In 2010, the Cap City Comedy Club named Lucas Molandes the funniest person in Austin, Texas . A year after winning that title, he moved to New York City. He recently went back home to record his first album for Stand Up Records, home to funny people like Jamie Kilstein, Hannibal Buress, Doug Stanhope, and a long list of other critically acclaimed stand-ups. He went to college to study philosophy before switching to engineering and giving that up for comedy. Since 2004, Molandes has been developing into the kind of stand-up comic other up- and-coming stand-ups want to be. His conversational style can’t be stolen. His material is wide-reaching yet perfect for alternative rooms: He can hope from poverty to the life and times of Jesus Christ without alienating the believers and the non-broke. Thanks to renewed interest in stand-ups like Marc Maron and storytelling thanks to The Moth and similar ventures, Molandes is primed for a much larger stage. He’ll be at the Velvet Lounge this Friday headlining the monthly Cool Dudes Hanging Out.
Washington City Paper: Why did you become a stand-up?
Lucas Molandes: I originally got into school to become a philosophy major. I used to joke that I transferred from that into comedy so people would take me serious. While going to school, I found out I was good at math so I switched to engineering. Twenty thousand dollars later I realized it wasn’t right for me. Luckily, I had journals filled with funny ideas and nothing to do with them so I turned to comedy.
WCP: How was growing up in Austin?
LM: I was born in Austin but grew up elsewhere in East Texas, a town that had about 24,000 people. When I moved back to Austin at 17, I had a perspective of someone who felt like an outsider.
I started doing stand up out in Austin around 2004 and began doing gigs on the road a few months after that, when other established comics would take me out with them. The audiences at those shows helped me create a way to describe my point of view that wasn’t so insulated. I learned how to relate my perspective in a way that people could relate to, despite how their background clashed with mine.
WCP: How did you develop your conversational style your comedy?
LM: If I’m talking on stage and say a set up and punchline and no one is laughing it’s incredibly awkward. If you just start talking, people become part of the show. They insert themselves into what you’re saying and so there’s no pressure of expectations on them.
WCP: What that intentional or was it so if a joke bombs it’s OK?
LM: Early on I would write in a traditional joke format, which means tricking people into laughing via tried and true formulas. Then I started writing whatever made me happy which makes for a better performance because I’m more excited to be on stage. The point of view is cathartic for me, and it translates on stage. I don’t know when that occurred. I quit comedy for about a year and half and when I came back it became less about the crowd wanted and what I needed to be comfortable on stage. After quitting, I never expected for comedy to be anything more than what I did for fun, so my motivation was to have fun.
WCP: Do you get uncomfortable on stage?
LM: When I’m part of a dog and pony industry show. When I get seven minutes in front of industry and there’s dozens of other performers and some of them are ventriloquists and some are singing and some are trying to shoehorn their persona into seven minutes, I’m uncomfortable. I’d rather do 45 minutes in front of a crowd at a club who are there to be there and have fun.
WCP: How has your interest in philosophy helped identify you as a comedian?
LM: I’m in an archaeological dig of my own past. I try to convert things that are specific to me into things that people can relate to.
I try to not read boring philosophy books that define the fundamental idea of things, books that use ten pages to decipher the real meaning of the the word ‘it.” I think the last book about philosophy that I’ve read is “The Irrational Man,” which is about the rise of existential philosophy in western culture. I read these type of books because they help provide context to the feelings inside of you that just sit there until you can figure out what they mean. That’s where my comedy comes from. Whenever I sit down and write I try to relieve that uncertain feeling in my guts, to give them form and shape. In the end, the jokes are superficial, but I can go into the philosophy of what I’ve said because that’s where I started. I can stand up to any heckler and defend my point of view because I don’t go for laughs when I write. I don’t write for punchlines. I’ll write it like a diary entry and later I’ll find the humor in it.