A professional funny man returns
The saddest thing about the Funniest Person in Austin? That person doesn't always stay in Austin. Such was the case with 1990's FPIA, Chris Bonno. Shortly after, the local stand-up stalwart, who also performed with Esther's Follies and the Laff Staff improv troupe, packed his punch lines and left for the Left Coast, where he's done a little of everything: sketch comedy (Mondo Garage Sale), improv (the Fugitives), old radio plays (Fake Radio Players), Internet videos (www.funnyordie.com), TV and film acting (Mad About You, Just Shoot Me!), voiceovers (Red Bull), book illustration (The Book of Lost Quotes), studio audience warm-ups (Saved by the Bell), and Foley work (Independence Day). But he's kept up with the stand-up, lately touring the country with longtime pal Hal Sparks (Talk Soup, Queer as Folk). With the two playing Austin this week, the Chronicle asked Bonno for an update on life in the funny business.
Austin Chronicle: What's different about doing comedy in L.A.?
Chris Bonno: There are a lot more places to do stand-up here: coffee shops and odd diners and whatever you can find.
AC: Dumpsters? Played any Dumpsters?
CB: That was a rough year for me, and I'd prefer not to talk about it. In Austin, everybody was pretty much in it together and helped one another out. Here, you have to really search out your support group, 'cause a lot of the comics are competitive. We performed at a place called the Kindness of Strangers, small coffee shop in the Valley, and we noticed this guy wearing a jacket from NBC, and he was taking notes during our acts. One of Hal's jokes ended up in a monologue for [insert name of prominent cable host] and was named one of Rolling Stone's top 100 jokes of the year. And there was one guy there who took one of my bits, and the next time I came back he'd written, like, a 5-minute version of my 45-second bit.
AC: That is cutthroat.
CB: It definitely happens out here. I'm actually happy to be on the road, because I get to put the original stuff out there and work on it at length.
AC: How is the road these days?
CB: Hal has a good following, so the rooms are full. People are still going out to see somebody they like to get a laugh. We've had people after the shows come up and say, "Thank you so much" because they've had a horrible week. We have some fans who will drive six hours to see Hal.
AC: Because you're opening, will they drive three hours to see you?
CB: They'll drive almost an hour and a half for me.
AC: Is your goal to get people to drive two hours or two hours and 15 minutes?
CB: That would be amazing. If I reached 2-15, I would call my mom.
Hal Sparks and Chris Bonno appear Thursday, 8pm; Friday & Saturday, 8 & 10:30pm, at Cap City Comedy Club, 8120 Research. For more information, visit www.capcitycomedy.com.