If you've been to a South Florida comedy club in recent history, you've likely seen Nery Saenz. He's made you laugh, established a connection, and explained how to pronounce his name (near-ee sigh-enz). He hosts the weekly pop round-up What's Up Bro?! Podcast, and recently toured with comic legend Dave Chappelle.
Saenz spoke with New Times about the upcoming release of his first stand-up album, Man-Child.
New Times: Welcome Nery! Firstly, pressing nerd news. Are you excited for the new Star Wars movie?
Nery Saenz: What's up bro?! (Like that podcast promotion?) First question and I'm already torn with how to answer. I'd like to have the "geeks" and not "nerds" buy my new album, but I am just not a big Star Wars fan. I know I know -- how can you call yourself a geek? But I'm more of the comic book/movie geek. I'm much more excited to hear that Snyder has been given the official green light to direct the Justice League movie after the next Man of Steel, than I am about anything Star Wars.
You prefer "geek" over "nerd"?
Yeah, I think it's more accurate. Geeks are people into comic books or video games or movies. Basically anything that is of no use to mankind or society. Nerds are the doctors and scientists and historians. You know, smart people with degrees not handed out at Halo competitions.
So your new album is titled Man-Child. Is there something we should know about you?
Aside from the superhero tattoos that cover my body and my obsession for anything with an "S" shield or Playstation logo? No, not much. My niece named the album. She came up to me while I was at my computer and said 'Tio, you're such a Man-Child'. Now I'm not saying she was wrong, I was just confused as to why she would say this to me. Then I looked over my desk and saw many Superman figurines next to one of my Superman lunch boxes. My niece was 8 years old at the time. Smart girl.
What makes a man-child? Why are there more than ever?
A man-child is someone who refuses to let the things they loved as children go simply because society has dictated that they must, based on how many years they've been alive. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying, "Never leave your parents' house and become a shut-in playing Magic the Gathering." That wouldn't be a man-child, that'd just be a child. A man-child is a man that pays his bills, takes care of his family, and just happens to enjoy dressing up like superheroes while they plan their family vacation around the San Diego Comic Con schedule.
Is a woman-child a thing?
I don't know that woman-child is a thing. Women don't abide by the same rules in society that men do. A grown woman can plan a sleep over with her girlfriends, complete with makeovers and gossip, and it's called "girls' night out." A man who plans that same evening is called a virgin. A girl who's into the same geeky stuff that I'm into is just called a cool chick. Don't blame me, it's society.
You recently toured with comedy icon Dave Chappelle. What was that like?
It was aight... what do you THINK it was like? It was Dave FUCKING Chappelle! It was a crazy experience. At one point I had just finished a joke, here at the Fillmore in Miami, and I couldn't help but soak it in. I soaked in the laughter, the energy, I just soaked every drop of the moment. I couldn't help but acknowledge to the entire 2,000 people audience that they were witnessing my dreams come true. I'm just a local kid from Sweetwater who wasn't even the funniest person in my family, and there I was opening for arguably the biggest name in comedy of my generation... in my hometown. To say it was crazy is an understatement.
How did you decide it was time to make your first comedy album?
I have been wanting to put out a CD for years now. I used to love going to Best Buy or Circuit City (remember them?) and just buy comedy CDs. Some were bad, some were good and some were just amazing. So I started comedy September 13th 2003 with dreams of having my own CD on the shelves. Maybe some kid would randomly pick it up and think it was one of the amazing ones.
As the years passed by I always kept the idea of putting an album together in the back of my mind. But I never wanted to be one of those dudes that recorded something on their iPod and made copies on their own computer. Nothing against comics who do that because the struggle is real, but I knew I could never hope to sell my CD at Best Buy [if I did that]. That kid could never buy it at the store if I did that. Don't get me wrong, I am not with a label so Best Buy won't be selling my album (as of yet), but there is a chance, no matter how improbable, that maybe one day they will.
What was the process like self-releasing your CD?
Fucking long! Like I said, I don't have the backing of a label. I don't even have a manager. But I do have an incredible support system and [am] fortunate to live in city that has a real supportive comedy scene. The Have-Nots, a locally based promotion group, put together the evening and the room in which the album was recorded. I took no pay to be able to do this, because I chose instead to have them take any money that would have gone to me, and put it into setting up the recording. The sound equipment, the sound engineer, everything, was taken care of for me. I just showed up and told my jokes.
Then came the long part. I had to find someone to make the CD sound like a CD. Then I needed the cover art. My brother is the genius that created the cover art for my album. And for me, he was free. And we all know that when family does anything, especially something of that level of talent, for free... you wait. And wait. And you don't bitch, you don't complain, you don't do shit but wait for him to say here it is. All my life I saw my brother draw masterpieces. Saw him graduate from the Art Institute of Ft. Lauderdale. So I knew that whatever he was going to do for my album was going to be worth the wait. Almost two years after I recorded the show at the Miami Science Museum, my album is now done.
You're perhaps the third local comic to make an album in many years. Why is this so rare?
Drive. It takes a lot of fucking drive. Living in Miami means you don't have access to agencies or record labels. Which means that if you want something done, you have to do it your damn self. If you are waiting for a manager to come up and say "I'm working on a deal with Comedy Central Records to put out a new special," you'll be waiting forever. You have to get up, look for someone that has access to a comedy room and look for someone who knows how to record sound in a professional way and then you have to have the money to make all those things come together for you. If you want to know what "labor of love" means, ask a local artist that has put out an album without the help of a label.
When so many comedians move to bigger cities, what made you stay in Miami?
I love everything about comedy. I love it as much as any person can love an intangible thing. But I love my family much much more. I have a beautiful wife that is much better than anything I can ever ask for. I have a 2 year old daughter that is the living incarnation of my happiness. And my wife is pregnant with a child, a son, that I look very forward to meeting in a few months. They mean more to me than any intangible thing can ever hope to.
Would I like to move to L.A? Sure, but not at the risk of not being able to provide for my family. Financially, I am not at the point that I can move cross country with my family and give them the same life that I can here. So I'll stay. Grind it out. Then keep grinding. Do comedy at the local clubs, always working on my craft, always writing and maybe one day I can save and borrow enough money to move. But for now, there's no other city I'd rather be in and raise my family than the city that raised me.
Classic man-child question: you get one super power, what it is?
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My super power would be to freeze time. If I can freeze time whenever I wanted, I would have the freedom to do anything and everything I ever wanted to. I mean, I'm Hispanic, so chances are, I'd still show up late to places, but maybe only a few hours late. Which for Hispanic people is still early.
Nery Saenz' album Man-Child is available for pre-order on iTunes & Amazon.com for $9.99. The official release is May 13. More info at NerySaenz.com.
Follow Daniel Reskin on Twitter @DanielReskin.