Edwin San Juan
by Andrew Wantuck
This week I spoke with a comedian that has performed on Comics Unleashed with Byron Allen, Comedy Central's Live at Gotham, and Showtime. In this interview we discussed comedy 101, thinking he was going to die while performing for the troops, and how Last Comic Standing's Felipe Esparza asked him to be in his movie.
Andrew: How does a stand up comic go from good to great?
Edwin: The difference between a good comic and a great comic is experience and just putting the time in. A good comic can make people laugh, but a great one does their homework and doesn't always go for the easy laugh. They do something creative for people that understand comedy and they end up getting more respect for taking that chance. So to be great is an artistic approach.
Andrew: What do you define as an "easy laugh?"
Edwin: Anything out of the butt is comedy 101. Or a subject that has been done over and over. An Arnold Schwarzenegger impression is an easy laugh. Rather than something that comes from pain or truth that people can relate to. That's where the art becomes more challenging.
Andrew: Was there a moment in time that you knew you were going to become a stand up?
Edwin: Yeah, I think when I failed math I knew stand up comedy was for me. I always made people laugh and one day my friends dared me to get on stage and it was great. Two weeks later I went back and bombed a terrible death, but I knew it was what I wanted to do.
Andrew: Can you describe what it feels like when you write a new joke and it goes over well?
Edwin: It is the greatest feeling in the world. Sometimes as comedians we get in a rut and keep saying the same jokes over and over and we beat ourselves up for not trying new material. So when we try a new joke and we are able to add it to the repertoire it's the greatest feeling in the world. It's better than sex.
Andrew: Better than sex?
Edwin: If it's a 5 minute set and you are doing it on television, you get to watch it over and over, but if you had sex for five minutes, never mind, next question.
Andrew: What was the experience like performing for our troops on a USO tour?
Edwin: It was amazing because we got to go to eight different countries in eight days. It was like a speed ball run. We went to Afghanistan, Turkey, Iraq, just to see all those places was amazing, but to be doing it for the troops and the country made it even more precious. It was rigorous and scary, but I would do it again in a heart beat.
Andrew: What was the most dangerous thing that you had to do?
Edwin: They have these things called evasive landings on the plane. You are going left, right, up, down because it helps you evade missiles. I thought I was going to die and I actually threw up. It was embarrassing.
Andrew: Can you tell me something that you have learned in the last year?
Edwin: I have learned to be patient and persevering because a lot times you want things right away but maybe you are not ready yet. In some cases it's better just to wait. Just work hard and it will come.
Andrew: "I'm Not Like That No More" is a movie that you starred in. How did that come about?
Edwin: It's a movie based on comedian Felipe Esparza. They basically just take all his jokes and put it on film. Similar to what Rodney Dangerfield did back in the day. Paul Rodriguez plays Felipe's father and I play his friend Edwin. So it was a real stretch. I had to take acting classes to play myself. I didn't have to audition either. Felipe came out of the bathroom saying "I got a movie, want to be in it?" And I was like "yeah."
Andrew: What advice would you give a stand up that has already made it famous, but his/her star is starting to fall?
Edwin: Be kind to everybody because you meet the same people on the way up as you do on the way down. Treat people the way you to be treated yourself.
Andrew: You do a show called Slanted Comedy. Is doing an Asian comedy night something you just fell into or is it something you feel you have to do?
Edwin: I think it's something I fell into and it's something I had to do. When I first started out I wasn't getting booked myself, the only thing presented to me were theme nights. Latino night, Asian night, a black night, so those were the only spots I was getting work at. So they came up to me and asked if I would do an Asian theme night , it was an opportunity and I took it. SO now I'm able to branch off and do my own thing now. So it was a necessity, but if I had my own choice, I would not have choose it.
Andrew: How did you get it to become a Showtime special?
Edwin: I recorded my hour long special at the Improv and I had it packed out. So the manager saw me and asked if I do do my own night and he wanted to call it Wonton Wednesdays. I was like "are you serious? Wonton Wednesday's is horrible." So we came up with slanted. I liked slanted because it has double meanings. A slanted way to look at things, different perceptions, and people always view slanted eyes as a negative, but I think slanted eyes are beautiful and attractive. So then the Showtime people approached me because they were looking for a themed night and the rest is history. It was crazy because they wouldn't let us use the phrase slanted because they thought people would get offended by it. So then we called it The Pacific Rim Comedy Show, which sounds like a porno to me.
Andrew: What would you say to somebody that says ethnic stereotypes are easy or been done before?
Edwin: Well, there's truth to it. I am trying to veer away from it myself and switch to observational, but it's almost like you need to walk before you learn to run. So Comedy 101 is fart jokes and then I started talking about how I was treated different because I was Asian. So I think it's evolution. Eventually you just talk about being human, but it's a process that minority comedians go through especially.
Andrew: What do you think about The Comedy & Magic Club?
Edwin: I hold a special place in my heart for The Comedy & Magic Club because everybody there is so wonderful. I'm a big food person, so anybody that feeds me is cool. The food there is A number 1 top notch. We as comics see so many different rooms, and it is just nice to see a club that sees the big picture, and that knows how to treat its talent. Some clubs charge you for water or soda and I'm like "are you serious?" The Comedy & Magic Club, they get it, they understand it, and that's why I will always love The Comedy & Magic Club and always go back there.
Edwin San Juan will be one of the 16 Comics on The Comedy & Magic Club's 32nd Birthday Bash show. Thursday, July 22nd through Saturday, July 24th 2010. Reservations Required (310) 372-1193 or comedyandmagicclub.com. ER.