work dur­ing the summer. 

A hand­ful of oth­er shows were tried, some suc­cess­ful, oth­ers not. Lewin kept a lev­el head accept­ing that – as with most net­works – not every­thing would hit”. The art of suc­cess is nim­bly adapt­ing to sup­port what works and revise or drop what doesn’t. 

In the ear­ly Fall of 2020, a mar­ket appeared to open up for live per­for­mance in Austin. Lewin was ready to jump back to live show pro­duc­tion. And Big Laugh Com­e­dy was born as a live com­e­dy pro­duc­tion company.

I grew up with the mentality of like, every no leads to a yes. Gets me closer to a yes. So as much as people were telling me No, I knew that. I was just getting closer to my goal.
Brandon Lewin

What fol­lows next is the age old sup­ply and demand equa­tion at work.

Lewin observed the demand for live com­e­dy, as well as the sup­ply of comics will­ing to fol­low COVID safe­ty pro­to­cols. He made a great con­nec­tion with the man­ag­er and own­er of Vul­can Gas Com­pa­ny, who want­ed to keep their doors open but could­n’t oper­ate as an EDM venue while also observ­ing social dis­tance requirements. 

The lit­er­al doors opened at Vul­can Gas Com­pa­ny and Big Laugh Com­pa­ny, and, by the 4th show, a sell­out crowd had been achieved. And the names that Lewin was able to bring to down­town Austin were the names he had been reach­ing for before the COVID shut­down. So in many ways, Lewin admits that hear­ing the No” fueled him, explain­ing: I grew up with the men­tal­i­ty of like, every No leads to a Yes. Gets me clos­er to a yes. So as much as peo­ple were telling me No, I knew that. I was just get­ting clos­er to my goal.” 

For some­one who no longer per­forms com­e­dy, this is much like the comic’s life — there are a lot of rejec­tions and no’s that can serve as fuel to do what it takes to improve until you get the yes’es. So, for what­ev­er you think of Lewin and Big Laugh Com­e­dy, we can all con­nect with that phi­los­o­phy and way of think­ing. And did­n’t lose any of the sparkle in his eye about get­ting to book some big names in the com­e­dy world. And as a pro­duc­er, that’s impor­tant. It’s impor­tant to keep that sparkle because inevitably, con­tro­ver­sy will strike. 

A few months ago, the con­tro­ver­sy indeed struck in the form of an edit­ed clip of Lewin in a local news arti­cle about the Austin com­e­dy scene, and anoth­er of one of his main­stay head­lin­ers, Tony Hinch­cliffe. Hinch­cliffe made a racial slur on stage – direct­ed at Dal­las com­ic Peng Dang – dur­ing a per­for­mance at Vul­can Gas Com­pa­ny at a Big Laugh Com­e­dy show. 

Dang released an edit­ed clip which unleashed a firestorm of con­tro­ver­sy, some of which was direct­ed at Lewin for not tak­ing a stronger stand. It is at this point, that I ask peo­ple to lis­ten to the inter­view, not as a plug for the pod­cast, but for some­thing that is impor­tant to me. I do not want to risk mis­in­ter­pret­ing Lewin’s words describ­ing his respons­es to these two instances, but would rather have peo­ple lis­ten to his words and the feel­ings behind those words and make up their minds for them­selves. Maybe it’s a cop-out, but it is the only option that will allow you, and not me or Com­e­dy Wham, to inter­pret Lewin and decide how you want to feel. We spent a fair amount of time on the con­tro­ver­sies, which is why the episode is a bit longer than usu­al, but we think you’ll find it a worth­while invest­ment of time. And as Lewin closed out our dis­cus­sion, he not­ed there’s a fla­vor for every­body” when it comes to com­e­dy. Find your flavor.

And no mat­ter the fla­vor of com­e­dy that you choose, know that Lewin has invest­ed a lot of time in learn­ing the art of sales­man­ship, the art of pro­duc­ing com­e­dy shows, and the art of nav­i­gat­ing a con­tro­ver­sial field and keep­ing a thick skin about it all.

Bran­don can be seen at:

  • Big Laugh Com­e­dy live shows at Vul­can Gas Company

Fol­low Big Laugh Comedy

Fol­low Brandon

Brandon Lewin