It’s hard to make people laugh. Audiences can be fickle and hold a staunch, “let’s see if you can make us laugh” vibe. Even the most accomplished comics, Chris Rock, Mike Epps, and Cedric the Entertainer must hone their craft constantly. Comedy is based on immediate feedback. It is truly a skill, for the actor, that demands being, and performing in the moment. How many times have we seen comedic movies that fell flat because the comedic timing wasn’t right? Those movies fell flat because the actors in them most likely played for the laugh rather than to their objectives—there’s also the sheer subjectivity of what exactly is funny.
Local comic Trevor Joyner is definitely a man who knows the essence of comedy. Joyner, who was a theater major in college and has done commercials and short films, has spent years in the business honing his craft and after lots of time touring, has decided to film a comedy special in the Nations Capitol this May at the Bier Baron Tavern (1523 22nd Street, NW, Washington, DC).
Might we see Joyner in the next Kevin Hart or Will Ferrell comedy flick? Might we see him on his own show on Comedy Central or in a series of comedy specials on Netflix? Time will tell. In the meantime, let’s hear what Joyner has to say about his upcoming comedy special and the business of comedy.
William Powell: Tell me about your upcoming comedy special at Bier Baron Tavern?
Trevor Joyner: So, I’ve been on the road for the past couple of years, and I just decided that now is a good time to shoot a special. I recorded my first comedy album about a year ago, and I got some great feedback from that. So I just wanted to, in a major way, put out the material I’ve been working on for the past couple of years and include in a lot of fresh, current things that were ready to be taken out of the oven . And I decided to bring it to D.C., my hometown, which is a place that I don’t get to perform as much as I would like to, because D.C. felt like the perfect muse, the perfect vibe, and the perfect place to shoot my first comedy special.
WP: You’ve started shopping it around to various TV outlets, no?
TJ: No, that’s actually more towards the ending phase of shooting the special. Right now, we’re mainly focused on doing some really dynamite shows for the people and getting it all caught on film. That said, we have a couple of networks and outlets that we have our eye on. Obviously, Netflix is doing some really awesome things and producing some really great specials and so are a few other networks. Once it’s shot, we’ll make an official announcement as to what platform you can see the special on.
WP: Why is comedy so much more challenging than other performing arts?
TJ: Comedy is tough because it’s the only art form that is based on immediate feedback. With singing and with shooting films and all these other art forms, you have so much time for the product to sit with the people and to get that review, but when it comes to stand-up people either feel like something is funny or it’s not, right away. People can take their time deciding whether something is sad or if it makes them feel happy, but with comedy it’s like, “I laughed” or, “I didn’t laugh”. Humor is one of the most subjective things, which makes it much tougher as an art form. You live and die instantly in that moment. There’s no way to edit it, there’s no way to come back from what you said. Everything is instant. Also there’s a very specific trial and era period you go through to hone your comedic craft that can be brutal.
WP: Do you find audiences have a “you better make me laugh” attitude?
TJ: They can, depending on where you’re performing. When I started out, I faced a lot of those kinds of audiences. I don’t so much now though because I do shows now where people are paying to laugh and if you don’t deliver it’s less attitude and more of just a let down. It’s more like a happy expectation like, “We paid to laugh and this is why we’re here.”
WP: When did you know you could make it as a comic?
TJ: I think once I decided very very early on that it was all I wanted to do, and I wasn’t pursuing any other options. Knowing I could make it wasn’t based on anything financial or anything having to do with fame. It was all having to do with a decision I made within myself that this is what I’m going to stick with. Something clicked too when I realized that I was making my high school teachers and administrators laugh. It was an epiphany. If I was able to crack the hard exteriors of these people in charge, these authority figures, with humor, then, I thought, “OK, maybe I can do this on a larger level.”
WP: What acting roles have you performed?
TJ: I actually haven’t done any acting in a very long time. I did a lot of plays when I was in high school. I was actually a theater major in college. I did a few commercials and a short film or two. But stand up is the main thing I’ve been focusing on for a really long time. So maybe down the road I’ll do more acting, but right now it’s all about the funny business.I’m not in a rush to let the world see my Denzel skills! But no, my fiance is a professional actress, and I see the work and dedication that it takes, and for me telling jokes is way easier than having a 4 a.m. call time.
WP: Favorite comedic actors?
TJ: I love David Allen Grier. Jamie Foxx and Cedric The Entertainer are very underrated in my opinion. Those guys are always funny in every medium.
WP: Favorite sitcoms?
TJ: I grew up watching “Martin”, and I absolutely loved “Sanford and Son”. You’re going to laugh at this, but also “Moesha”. I think “Moesha” is one of the best sitcoms to air on TV. And also, Robert Towsend’s “The Parent ‘Hood”. Currently, though, “Fresh Off The Boat” is a favorite. The writing for that show is dope.
WP: Advice for young comics?
TJ: It’s always so weird when people ask that! I don’t like giving advice. But if I had to, I would say to anyone wanting to get into comedy: get onstage as much as possible. Just stay on stage. That’s where you figure everything out. Everything comes from the time spent on stage. Don’t even seek out too much advice, just get on stage and if you’re up there long enough, you’ll eventually figure everything out you’ll need to know.