Stand Up and Deliver: What’s In a Name
Leon casino, Photo: Bob Biggerstaff
In the world of Houston comedy, there are some comics who if you saw them on the street, you’d have no idea that they were the heavy hitters that they are. One of Houston’s most accomplished is comedian Bob Biggerstaff. In the vein of this series of pieces, where the comedians give us a list of comics to choose from, everyone prior mentioned Bob Biggerstaff. For almost 15 years, he’s travelled around the country. He’s had appearances at Austin’s Moontower Comedy Festival and Just For Laughs Chicago. He’s been on HBO, Comedy Central and was a contestant on the “Last Comic Standing” competition on NBC. He has a self-effacing comedic style that’s almost universal, alongside the ability to find humor in almost anything he experiences. Even in a candid conversation, you’d find that he can make you laugh off the top of his head. After seeing Bob around town for several months and catching him open for comedian Todd Barry, FPH sat down with him for a chat.
FPH: I know you attended UH, but are you also from Houston, or are you from somewhere else?
BB: I was born in Tampa, Florida, hence my affinity for 2003 Super Bowl champion, Tampa Bay Buccaneers. I grew up in upstate New York, and we moved to The Woodlands after the 10th grade. So I’ve lived in Houston most of my life.
FPH: There are several dates out there, 1991, 1997, 1999-how long have you been doing stand up?
BB: I first went on stage in 1991 at University of Houston. I did a few open mics and then I stopped until ’97, when I got a job at the Laff Stop as a doorman. It was around 2000 when I would say I really started. It was around then when I started doing open mics consistently and getting my first paid gig.
FPH: You have a self-deprecating style that feels like it comes almost 100% naturally to you. Have you been down on yourself your whole life, or is that style that comes with age?
BB: I can say I was never down on myself. I’m sure growing up with the last name Biggerstaff contributed to my style. I liked being the funny guy, and I never minded making fun of myself. I was a little chubby as a kid, so I was made fun of too, so that helped. Although let me say, I played sports, so I wasn’t a complete nerd.
FPH: Louis C.K. recently admitted that he writes episodes for “Louis” by bouncing ideas off someone as he writes; most recently he used the great Steven Wright. Do you have a person you bounce your act off of, or do you just use the audience for that?
BB: Everyone has their own style for writing. I’m kind of a loner in that respect. I figure the best person to know what I think is funny for my act is me. I’ve done writing sessions with other comics, but not very often. Sometimes comics will offer advice on a bit, as I may to them. I’m not saying my way is better than anyone else’s; that’s just what I do.
FPH: Why Comedy? Like, what made you decide to do comedy as a career?
BB: I was always funny, so I figured I’d try standup. It wasn’t until I won Houston’s Funniest Person contest in 2003 that I thought I could get paid. Not make it a career, but at least be able to do some shows opening and get paid. When I got to do Live at Gotham on Comedy Central and Last Comic Standing in 2008, I felt I could make a career out of it. That and getting fired from my day job at the Laff Stop helped.
FPH: You’ve had quite a bit of success with appearances on HBO, NBC, various radio shows and Comedy Central. what’s your idea of a successful comedy career?
BB: People think you’re either a huge success or a nobody. If you’re not on a sitcom or in movies or selling out theaters, regular people think you’re nobody. I know plenty of comedians who make over one hundred grand a year and people have never heard of them. If you enjoy what you’re doing and can take care of yourself and your family (if you have one), to me that’s a success. That being said, if I don’t get a sitcom I’ll look at myself as a failure.
FPH: I noticed that you’ve got plenty of upcoming dates all over the place this year. Is this a constant thing or do you typically only tour every couple of years?
BB: I try and book as much work as I can. I’ll go wherever they’ll pay me to perform. It’s a constant struggle to find work. I do all my own booking and I’m kinda lazy. I’m not the guy to be in charge of my career.
FPH: Your podcast, “Enjoy Guys! with Bob Biggerstaff” has an interesting mix of actors, comedians, and people from the sports world. How do you decide who you have on as a guest and how do you get the guests you’ve had?
BB: If I work with someone, then I’ll have them on. I also try and get comics who play the Houston Improv if I’m in town. Believe it or not, Twitter has been huge as far as helping me get guests. I got radio personality Phil Hendrie and character actor Fred Stoller from asking them on twitter. Dave Attell, Doug Stanhope, Brody Stevens, Jon Reep and Frank Caliendo I got from being friends with them and running into them.
FPH: Favorite comedians-past? Present?
BB: Abbott & Costello, The Three Stooges, Red Skelton, Bill Cosby, Eddie Murphy, Dave Attell, Pablo Francisco, Mitch Hedberg, Tom Rhodes, Patton Oswalt, Todd Barry, Maria Bamford
FPH: You host a podcast called “Chillitime: with Bob Biggerstaff,” how did you come up with that title?
BB: My Twitter name is @Chilitime. Why? Because I didn’t think twitter was going anywhere when I picked my name 4 years ago. The name of the show I just thought was a funny name for a comedy show. It’s a different show. I’ll get three other comics to do sets, but I’ll show funny videos between comics that my friends have made. I also do a side show with pics of my adventures that I make fun of. I’ve done two shows so far and they’ve both been great. The next one should be in June. The Improv is very supportive of local comics. They let comics like myself, John Wessling, and Ali Siddiq put together our own shows on off nights at the club.
FPH: The last name Biggerstaff sounds like there’s a story behind it. Was your family in the staff making business or is the name just a declaration for the ladies?
BB: On that note, I’ll just say I never disappoint. With the ladies or with my comedy.
If you haven’t had the chance to make it out to Houston’s IMPROV, you definitely should put it on your to-do list. Biggerstaff makes a great point about the insane amount of talented Houston comics who put on shows there. If you make it out to any of the open mics inside the loop, don’t be shocked if you see Biggerstaff there, honing his craft. While Bob chases down a sitcom deal, you can catch him June 13th and 14th at the Hard Rock Cafe.