The future looks dangerously bright for Drew Spears. Right now, the 21-year-old standup comic is chasing a double major in Motion Pictures and English Literature at UM. Translation: He can look forward to near-certain unemployment, probable starvation, and an almost 50-percent chance of homelessness.
"The school of communications makes you get a second degree to fall back on," Spears says. "So I just doubled down on fields with low employment and unmarketable skills."
This afternoon, Cultist talked to Drew Spears via Gmail chat about the South, interning for Conan, and his "ongoing existential nightmare." See the cut for the transcript and a couple of funny videos.
New Times: You mention the South in your act a lot. What was it like growing up in Fort Worth, Texas?
Drew Spears: Good. I do sometimes use Texas or the South as a framing device for some of the more absurdly wrong points of view that I want to talk about, which may be unfair as those points of views exist everywhere, not just Texas or the South. But I do love the state and all of my friends -- and the general laidback, slow-living vibe, which is so much different than Miami. That said, it wasn't always easy, especially growing up as a boy with a mild disability in a culture that's so driven by traditional masculinity. I have cerebral palsy that affects my right hand. Rarely did I get picked on for it. But, subliminally or not, you feel shitty when all of the other guys go out for sports and you can't play.
You mentioned Texas being way different from Miami. How exactly?
The pace of life, for one thing. Things are a lot more frantic in Miami. The general mood of people in Texas is a whole lot, on the surface, polite and nice, even among strangers. People are less irritated in Texas.
Casa de Haha honcho Daniel Reskin told me that you interned for Conan O'Brien last summer. How did you score that gig?
Luck, largely. I sent out my resume and cover letter in, like, October and December, when they were wrapping up in New York. I didn't hear back from them until mid-May. I was actually about to go on-stage at a gig when I got a phone call from their office coordinator wondering if I could go to LA to interview with them. It was the middle of finals but I -- and large part of the credit for this goes to my parents -- moved hell and high water. I got on a plane, got the job, and moved out there for the summer.
It was a great job. They weren't looking for interns who were funny or trying to get face-time creatively, just hard workers. I was a research intern, which meant I did all the original research on guests who were on the show. I started the week before they debuted on The Tonight Show. So the vibe during the time I was there was still very much "honeymoon," which just made it so much more crushing to see what happened to the people I became friends with. Phenomenal experience, though. Everyone was awesome.
Did the Tonight Show experience teach you any major lessons about the business of comedy?
Absolutely. It really made me realize that the people who do it -- you know, the people who make a career out of it -- are the people who take this seriously enough, like a job. I know so many people -- and I have definitely been guilty of it -- who don't write enough, or wait for inspiration, or aren't hunting for stage time. Yes, comedy is an art. But it's also a craft to be worked at constantly, whether you're having a shitty day or aren't feeling creative. Every day at 5 p.m. five days a week, they put on a live show, of which a large portion would be written that day. You don't have the luxury of "not feeling creative" or "not being funny" when a show is dependent on you. And that's a tenet that I'm trying to take into my own life. There are numerous projects that I'm trying to get off the ground, and the only way for that to work is if I put in the time and effort.
Onstage, you seem like a slightly manic, cursing, maybe over-educated neurotic. Is that the real Drew Spears?
That's disconcertingly accurate. It's me at my best and worse. It's me amplified. As much as I would like to say that who I am onstage is in no way a reflection on who I am offstage, it's untrue. I've, as of late, tried to write more about me and my life and how I feel. The Casa set was a real example of that. It's weird because on one hand being neurotic or having anxiety or self-image issues or feeling disenchanted with the world around me has led to serious problems in my day-to-day life. But there is something empowering in harnessing it, trying to make sense of it, and turning it into a positive.
I used to open my act, and still do from time to time, by saying that I turn the stage into my "ongoing existential nightmare," which is sort of true. And I think the fact that I just turned your relatively simple question into a treatise proves the point of whether I really am manic and neurotic.
Have-Nots Standup Comedy Showcase. Thursday, July 29. UVA, 2626 Ponce de Leon Blvd., Coral Gables. The show starts at 8:30 p.m. and it's cover-free with a two-item minimum. Call 305-476-8111 or visit facebook.com/thehavenots.
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Comedy Grill. Tuesday, August 3. Kendal Sports Grill, 9090 SW 97th Ave., Kendall. The show starts at 8 p.m.
Casa de Ha-Ha. Tuesday, August 10. Sweat Records, 5505 NE 2nd Ave., Miami. The show starts at 9 p.m. and it's free. Visit sweatrecordsmiami.com.
Hilarious Basterds. Friday, August 20. Just the Funny Theatre, 3119 Coral Way, Miami. The show starts at 8 p.m. and tickets cost $10. Call 305-693-8669 or visit justthefunny.com.