Stand Up & Deliver: 13 Years of Taco Bell
In the world of stand up comedy, there are those who always seem to be easy to get ahold of. These are great comics, but they’re almost readily available for anyone who wants to get ahold of the. When we started this series out, the most frequent request from those in the world of stand-up, was getting those who paved the way for those who’ve just gotten started. The name that kept coming out of comics’ mouths.was Sam Demaris. A Houston native, one of the famed Whiskey Brothers, and a veteran of the road; Demaris is almost never in town. That’s a great thing as he’s pretty much on the road for the better part of a calendar year. Free Press Houston got a chance to pick his brain about where he’s from, where he’s been, and where he’s going.
FPH: You’re from Houston, and a graduate of Bellaire High School, was comedy your intended career path back when you graduated?
SD: My career path in High School was to do something that wasn’t boring. I didn’t know what that was, I just knew I never wanted an office. I WAS really big into theater back then, but that was because I wanted to be an actor. I was a fan of comedy, but the switch didn’t really flip to career path until I was in college. Once it did, bye bye college.
FPH: You’ve been doing stand up for 13 years, correct? Who was all in your “stand up class” when you got started?
SD: Wow. Do you have any idea how much I’ve drank since then? That’s a little hard to recall. I came in at a weird time in Houston. It was kind of a changing of the guard in Comedy. Guys like Ralphie May, Greg Warren, Sean Rouse, and John Wessling had either just moved to L.A. or were about to. So it left this open door for people to come in and try to make an impression. The two who really did who are still at it were myself and Paul Oddo We actually tied for Houston’s Funniest Person in 2002 and had both only been doing comedy for about a year. Paul actually won the Boston Comedy Festival 2 years ago so it’s good to see our class still kickin’ ass.
FPH: What about comedy drew you to it?
SD: After years of live Theater and improvisation, the initial draw was the freedom of performing alone. I could write my own lines. I had no director yelling at me because I did something wrong. Even though I was already a performer, I had never had those things before and they were instantly addictive. What it lacked in pay (as in there was none), it made up for in fun.
FPH: You have a pretty intense touring schedule, including many war torn places; how does a comic get into playing the middle east? Is there a place you’ve done where you wouldn’t go back to?
SD: I first started going overseas out of pure luck. A comic named Olivia Arrington was booking runs and she happened to see me on the right night and liked my stuff. She took a chance and actually booked me before I was even ready for it. And some of the places have been a little rough, but as long as U.S. soldiers are still there I’d go back to any of them. All the guys are really cool and really happy to see you. And war torn or not, there’s no safer place on earth than being surrounded by a bunch of active duty military.
FPH: You have a very relatable form to how you do stand-up, have you always done it that way, or did you have to get some time in before you honed your act to what it is today?
SD: That definitely came with time. I experimented with what kind of comic I wanted to be for years. Political, one-liner, and of course the dirty comic were all things that I tried and scrapped before just talking about stories from my own life that most people can relate to. Feels like I wasted a few years sometimes, but in hindsight, I needed it.
FPH: Who are your favorite comics past and present?
SD: Pryor and Carlin are god status. People always say Pryor is #1, but I think those two guys are neck and neck. I think Chris Rock is a better performer than anybody past OR present. His delivery is unparalleled. But working today, my go to guys are still Bill Burr, Joe Rogan, Doug Stanhope, Tosh, etc. The hitters don’t change for me
FPH: The great comic George Wallace recently said, “I recently watched my first Tonight Show appearance, back in 1979. I was so skinny, and I wasn’t any good either.” Do you go back and look at any of your work, and think, “that’s not any good?”
SD: I was skinny at first too. 13 years of Taco Bell on the road will fix that shit quick. Not only do I think it’s no good, I try to hide it from the public eye. Every comic evolves (at least they should) and outgrows stuff. Sometimes people ask to see the early stuff and I show them. Most of the time, they still laugh. I should take that as a compliment, but in my head I just keep asking “what the hell is wrong with them?”
FPH: You’re one of Houston’s famed Whiskey Brother’s; how did you get involved with them & of the four of you, who’s the biggest whiskey connoisseur?
SD: That was another right place, right time thing. Rob Mungle made the call to bring me in back in 2003. I don’t know if I was ready for that either but I jumped at the opportunity and it’s been one of my better decisions. Performing with those guys seriously borders on the most fun you can have without ending up in jail. And some of us still end up in jail. The biggest whiskey connoisseur out of us is a toss up between Slade Ham and myself. We all drink a lot of whiskey, but I think Slade and I are the two with the biggest sense of adventure. And we’re purists. Johnny will drink just about anything whiskey or not and Rob mixes his whiskey with coke. Gross.
FPH: You have the one album, 2007’s “Where’s My Damn Cake?” Have you been working on a possible follow up?
SD: I also have a dvd I filmed in 2010, but you can only get it at my live shows. I’ve never sold it online and I kinda dig that. To answer your question though, yes. I’m currently working with the Whiskey Brothers to get this special shot and once we do, I think it’s time for another album and material dump. Hoping to drop one in early 2015 and early 2016 as well.
FPH: What’s your definition of a successful comedy career?
SD: Total world domination, what else? Look, I’d love to get that rock star status Dane Cook had for a while where you’re selling out Madison Square, who wouldn’t? I’d be just as happy if not happier though doing it like Bill Burr. Make the occasional appearance in a movie or TV show, but keep coming back to the microphone and killing it. Maybe you’re not making millions, but you’re not broke and you’re doing what you like.
Demaris is funniest when you can catch in person. His relatable style and rapid fire punchlines just prove that there’s a great crop of Houston comics. While he starts planning his dream of world domination, you can catch him on November 7th at Arena Theater, when he performs with Joey Medina.