Few people can say they sold out their backyard for a national comedy headliner. Local comedian Brandt Tobler heeded the advice of established comic Doug Stanhope and didn’t wait around for a big break to fall in his lap. He created his own by inviting big name comics like Stanhope to perform in his very own backyard, and made a name for himself in the process. After years of hosting and doing feature spots at the local LA Comedy Club, Tobler will now take the stage as headliner.
You’re very straightforward and don’t seem to put on any sort of persona when you perform. Do you feel like you’re the same guy on stage as in your everyday life?
Yeah, for sure. That’s funny because people often come up after a show and say it’s cool that I act like I don’t really care, but that’s how I really am! I’m a free spirit and I’ve done it so long that I know the jokes are good. If people don’t realize that, then I don’t really worry about it anymore. That’s me.
- Brandt Tobler
- March 9-10, 9:30 p.m.; March 11, 9 p.m.
- LA Comedy Club at Cabo Wabo
How long have you been doing stand-up and how did you first get involved with it?
I’ve been doing it about eight years. … I kept checking it out and I found the open mics listed in the Weekly actually. I would sign up and then chicken out. But then eventually, I had too many people who had come out to see me at the show and a couple drinks, so there was no backing out. The first show I ever did was at Boomers, and after one time I was hooked.
When did you first start performing at the LA Comedy Club?
I started with them about five years ago when they were over at Palace Station. I’ve been with them through everything, doing guest spots, then hosting, feature and now this will be the first time I’m headlining. I’m really excited because it’s my home club. It’s where I started, and they’ve always been so good to me and so good to local comics in general. It’s something I always wanted to do, and I feel it’s the next step.
On your dream roster, who would you love to perform with one day?
Mitch Hedberg was my all time favorite, but obviously that’s not possible. … My favorite comedians today are Zach Galifianakis, Louis C.K., Daniel Tosh, Doug Stanhope, Dave Attell, and I’ve been lucky enough to be able to perform with a couple of them, which was so cool. I used to do those backyard shows. That’s kind of how I got a lot of press, doing those backyard shows in Vegas.
Tell me a little bit about those.
I saw it online once that a couple of comics from the Sarah Silverman Show were saying that they’d just come perform in your living room if you wanted them to, so I had them come and they were great. I was inspired by this blog that Doug Stanhope wrote that said, if you want to be a comic, you have to do it yourself and you can’t wait around for these clubs to book you. You have to make it happen. So I sent him a message and told him I read his blog and I agreed and that I was doing a backyard show at my house and would he do it. He committed to it, so I had three more shows. The final show I had in my backyard with Doug Stanhope had 270 people. People were flying in from all over the country. Then I got busted because it was a rental and I got kicked out. I tried to bribe my neighbors with giftcards, because we were in a cul de sac, but having 270 people on a Thursday night just didn’t fly. It gave me a lot of credibility in the industry because people would say, “Oh you’re the guy who does the backyard shows?” I had comics from all over the country asking if they could perform in my backyard.
You just came back from a tour, right? How was it?
I went on tour for all of February. I drove over 7,000 miles with shows in seven different states. I called it the Black History Month Tour, but we went to pretty much every state that doesn’t have black people, which we found hilarious. We went to Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, Nebraska. We got a good kick out of that every night. The people were great. I may go back out in April. I brought my best friend Casey Schmidt who just started doing comedy. I figured if I had to be in a car and hotel with someone 24 hours a day for a month, then I wanted him to come with me.
What do you think is different about performing in Vegas?
I’ve found that Vegas shows can be really rough. New York City comics come and tell me they don’t see how I do this all the time. It’s just different than other places, because in these bars, there’s video poker and I’ll never be funnier than a four of a kind, so those people don’t care. And then there’s the dilemma that if say, I bring a hundred people into a bar and they’re drinking and there’s one person who’s playing video poker and she blows $2,000 a night and we offend her, then the show’s over. I’ve had shows where they stop the show right in the middle of it.
What do you see as the next step for your comedy career?
I recently moved to LA, so I’m really pushing to get some TV stuff. That is probably my six-month goal, to be on Kimmel or Letterman in the next six months. I want to tour more, and I’m starting a podcast. I’m constantly just trying to build a fan base where I can go anywhere and kind of do like I did with my backyard shows and move away from needing bookers and do shows myself. I’m keeping my fingers crossed.