Guest Writer-Chris Teicheira
“and the 2015 Best Comic MAMA goes to….Susan Lucci no more, Chris Teicheira.” – Jimmie Menezes 2014 Best Comic MAMA winner
There was a definitive sea change in the manner with which the 2015 MAMAnees, took to marketing their MAMAnations. In past years it had become in vogue to self -deprecate the process. In some years, nominees even went as far as insisting their name be removed. Taking cues from other scenes, (SF and Sac) scenes where the political correctness of the day, permeated and sucked all the fun out of the being recognized by peers as a good comic..??? Slow down Debbie Downers. Have we forgotten the most important aspect of comedy – the Being Funny Part.
Last year, and this year as well, a different angle has been taken. “Why not me?!” The ‘too cool’ for the room attitude was cast aside. Nomination videos of high quality were made. Comics took not so subtle jabs at their Best Comic competitors. It turned into an absolute free for all of the innuendo, unadulterated smack talking, and generally underhanded tactics. And guess what? Everybody loved it. I think often in the MAMA process of who deserves, wants, needs, expects – we forget to lighten up, and just enjoy it for what it is. A cool trophy that will eventually end up dusty, and in your mom’s garage (or in my case hidden by another comic in my not so often used oven.)
In a room full of musicians, we are treated as the lepers of the 209 entertainment scene. Or so the musically inclined would like to think. We work the same rooms they do. Receive applause and laughter from the same audiences. And as I take a look around – we tend to have more paid bookings than the; coffee house, dad’s country auto shop, random backyard bookings, that most our musical contemporaries like to toot their horns about. So slow your drum rolls stupid. The comedy scene in the 209 is alive and well. And as long as we aren’t dipping into your groupie pool, it’d be nice if you’d just tip your beanie caps – and say “Hi comics, it’s nice to have you here tonight”
October 11th we’ll see the 17th Annual MAMA Awards come and go. The Modesto Area Music Awards are the 209’s version of the Grammy’s, with all the pomp and circumstance to boot.
The MAMA’s added the category Best Comedian 8 years ago, and for 7 years in a row, I was a nominee. The Susan Lucci of the MAMA’s. (for those under 35, please ask your cool aunt who she was) I’ll be honest. I didn’t mind losing each year. It gave me something to look forward to each October. A fact I kept conveniently under wraps from the column I write for the Manteca Bulletin. Not that I wasn’t excited or proud of the nomination, but the MAMA is done by an online voting process.
It always seemed a bit odd that something as subjective in nature as Best Comic should be decided online. Right?! Nothing says award legitimacy and credibility, like the opinions of 22-year-old college kids and stoners voting on their computers at midnight.
Being the only MAMAnee with a newspaper column was definitely an unfair advantage that I refused to use. Besides the fact that the other comics would have never let me hear the end of it, had I pandered for votes via Manteca to a T and lost anyway! I much prefer thinking everyone in Manteca likes me, and would hate to pull back the veil and realize that I’m only tolerated because I’m in the paper once a week. Leaving town over such a shame would never work because Escalon to a T doesn’t have the same ring.
We arrived comedy strong to last year’s event, roommate Anthony K who won in 2011, came along for the adventure. Fellow Mantecan and MAMAnee Jason Sohm and wife Marilyn filled out the crew. Jason is a Manteca High grad, and 4th-year comic making big waves in the Nor-Cal comedy scene. We decide to forgo the picture taking portion of the pomp and circumstance and slink into the show. In the lobby a Modesto Bee reporter is asking questions to various nominees, and pins me down with “When did you know you wanted to be a comedian?” I gave a short canned answer – but only because the real answer would have taken too much time – and the drink line wasn’t getting any shorter.
The Day I became a Comic…
(Cue flashback fog and music…)…The year was 1977, and the kindergarten classroom of Mrs. Carr at Van Allen School is where it happened. We had a weekly show-and-tell —or as I like to think of it – my first open mic. It is said that public speaking is the No. 1 fear of most people. I must have missed that memo, or was just born without the shame gene because it has never bothered me. On this day I had worked out a wonderful bit that involved me talking to my Stretch Armstrong toy. A toy that against my father’s wishes, I had smuggled to school – a decision I would forever regret. Mrs. Carr slid the chair out into the middle of the room and announced the start of show-and-tell. Showtime!
