Friday, October 12, 2012

EXCLUSIVE: My Interview With Thai Rivera

Thai Rivera is an out and proud gay comic with a politically incorrect way of speaking his mind. The relaxed ease of his delivery will set you up perfectly for his irreverent pay offs. He's coming up fast in the world of comedy. Originally from Arizona, Thai headed to Los Angeles to take on the streets and work his way into the tough ranks of stand up. You may have seen him on LOGO, IFC or Comedy Central. Recently he's played with Gabriel Iglesias and appeared on Iglesias's Comedy Central Show, Stand UP Revolution.

As Thai puts it, he's “a comic who happens to be a fag and not a fag comic.”

Thai is headlining a Halloween Comedy Night at the LampLiter Inn at 3300 W Mineral King Blvd in Visalia, CA on Friday, October 26th at 9PM. On Facebook, check out ComedyAsylum Show

Chris Jarvis: How did you get started in comedy?

Thai Rivera: Just by going to open mike nights. I decided it would be better than the office I was working at. 

CJ: Do you need someone to get you in the door?

TR: Different people move forward in different ways. When I started in this industry I didn't know anyone so I just started to go to open mikes where anyone can sign up and go on stage. Different people saw me at different places. I progressed pretty fast because I was going to as many places as I could possibly go. One thing lead to another. I went out with the comic Jen Kober. That was a college tour. Shortly after that I went on the road with Jo Koy, who a lot of people know from Chelsea Lately.

CJ: Who are your favorite comics working currently?

TR: Jim Short, Sam Tripoli, Jen Murphy, Gabriel Iglesias and Jo Koy. I'm sure a few of those you've never heard of but consider this an "inside tip" from somebody that REALLY knows his stuff, Google them. As far as Jo and Gabriel go that might seem a bit expected but with those two it really is on a different level. They are of course hilarious guys so there's that but when you get to see performers go up night after night and rock crowd after crowd and add new stuff while making old stuff feel new you gain a whole different respect. 

CJ: How did you hook up with Gabriel Iglesias?

TR: A couple of months back I was doing a show called Comedy Juice at the Irvine Improv. Gabriel happened to be there, which I didn't know. So I go on stage and as soon as I get up there, a woman heckles me, I ripped her apart, the audience loved it even though it was a bit uncomfortable. So as soon as I get off stage I see Gabriel he said hi and asked me if I wanted to do the showcase/audition for Stand Up Revolution. It was kind of a surreal moment now that I think about it but I did it and here we are.

CJ: I see that you recently posted that your name is now on the marquee at the Laugh Factory. What was that like?

TR: It was amazing. The Laugh Factory was the first open mike I did when I came to L.A. Jamie, the owner has always been very supportive of me. He's never been particularly easy on me, but he's honest and tells me what he wants to see for me. I'm doing the Chicago Laugh Factory for him coming up in December. 

CJ: Does the marquee at Laugh Factory give you a big boost?

TR: It does around L.A. 

CJ: And were you out as a gay person when you first started doing comedy or did that come afterwards?

TR: Oh, no, I've been out since I was 17 years old. As far as comedy, I was out from the moment I hit the stage. I was even more out than I am now, to tell you the truth. I mean, I'm definitely out, but then I was going through this stage where I was wearing half shirts and just being super gay.

CJ: Have you ever felt any backlash against being so out on stage? Was it ever a career consideration?

TR: No, I never thought about that. I always had the plan of, I want to be the person to really do this and not ever pretend that I'm not or try to cover it up in any way.

CJ: So your plan was to be the big gay comedian.

TR: To the degree that I am? Yeah. I didn't know that it would be exactly how it is now, because I get away with a lot of stuff in places that I wouldn't think I could. I perform in a lot of redneck bars and people will say what do you do when you're on stage in a redneck bar and I'll say exactly what you just saw me do here. The jokes may be different because my shows change, but I don't change my content at all.

CJ: You know, I interviewed Lisa Lampanelli recently and I asked her that same question. I said do you tone it down for certain parts of the country and she said, no, if anything I jack it up. 

TR: Yeah, that's what you do. And people love it. A lot of times in the media they make it seem like as gay people that there are certain areas we can't be true, but there are cool people everywhere. 

CJ: How do you feel about political correctness and how sensitive we are as a society now to all sorts of "offensive" words?

TR: I think it had its place but is now for the most part unnecessary. I would even go a step further and say that in a lot of cases it's counter-productive. The truth is most people aren't that sensitive. The media makes it seem like we are but there is usually very little hubbub in the supposed "affected community" over any overblown incident. For example when Kobe Bryant used the word fag I don't know a lot gay people that really cared. A lot of us identify as fags so it was like, cool where's the insult. I have a phone full of text messages of me and other fags addressing each other as fags and queens and occasionally, bulldaggers. The fact is if you watch the footage of the Kobe incident that ref wasn't acting in a particularly flamboyant manner so while he may have been inaccurate in assessment I don't believe it was meant to be particularly hateful. Besides if you want to insult a gay man you don't call him a fag, you call him a bottom. 

CJ: Anything you won't talk about on stage?

TR: No subject is off limits. The only thing I won't do is try to hurt an individual's feeling, not even if they're a celebrity. I'll rib and play but would never try to be hurtful.  

CJ: How are you with having to keep up with social media as we all do these days? 

TR: I love social media. I love that I can say things once and have everybody know. What I'm annoyed with is one on one communication. Like when a friend sends me a text to find out what I'm doing I always feel like- read my twitter, loser. 

CJ: Favorite and least favorite place you've performed?

TR: Least favorite place to perform was a Black Women's Empowerment dinner in Rialto, CA. Last minute they let us know there were four pastors in the audience and to be completely G-Rated! Boring and I hated that situation and it hated me back. Favorite place would be ANY PLACE in my home state of Arizona. I know it's not cool to love the place you come from but I do and it loves me back.  

CJ: Where does your material come from?

TR: Everyday life. From experiences that I have going through the world, as a gay man and otherwise. 

CJ: What are your current pet peeves that make it into your act?

TR: Miserable people.

CJ: Tell us about your recent run at sobriety and your goals behind that.

TR: The goal is 6 months of sobriety. I take a break once a year just to make sure that there in fact AREN'T two of everything and that my memory isn't that bad. So far it's going well. It gets a little boring sometimes but hey that's being sober.

CJ: What's coming up as far as touring for you?

TR: I'll be in Japan in November, performing for the military. I'm excited about that. 

CJ: Any change in your comedy for them?

TR: Actually, no. They want me to come out and do exactly what I do.

Connect with Thai Rivera on Facebook or by visiting his official website here

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