Ian Lara is one of the hottest up and coming comedians in the industry right now and we got a chance to sit down and catch up with him about his experiences as a traveling comic and comedian overall.
How long have you been doing comedy?
I've been doing comedy for 5.5 years. I officially started doing it a week after I graduated college but the summer before my senior year, I had started doing open mics and bringer shows. After that I thought- I'm either going to go straight to law school after I graduate or I'm going to try and become a comedian.
And what made you know that comedy was it?
To be honest, I love comedy and I love performing but I was a little unsure at first. I had just graduated college, I was 21 years old, I was working at the airport but I didn't have much money and it was the first time I was out of school. I kind of felt like a fish out of water cause my whole life, up to that point, I was just used to returning to school every September. So when I graduated, I started getting ready for Law School, I even took the LSAT and was getting ready to apply to some schools but right when I was ready to apply, standup had just started to get better for me- I had progressed from doing open mics to actual shows. After one show at the Village Lantern, two lawyers came up to me and were like "Man, you're really funny. If you really wanna do it just go be a comedian because being a lawyer is just as risky. Do what you have a passion for." At that point, there was just no looking back.
Now that you're officially a comedian, which local clubs do you play regularly?
The Stand is my resident club and I'm managed by the owners so that's where I'm mostly performing as well as The Standing Room. I'm also in at Broadway, Dangerfield's, Greenwich Village, West Side Comedy Club (which is a new club). I got passed at The Stand about 1.5 to 2 years ago and I was actually recommended by Adrienne Iappalucci after she saw me perform at Stand Up NY. Prior to being officially passed there, I hosted Laughing Buddha shows there for 3-4 years.
So, when did you begin booking out of town gigs?
My first official road gig was about 2 years ago and it was in New Jersey. Jeff Lawrence (Laughing Buddha Comedy) helped me book that. Jeff actually helped me with a lot of firsts in my comedy career. He gave me my first paid gig, my first show in front of a real audience, my first road gig, he got me my first agent, my first commercial... Laughing Buddha was definitely my start.
Is being a traveling comic something you deliberately set out to do?
Oh yeah, from the beginning, definitely. I'm from Queens, NY so of course I love being in New York and I love doing spots here, but from the beginning- my thing is... I wanna go around the country and make fans and meet different people. Within the last 18 months, I've been able to do that and it has been the best part of my life, honestly.
How often do you travel to perform?
It varies. It can be 1 or 2 weekends a month and during college season (I do a lot of colleges) I may do 10-15 colleges per semester.
Where have you traveled so far?
In the last 18 months, I've been to Florida including the Key West, Texas, Canada (Calgary, Vancouver, Whistler, and Victoria), Chicago, Iowa, Nebraska, St. Louis, Kansas City (both), Montana... and that's just what I can recall at the moment.
What's your favorite place that you've visited thus far?
Vancouver. It's like a super hip New York but smaller and I have a fan base there, it's a cool place. I love it. It's a dope place to do comedy. Vancouver is actually the first place I ever headlined, at Lafflines Comedy Club. They headlined me in December which was their busiest month. I went there twice as a host and then they featured me, then that's when they invited me back as their headliner. I performed in front of 300 people and also did their theater downstairs in front of 500 people. Those are just milestones that wherever my career takes me, I'll never forget that. I'll be going back, December 12th, to headline.
What do you like most about being on the road?
The shows. The traveling part is whatever, being in the hotels is whatever. The road has its ups and downs, it can be kind of lonely. But once it's showtime and you get to be on stage and rock out with people that you didn't think would ever relate to you- that's what does it for me. That's the best part. It's also a testament to my material, the fact that I can take it everywhere and not just be a New York comic who talks about trains. Even though that stuff is hilarious, being able to take your act anywhere is very self-assuring. It's important to be universal. Within the next 2 years I want to begin performing overseas, for the troops.
What's your average length of set while on the road?
When I'm featuring, I do a minimum of 30 minutes. If I'm doing colleges, it's usually an hour and if I'm headlining a club I'll do 45 minutes.
What's your average length of set when you perform locally?
Maybe 10 minutes, if that. My whole road act is built in New York in small sets.
What do you think is the difference between New York City comics and the comics from other parts of the country?
A lot of other comics don't perform as much as we do. So when I'm in Texas and a comic tells me they've been doing comedy for 5 years and they only get up twice a week, that's really like they've been doing comedy for one year because I'm getting on stage 10-15 times a week and there's people here getting up 25 times a week, at least. New York is full of killers because they have access to more stage time more often.
Do you think New York City audiences are more difficult to please than audiences elsewhere?
The thing with New York City is that it's such a fast city with so much happening that audiences here don't have time for the bullshit. So in New York, you have to bring it, immediately. On the road, they're more so just out for a good time. They're more willing to give you the benefit of the doubt because they don't want you to ruin their night. Like, they came out, they got a babysitter so they could see comedy, they'll hear you out cause they're making a night of it. In New York, they'll walk out- like I'll go do something else, it's New York. I'm not gonna waste my time here when there's so many other options. You have about a minute and a half to capture a New York audience's attention. This is all just my opinion though, based on my own experience. It can and most likely will be different for individual comics. I'm still learning.
What do you think is the benefit of being a traveling comic and should everyone work towards that?
Yes, definitely should work towards it. The benefit is that you are doing comedy and you get more time. 5 minutes, 10 minutes, 15 minutes, that's not really doing comedy. You start to get the full experience when you get opportunities to do 30 minutes, 45 minutes, an hour. And then, once you get used to doing longer shows doing smaller sets becomes easier, I can do 20 minutes in my sleep now. New York can help you get the tight 5 and tight 10 that you need for like TV and showcases. New York is where the monsters and killers are made but it's also beneficial to begin to expand outside.
What advice would you give an up and coming comedian who wants to break into doing road gigs?
I don't know if I'm in the position to give anyone advice, but I would just say... work on the 5 minutes, then the 10 minutes, and then the 15 minutes, and then the 20. Work on it. People will see that you're ready without you noticing and they will help you. Once you do the 5 minutes, people will be like he's ready for 10 and they'll start giving you 10 and it keeps progressing from there. That's how you build. Once you have a solid 20 minutes, you might be ready for some road gigs. I'm very comfortable with crowd work so I relied on that a lot to help fill in time when I got started, but everyone is different. I remember I opened for Dave Attell at Bananas in Jersey and he told me "Man, the only way you can be a headliner and do an hour is you just gotta do an hour. And, no one is gonna let you do an hour because you have no credits so you gotta start doing colleges." So that's how I got into doing colleges and started doing hour shows. I was nervous about filling in the time at first, but you just gotta do it.
You can keep up with Ian Lara's travels and comedy via instagram @Ian_Schmian