Cristin Davis is hosting a very unique comedy contest for local comedians this fall, one where the winner will get a bigger prize than is almost ever offered in Valley contests: a car. Sure, it only cost a little more than $400 at an auction and is broken in many ways, but it runs.
The 40-year-old Tempe resident is a stand-up comedian himself and hosts an open mic every Thursday night at 8:30 p.m. at Monkey Pants in Tempe, called Up in Them Guts Comedy. The contest is the same day and time as the open mic for nine weeks starting Thursday, September 17, and up to 50 comics can enter through Sunday, September 13 for $16.43 — find more information here.
Davis shared why he’s passionate about stand-up comedy and gave his advice for new comics. See him watch his five favorite reasons for loving living in the Valley in a video below.
What brought you to Arizona?
I was born and raised here. I’ve been here my entire life and have never lived anywhere else for any extended period of time.
I went to Greenway High School and junior college, before getting some record deals and music opportunities. I toured around the world and made a living at it for a few years before starting my professional career at 30.
The first band I got a record deal with was called Big Shot All Star. We got a record deal with Mammoth Records, which was owned by Disney. Disney shut them down, so we lost our deal.
After our record deal fell flat, I got hired in a band called Trick Turner. I was in Trick Turner for a year, and we were on RCA Records. After touring for a year, RCA got a new president and cleaned house. Even though we sold over 350,000 records and had the number seven alternative hit of 2002, they dropped us from the label.
I got into marketing and am a marketing automation software consultant now for a company called Digital Pi. I consult businesses on their business process practices and do digital marketing based on online behaviors.
What’s your earliest memory of being interested in comedy?
My friend and I used to watch comedy on TV when we were in second or third grade, especially during the summers. I never thought I could do it. I always thought it was a super-scary thing for me and always pursued music. Once my music career ended, I had a buddy who did comedy, and he talked me into going up. Ever since, I’ve been addicted.
I first performed in 2005 at a place called the Hidden House. It was a really small dive bar, and there were about 10 people in there. That’s where I really cut my teeth.
I started my own show at Monkey Pants shortly after that. It’s a booked open mic show, kind of like comedy in your grandmother’s basement. We say things you may not want other people to listen to, but it’s fun and a looser environment than most comedy clubs.
What can people expect from your comedy contest?
The contest started off as a goof, where I thought about giving a car away. Then, it turned into giving away the worst possible car, and the only stipulation is that it runs.
I went to an auction and found a car for $450. I drove it back. The windows don’t roll down, and there are no dash lights, so you have to know the two down on the shifter means you’re in drive. It’s a giant piece of junk, but the point of the contest is that for $16.43, the price of a bucket of chicken, you get to enter to win a car that will run. I imagine whoever wins will sell it immediately, but to have the bragging rights to say, “I’ve won a car at a comedy contest,” is funny to me.
I don’t really like comedy contests. I think it’s a dumb thing to judge people because comedy is so subjective, and they’re never really judged by the audience. I wanted it to be judged by the audience and make it fair and square. Even if you bring 50 people to a show, you’re not going to automatically win, because every audience member that votes has those to pick three comics, which evens the playing field a little bit. I really want the person who entertains the audience the most to win.
It’s kind of a dig at some of the other comedy contests in town. Some of the other comedy clubs in town look at the comics’ videos to decide if they get on the show, and with this, as long as you pay the entrance fee, you’re in.
The contest is nine weeks, with 50 spots available. The first five weeks will be 10 comics each, and three comics from each week will move forward. The finals will be six comics doing longer sets, and it all starts Thursday, September 17. Each show is free to get in.
How would you say you stand out as a stand-up comic?
I talk a lot about things that are personal to me, a lot of jokes about my girlfriend, her brother and my family. I find a lot of ridiculous things in my life and talk about them on stage.
My writing process has evolved a lot in the past few years. I used to record everything and transcribe it and take out the words that don’t belong, which is very time-consuming, but I think the way to get good at comedy is to eliminate all the unnecessary words. Now, I’ve gotten to a point where I’ll bullet point things I want to say, hit them, and fill in the gaps in between. Sometimes I find leaving those gaps and spaces allows for the funniest things to come out.