“Who wants to go up?” she asked. I put my hand up immediately. I was a seasoned veteran of this show-and-tell and figured once my hand went up, the other comics, err kindergarteners, would back off but one hand went up along with mine. Lil Georgie Hernandez. George was a skinny little Mexican kid that lived at the dairy down the road. He spoke with a heavy accent and wasn’t much for the limelight. So when Mrs. Carr directed him to the chair first I was a bit thrown back.
Had she not taken notice of my Garfield soliloquy that destroyed the room the previous week?! I can’t believe I’m getting bumped for Georgie and he didn’t even bring anything to show.
“Oh boy, it’s going to be amateur hour,breath,” I thought to myself. He made his way to the center of the room and sat on the chair. He stayed motionless in The Thinker position for a few seconds. Then stood and removed his coat from behind the chair, draping it across the back. He sat back down for a brief moment, before rising and throwing a flurry of 10-12 boxing punches into the air! He bowed, put his jacket on slowly, and walked back to his desk. Never cracking a smile and never breaking character. It was the greatest thing I had ever seen another human being do in my life still is to this day! I lost it. You know that good pure kid laughing? The kind where you breathe and are on the verge of passing out? It was that good. Only one problem: Nobody else in the classroom was laughing.
Obviously, some sort of “Don’t laugh at the poor little Mexican kid from the immigrant family” guilt had affected a group of 5 year olds. But not this 5 year old. Mrs. Carr got right in line, and insisted that I cut the laughter. Are you serious? I recall answering with a “but it was funny?!”
Back talk and sass have long been part of my arsenal and she did not like the tone. “Ok that will end show-and tell and Chris you will sit on the bench during recess for the rest of the day.”
Bumped, and now dismissed from the open mic?! This is BS! If I’m being honest, I’d say 50% of my time on Earth, has been spent on the proverbial “bench at recess”..I was sitting on the bench when George approached, “I’m sorry you got in trouble for me being Fonzie” Fonzie? What are you talking about George?
”I saw Fonzie do that on Happy Days last night, but when I got in front of everybody, I forgot to say that I’m Fonzie” My God! He had done an accidental bit, and killed me with it! It somehow made it even more awesome. I can look back now as a comic and realize, had he referenced that he was doing a Fonzie impression before the performance – he probably would’ve gotten the class to laugh. It was the fact that what he did was so far out of the box – senseless and beautiful – that hit my funny bone.
Often times in comedy – and in life in general – it’s the accidental things that make stuff great. Georgie had for me done the one thing I love to watch: Commitment and Conviction. You can have the greatest material, ideas, and thoughts in a room, but if you don’t have everyone thinking that you believe in yourself – then you are dead in the water. My mom still reminds me about coming home that day, (With my Stretch Armstrong torn in half by the older kids), but all I cared about was what I’d seen Georgie do and told her when I grow up I’m going to be a comic.
It’s a strange thing being a comic. When the only thing in life you are truly serious about – is not being serious. I’ve tried for 37 years to recreate that Georgie moment – and I haven’t come close. I think most people have that “Georgie moment” — a memory in time – when they saw something that changed their course. Whatever yours is – follow it – and like Georgie, be committed and convicted to it. You may never get to where you want to be, but you just might like where you end up. Anyway, I won the MAMA last year. Susan Lucci no longer.
This years Best Comic Nominees
Anthony K: Wears black tee shirts, and won the MAMA in 2011
Saul Trujillo: Fat guy with a girl’s voice – this years frontrunner
Insane Wayne: Black dude from Stockton – he deserves an award on that fact alone
Andre Morton: The other Black dude
Lilly Flynn: “A wonderful comic, full of talent” – Tom Bickle
A.j. DeMello: Largest forehead in the field.
Jennifer Eros(K. Johnson): the other girl
Connor Martin: the handsome boy.
Jimmie Menezes: looks like Gonzo the muppet, previous mama winner.
Jason Sohm: fan of the band GWAR
My prediction this year: One of the Deaf Puppies comedy crew. Or one of the other, lesser talented comics. I’m not much for predictions. See you at the MAMA’s stupids.
Check out these comics when you have a chance because Laughter is the best medicine and vote for all your favorite #mamanees at www.modestoareamusic.com/vote
Editors Note: the views expressed are those of last year’s MAMA winner Chris Teicheira except for where noted(Tom Bickle.) Most the nominees do not only perform they produce events like Just Kidding at the Ralston Goat, Gold Rush Comedy at the Gypsy Shack, Stand Up for Charity at the Queen Bean, along with podcasts and youtube content and more.