Cracking Up Crowds

Humor was in Tobe Hixx’s tool box long before he had any idea what his career choice would be.
The skinny kid from Omaha, Nebraska learned early that levity was an important survival skill if was going to develop the thick skin needed to overcome ridicule and limitations in life.
Now Hixx is one of the funniest comedians working and proof that some of the best comedians aren’t those everyone already knows. He teaches people that humor is a common denominator and good comedy comes in all shapes, sizes and colors.
Hixx began his comedy career in San Diego, where he was voted “San Diego’s Funniest Man.” This seasoned comic has performed thousands of shows in top clubs across the country and around the globe, becoming one of the most respected comedians in the business. He also has performed several times for American military troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Hixx has worked with many major comedians during his career including Dave Chappelle, DL Hughley, David Spade, Ron White, Gabriel Iglesias, Kevin Hart, Felipe Esparza, Dave Attell, and George Wallace.
Hixx has appeared on “Comedy Central Presents,” “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno,” “Comic View,” and “1000 Ways to Die.”
We talked with Tobe Hixx about his comedy, his career and the show he’s bringing to the Edgewater. Here’s his take…

Talk a little about your background and how you got into comedy.
Basically my mom and a friend of mine talked me into it. My mother used to watch comedy on TV all the time back when Def Comedy Jam was big. She used to tell me, “Tobe, you’re as funny as these guys I see on TV, you should give it a try.” I had a friend who kept telling me the same thing and finally, I got up the courage and went out there and never looked back. It took me like a year to get up the courage even to get on stage. I’ve been at it 19 years and I’ve been able to go all around the world.

You’ve been overseas a lot, including entertaining the troops.
I’ve been to 15 different countries. I’ve been to Iraq, Afghanistan, all for the military and it’s been a hell of an experience. I’ve been to the war zone but I’ve been to some really nice places, for the military, too — like I’ve been to the Marshall Islands. Most people don’t even know what the Marshall Islands are. I’ve been to places where you can’t go no matter how much money you have so when you can do that, you can’t complain.

Describe your comedy for people who may not be familiar.
You know what, one thing that I pride myself on is that I cater to every type of person. That comes from a lot of hard work, and what I mean by that is that there are some black comedians that can only make black people laugh. There are white comedians who can only make white people laugh, and Latinos, vice versa. So I’ve always put myself in front of every type of audience. That way I was prepared for anything. One night it might be all black, the next night it might be all white, the next night it might be all Latino, the next night it might be clean comedy, the next night it might be a church. I can go into any environment. I’m a mainstream-type of guy that can go into any environment and make people laugh. It doesn’t matter what age group, from 8 to 80, I can pull something out of them. That’s taken a lot of work in putting myself in different situations. A lot of comedians, they find their niche and they stay in their comfort zone.

Some of them who work dirty, find that they don’t know how to work clean.
That’s true, and you’ve gotta be able to do both. There’s a lot of famous people who can’t do both. I read an article in the Huffington Post and the name of the article was “Why You Should Go See Comedians You’ve Never Heard Of.” It stated, the quality of the comics you’ve never heard of is way better in most cases than the comics you have heard of. Part of it is, obviously, if people don’t know him, that person’s still hungry. Also there are a lot of comics who aren’t looking for big fame, they just enjoy going out performing every night and that’s what they do.

What’s your favorite thing about being a comedian?
It’s bringing joy to people’s lives. That’s the best part of it. A lot of times, people go through things in their lives. They come out on a weekend, they work hard, they’re on a budget, they have limited money for entertainment, and they come out on a weekend to a comedy club and you can bless a lot of people by the things you say. You never know who you’re touching. So that’s why, no matter if it’s five people or 5,000, I always try to give the same energy and put out the same effort every night. You never know. For instance, a group of ladies came up to me after a performance, and one of them said, “You know, I really appreciate you making me laugh. My mom passed away today, but we already had the tickets to the show so my girlfriends dragged me out even though I wasn’t feeling like going anywhere, and you made my night.”
Or I’ve been in Afghanistan and a soldier pulled me to the side and said, “Hey, man, thanks for coming. For two hours, you made me forget where I was at.” And a lot of times those types of gigs, you’re not even making a whole bunch of money, but it’s not always about that. That’s the time when it’s just about the people.

What’s your least favorite thing about being a comedian?
Well, part of it would be the travel also. (He laughs). I guess it depends. I’ve done it all, and what I mean by that is I’ve been in situations where everything is top-notch — the treatment, five-star hotels, everything is great, and then I’ve been in the worst situations where you’re in a hotel and there’s a cigarette burn in the comforter. I guess that part of it goes both ways. The long drives — and I’ve traveled every type of way to get to a show — from airplanes, to helicopters, to ships, to buses, trains, to Greyhounds — every type of thing. At times, that gets a little challenging, but other than that, I don’t have too many bad times. Even when it’s a small audience, there’s always something that comes out of that for the most part that ends up being in the positive as opposed to the negative.

Who makes you laugh your butt off?
There are some comics that aren’t tremendously famous that make me laugh like Corey Holcomb. He’s a different type of comedian and what I mean by that is either you love him or you absolutely hate him. There’s no in between with him. I also like DeRay Davis and Felipe Esparza. Felipe is my guy. As a matter of fact, I feature for Felipe a lot, which is really cool because it puts me in front of a Latino audience, and in most cases they have no idea who I am. So that’s been beneficial. Even though I’ve heard his material before and we’ve worked together a lot, he still makes me laugh. And he’s so cool to be around.

What are your thoughts about the comedy scene today?
There’s still a lot of talented people out there, obviously, the internet has helped in certain cases and hurt in certain cases. When I started, there was a pecking order. If you were working at a white club, you’d start off as a host, then you’d move to the opener, then the feature and the headliner. You could literally work your way up and if you were working at a black club, you start off opening, then feature, then headliner, ’cause in the black comedy environment, the host is the most important person. In a white comedy environment, the host is the least important person. But nowadays, these guys are making videos and they get out there and they get headline spots, and they’ve only been doing comedy a year or two. They’ve only got a good 5, 10 or 15 minutes, and it’s hurting the game. I’m not going to knock anybody for getting an opportunity.

How do you handle hecklers?
It doesn’t happen to me too often. I’ve been doing this so long, I can feel in my gut what to say, when to say it and how far to go. It’s a thin line dealing with people too, because it can go both ways. If you attack a heckler too hard, you could turn the whole audience against you. I’ve been fortunate. People don’t really mess with me too much. Now I’ll probably come up there to Laughlin and get heckled. There are some people out there — and I don’t know where they ever got this idea — but I had a guy one night talking through the whole thing and he’s like, “I thought I was helping you out.” I’m like, “You idiot, how do you think you’re helping me out? I don’t need any help. You talking through my whole set, you think that’s helping me out?” He was dead serious.


TOBE HIXX

The Edge Lounge within the Edgewater

Friday-Sunday, Dec. 14-16 (7 p.m.)

See “Showtimes” for ticket info