Where is your favorite place in the Valley to perform comedy?
I prefer Monkey Pants. The stage is weird, and it’s a weird atmosphere, and there’s almost always something strange going on.
From strictly a stand-up comedy perspective, Stand Up Scottsdale is my favorite. I think they have more of the same thought process around comedy, where at a lot of the big comedy clubs, you’re watching someone famous tell jokes, which is boring to me. I don’t really like that experience. I like seeing people come up. That’s why I like watching people at Stand Up Scottsdale, because you’ll see people who will eventually make it to Stand Up Live or the Tempe Improv. I like watching a lot of local shows to watch people create jokes and watch them evolve.
How would you characterize the Valley’s comedy scene?
Being involved with it so many years, I’ve seen so many people, and I’ve traveled so much and seen so many local shows. There’s just not the camaraderie elsewhere that we have here or the opportunity for stage time.
I was in San Diego for a month in the summer, and you get three minutes, there are 50 people, and they rush you up like cattle. No one gets a chance to spread out or really have the time to develop. We’re fortunate here because there are a lot of local shows and a lot of people interested in comedy. It’s been great to do comedy here compared to all the other places I’ve been.
The thing I think can improve is that there are almost too many shows. When I first started out, there were a handful of places to go, and it seemed like the crowds were heavier back then. A lot of comics think,” I’ll just start my own room so I have as much time to develop as I want,” which is not a bad idea, but it ends up cannibalizing a lot of the other shows and waters down the amount of people who could possibly go to shows. There is a very finite amount of people who are interested in stand-up comedy from an audience perspective.
What advice would you have for someone who wants to try out stand-up comedy?
I’d advise anyone to do it. At my shows, I’ll walk around and ask people if they’ve ever done comedy. You never know if you’re going to be awesome at it or if you can find passion in it.
It’s challenging, too. You may be really funny in real life, but it’s one thing to say something that makes your friends laugh, and it’s another thing to write it down and say it on stage and see if it translates.
I encourage everyone to do it. Write five minutes’ worth of material, go try it out at an open mic, and give it a shot.
Who is your favorite comedian?
I’d say my favorite comedian is George Carlin. I’ve been a huge fan of his my entire life. I love all the big ones, like Dave Chappelle and Louis C.K. I also love Anthony Jeselnik and remember sitting by him and Amy Schumer in the Comedy Cellar in New York way before those guys were huge. It was cool to see them then and see where they are now. It’s great seeing that progression.
What are your goals?
I’ve switched my focus from stand-up to writing, and I’m working on a Muppet-style show right now where I’ve created characters and am writing scripts for them. The show is called F Prime X, and it’s about robots in outer space who are watching Earth and learning bad behaviors from the earthlings. That’s sort of my new focus, is working on filming my cartoonish show. I want it to be not safe for television, but not over-the-top crude.
There are six characters: one is called Old Peach, which is a peach on the space station who is always talking trash to the robots. There are three actual robots: Claire, Ozark and Gilly, who are always messing things up. Then, there’s Overlurd, who is a jerk to these robots who sends them to Earth as punishment for all the mistakes they make. There’s a character that is the actual ship, named KNAG (Knowledge, Navigation and Guidance), a play off of 2001: A Space Odyssey’s HAL, who is nagging everyone all the time.
It should be fun and interesting. I’m building the characters and set and writing scripts now with two fellow comics, James Hoenscheidt and James Mabry. I’m hoping to start filming in October and put out multiple episodes at once.
My ultimate goal would be to create some show that can be filmed. I don’t want to tour, but I want to be creative for a living. I’ll also do stand-up forever.
Why would you encourage someone to come to or participate in your Thursday night Monkey Pants open mic?
It’s fun, and we’ve got a great stage. We have a built-in audience, since people from the bar meander over to the stage. If you’re going to do comedy in Arizona, definitely check out Monkey Pants because we have the audience.
As far as the contest, the entry fee is going to a good cause, to giving the funniest comedian a car, and it’s going to be a lot of fun.
Learn about other Valley stand-up comedians: