This Is Not A Joke: He Ordered A Chili Frito Pie… The Bob Biggerstaff Interview
Photo courtesy of Bob Biggerstaff
The number of years Bob Biggerstaff has been a stand-up comedian is irrelevant. What matters is that he’s funny and, BY GOD, if he wants to excuse himself in the middle of an interview to take a shit because maybe ordering coffee and a chili frito pie at 59 Diner was a bad idea, then Bob Biggerstaff is going to do that very damn thing. Which he did. And it was hilarious.
Bob Biggerstaff has been hilarious since before he got a job as the doorman at the old gristmill on West Gray called The Laff Stop. Since then, Biggerstaff has added several television appearances including Comedy Central and HBO to his resume, along with performing at comedy festivals all over the U.S. and Canada. FPH caught up with Biggerstaff at the aforementioned 59 Diner to chat about the comedy scene in Houston and humor in general.
I know it’s hard sometimes to pinpoint when your comedy career started or how it started but I was hoping you could give it a shot. When did the comedy thing start for you?
My second semester of college, a comedian was coming to school, a guy named Steve Shaffer, and he’d been on An Evening at the Improv, etc. I didn’t know who he was or anything. But I saw him at a table tent in the cafeteria in the dorm. He said to me, “Hey, you wanna be a stand-up comedian?” And I said, “Sure. This college stuff sucks.”
When did you get the gig as the door guy at the Laff Stop?
I started working there at the club, as a doorman, I guess at the end of ’96. And there wasn’t an open mic night, I just worked there. I didn’t need a job because I had a day job, a warehouse job. But I wanted to try and do stand-up comedy and I didn’t know how to do it. So, I figured get a job at the club for open mic night. Then they started open mic night and the guy let me host it. And I would host it all night, from seven at night until sometimes all the way to two in the morning.
Houston has reached a critical point wherein the city now only has one comedy club. We only have just the one.
Yeah, it’s pretty ridiculous. The fourth largest city in America has only one comedy club.
In your recollection, has Houston ever had just one comedy club?
No. When I started working at the Laff Stop there was: the Laff Stop, The Comedy Showcase, Spellbinders, the Laff Spot… so that’s four places. And just before I started working there, there was another Spellbinders. In the early ‘90s, up until about ’93 or ’94, there was like eight or nine places that did comedy.
How does Houston’s comedy wasteland change the game for you? What’s next?
My plan is I’m going to start doing cruise ships.
Have you ever done that before?
No. I’m going on my first one in May. For Carnival, of course.
What would you say to new comedians just starting out in Houston?
As far as stand-up, just keep writing and get on stage as much as you can.
Is comedy an art form?
Of course it’s an art form, but it’s comedy and it’s silly. I would never call myself an “artist.” Somebody else can if they want; they could say what I’m doing is “art.”
Why wouldn’t you call yourself an “artist?”
I just say I’m a comedian. I mean, I guess it’s like saying, “Well, if you’re a baseball player, then you’re an athlete.” But don’t call me “an athlete.” Just call me “a baseball player.” Does that make sense?
Do you feel noble when you hear “artist” and terms like that?
Yeah. And I can appreciate it if someone says, like musicians and people like that, when they say “I can’t believe you do what you do.” Because I’m like, “I can’t believe you do what you do.”
When you talk about all of those other art forms, here’s where comedy is different. Artists often paint other people’s paintings. Or they paint in someone’s style. And all of that is okay. Musicians do cover songs. In comedy, you have to be completely original. You get no bonus points for doing other people’s material.
Right. In fact, it’s frowned upon.
Yeah. Using a style, a lot of guys do that. You see a comic and think, “Oh he’s obviously a Mitch Hedberg fan.” But it comes down to what you’re saying. With comedy, it has to be original.
What’s the future of comedy in Houston? What do you see happening in the next five years?
I’m sure the Improv will be around because they never close. Hopefully, there’s at least one, maybe two other clubs that open. I’d like to say “full time” comedy clubs-but even if it’s just a weekend room that would be nice. But I don’t know. It’s not like Houston’s going to suddenly be the hotbed for comedy in the country. I doubt that. But it’s a big city and, like in all cities, the comedy goes up and down.