It’s a Funny Story

The First Friday Comedy Series returns to the Avi Resort & Casino for the last time this year on Friday, Dec. 6 (8 p.m.). The evening is full of comedy with a lineup that includes the return of funny guy Steven Briggs as the headliner, along with Jeremy Bassett as the emcee and feature comic Bob Johnston.
All of the talent comes from the comedy organization called The Comedy Machine, which has been supplying venues across the country with some of the funniest clean comedians around.
Jeremy Bassett is known for his acerbic wit in deconstructing his own life and the world around him. He is a native of the suburbs of Chicago and has been performing stand-up comedy in Los Angeles for the last five years and is a regular guest on “A Comic’s Life” on LA Talk Radio.
Bassett has appeared at the Toronto Improv Festival and performs at clubs across the U.S. and Canada.
With more than two decades of stand-up, performing in comedy clubs across the western U.S., Bob Johnston has been called the only redneck in the Bay Area. With degrees in chemistry and biology and after having worked in the biotech industry, he says, “It doesn’t take brains to get a four-year degree in 13 years.
He has opened for The Stylistics and The Greg Kihn Band, and has performed with Richard Lewis, Ralphie May, Brian Copeland, Tony Rock, Mark Curry, Mary Ellen Hooper and a host of others. He’s performed on Soul Beat-Club 37 with Luenell, and was featured in the 2007 Jeff Mosley Documentary, “Comedy Ain’t for the Money.”
More about Steven Briggs…
Steven Briggs is an LA-based comedian, writer and actor. In addition to his international touring schedule for stand-up, he regularly shoots sketch comedy for his YouTube channel, which has grown exponentially in the recent years, with videos grossing more than 100,000 views. He has just returned from his fifth tour performing for the U.S. troops in the Middle East and also has recently been featured on TruTV’s “Laff Tracks,” Hulu’s “Coming to the Stage,” “Jokesters TV” on the CW and is slated to appear on a new Netflix show this year. His album, Whiskey Dick, can be found on iTunes.
He travels to comedy clubs across the U.S. and Canada and has been compared to such notables as Pablo Francisco. His hilarious stories and sound effects simply adds more layers to his keen storytelling ability.
We talked to him about his career and the show he brings back to the Avi. Here’s his take…

Talk a little bit about your background and how you got into comedy.
I come from a family of storytellers. When I was younger, my mom used to dress me up in a little sailor’s outfit and have me re-tell stories to her friends. My family didn’t really watch a lot of stuff on television, so I didn’t know what stand-up comedy was, I didn’t know that was a thing. But when I was older one of my friends thought I was funny so he took me to a stand-up comedy show and he signed me up to go up and they called, “Hey, next comic up, Steven Briggs.” I was like, there must be another Steven Briggs in here.” Then this old man sitting behind me said, “Go on up there, young blood.” I went up there and told some stories and then from there, people just started booking me on shows. I was like, “I guess I’ll do this until I figure out what I’m going to do with my life.” And I never figured out what I was going to do with my life. So here I am.

Who are some of your influences?
I do like watching one-man shows, like John Leguizamo and stuff like that. I don’t really watch a lot of standup. I watch storytelling, people who know how to cohesively put together long strings of consciousness until they arrive at one cohesive thought, instead of it being choppy and jumping around a lot.

Describe your comedy for people who may not be aware.
It’s a bunch of storytelling with elaborate sound effects and act-outs and characters folded into it. I see it as a painting, and the more colors you have on your palette to use, the greater the picture can be, the more expressive it can be. Sound effects, that’s one color, the act-outs, is another color, the way you use energy on stage is a big thing as well.

What was the worst experience you had doing comedy?
One time I got hired for a show and I showed up, and they didn’t tell me, but it was for a swinger’s party. Yeah, so I don’t know if that’s the worst, but it was the most shocking, though, because everybody was naked. I guess if you’re nervous you can’t imagine the people naked because they already are.

What’s your favorite thing about being a comedian?
I think it’s the most freeing experience out of anything I’ve ever done in my life. I do a lot of film making, too, but you don’t have full control on something like that. But with comedy, you are the director, the writer, you’re the cinematographer, so you’re showing people the image you want them to see — you’re all those jobs, and you can deviate away from the script, any moment you want. You can just break away and you can even break the fourth wall and start talking to the audience. It’s just very freeing and it’s also very therapeutic, too. Instantaneously, if there’s something on your mind and you really want to talk about it, you can just go up there and start talking about it.

What’s your least favorite thing about being a comedian?
I think my least favorite thing is there’s a lot, a lot of travel involved. Sometimes its fun, but sometimes it can be very exhausting. For instance, I’ll go to Japan on a 14- or 16-hour flight, but then right when I get off the plane they book me the same day to perform. It’s very exhausting, especially if it’s happening in a row, but I have to do it. I still do it and I still like it, but it’s like right when you get off the plane you go straight to the show, but you’re like, “let me get my bearings straight.” And then you have another show eight hours away the day after that, and another show six hours away after that — boom, boom, boom. It can be very draining. Not just physically, but creatively as well.

Does it help if your material is relatable to 99.9 percent of your crowd?
Maybe it’s not at all. I don’t know if everyone in the audience has made counterfeit money and then used it at a strip club. If I’m relating, I’m probably performing for an audience of criminals. I’ve performed in prisons before, too.

Where did the sound effects come from?
I remember when this musical dubstep came out and my dad has a very, very, very deep voice and his voice is what I call dubstep, so I could easily manipulate my voice to do his voice as a kid.
I could easily do harsh sounds that would sound like it would just tear your throat up. I could do it immediately and it didn’t hurt my throat. So I picked that up right away and then I’d hear another sound and wonder if could I do that, I’d pick it up and I’d do another sound. I just started picking up all these sounds, and I noticed I had a natural affinity for them, so I just kept practicing.

What’s the best laugh you’ve ever received?
I’d say, when I go perform for the troops overseas, those are the best laughs. When we chat with them after, it reminds them of home. When you travel and you’re away for two or three weeks you get homesick. Well imagine if you’re there for nine months, 10 months, 15 months, especially in places you don’t want to be, like Jordan, Bahrain or Kuwait. They’re not as visually stimulating as say, Italy or Egypt.

How do you handle hecklers?
I usually try to nip it in the butt pretty quick. I don’t let them take the show over, it’s like a game of chicken, it’s just how far they want to go with it. Usually they’ll feel shame and they’ll stop, but sometimes hecklers are so drunk they don’t feel shame anymore, they’re not embarrassed. They’re almost like a Hydra, you cut a Hydra’s head off, they grow two back. The shame doesn’t get them, they see it as attention and they feed off of it and they want more of it. Oh, Lord, there’s a select few that get drunk, like they get “college-girl, white-girl wasted.”

Anything else you’d like people to know about you?
I don’t like sharks and I make sketch comedy videos every week and I put them up on You Tube at YouTube.com/StevenBriggscomedy.
I was just on a Netflix show called “Unbelievable.” I have another show coming out in January called “We Own the Laughs” and I have another movie coming out called “Heart of Gold.”


FIRST FRIDAY COMEDY

Grand Ballroom at the Avi

Friday, Dec. 6 (8 p.m.)

See “Showtimes” for ticket info