Montreal comedy fans should already be quite familiar with Santi Espinosa, but if they’re not they may have a good excuse. Though a frequent comic in our city for many years, he left for New York where he’s been busy expanding his audience, hosting events, and rubbing elbows with some of the cities top comics. He is the host of the very successful comedy showcase ItMatters Comedy and has performed in comedy clubs across North America and abroad. This May 27th, he returns to Montreal and will be filming his comedy special, “Now It’s Personal”. It felt like the perfect time to get personal with Santi and see how New York has treated him and why now is the right time to memorialize his act.
D: So what got you started with comedy?
SANTI: The main reason I got into comedy was to impress girls. And I must say it was the worst reason to get started in comedy because I was horrible. No one is good when they first start, and girls are unequivocally not attracted to you after you have bombed at an open mic.
But if I were to be completely honest, I really started comedy because I made my mom laugh when she was going through a rough time in her life. I remember we were both waiting in the hospital and I said to her in Spanish “no seria muy chistoso si los hospitales se llamaran Casi Muertos”, which translates “wouldn’t it be hilarious if hospitals were called Almost Dead”. She literally laughed out loud and it made me so happy. Granted it wasn’t a good joke, but she loved it and told me that I should be telling more jokes. So, I decided to take an improv class, which changed my life as it led to stand-up and all the amazing things that have happened to me in recent years.
D: You certainly have had a busy few years! How did New York help you grow as a comedian? What have you learned?
SANTI: New York is an amazing city. When I first moved I was already 2 years into comedy and thought I was ready to be booked at the Comedy Cellar. Something that was crushed when I got to experience the NYC comedy scene.
D: I can imagine it’s quite a shift from Montreal…
SANTI: There are so many open mics and comedy clubs that you literally have no idea where to start or who to talk to. My first open mic in NYC was the Gladys’ open mic at the legendary Comic Strip. I called Gladys and spent about an hour on the phone and she was telling me how Jim Gaffigan and Zach Galifianakis got started at her mic (which is true). That got me very excited, so I went there every week for about 6 months. Gladys is a NYC comedy legend and she has run her mic for over 20 years. I met great people and made awesome friends through Gladys, but in order to take stand-up to the next level I needed to branch out and explore more options.
D: Where do you even start?
SANTI: I emailed the Comedy Cellar classes and asked if there was any way they could help me out. I sent them a couple of tapes and they got back to me, saying that I was still too raw and needed to be polished. So they told me I could come do their advanced workshops with Rick Crom. I met Rick (who is very famous in NYC for his legacy and T.V. work and also for his guest appearances in Louis CK’s FX show “the poker scene”) and who was fundamental in my development as a comedian. I had been going to too many open mics and wasn’t getting any feedback whatsoever. Rick’s workshops help me understand many things about stand-up. One the of the most valuable advices he ever gave was “you need to have real jokes! Many people go on stage and start talking about their sexual insecurities, but they forget that this is called stand-up comedy… there needs to be structure, where is your set-up and punchline?”. After I worked with Rick, he gave me many guest spots at his showcases at the Comedy Cellar, which was incredible. Then, I become more polished and showcased at New York Comedy Club and EastVille Comedy Club where I was accepted as a regular producer/performer.
To sum things up, what New York has taught me is very simple: work hard, write jokes, have no ego and, above all things, don’t quit! If you are funny you will get booked eventually, just be patient and things will come together.
D: Okay then, I’m going to put you on the spot. What’s the key to a good joke?
The secret or key to a good joke is rather simple. You have to believe that whatever you are saying is the funniest thing ever and after you do that, you have to test-drive it in front of real people and then if they don’t laugh at your stuff, then you have to tweak it and then do that process again and again until some day it becomes really funny and you can tape it and then show it to your mom.
D: Which brings up a good question – how are New York Audiences different than Montreal audience?
New York audiences are the best because is a mix of locals and people from all over the world. You can get away with murder if you are genuinely funny. Montreal audiences are amazing too, but there is an underlying French-English hilarity that no other city has. I have performed in London, England as well and I have to say that Montreal audiences are more similar to London than NYC audiences.
D: Makes sense. We’re very European. So… any fun New York stories? Mishaps? Celebrity Run-Ins?
I have witnessed so many crazy things in New York that is literally very hard to think of one particular story. But the most incredible thing I that ever happened to me in New York was seeing this homeless guy pick up a live pigeon with his bare hands, put it in a weird rectangular box, make eye contact with me and walk away as he said to me “have a nice day”. Every comic has a homeless joke, but this one happened and is my favorite (partially because it’s mine).
D: It’s exciting to have you back in Montreal and filming a comedy special here is pretty exciting. Why is now the right time to film your act? Why Montréal?
Now it’s the right time to tape my act because I feel that I am ready to take things to the next level. I have been doing stand-up for over 6 years and I have had the opportunity to perform along side heavy weights like Jim Gaffigan, Gary Gulman, Todd Barry and other people I respect and admired that I think it’s time for them to make fun of me for thinking I’m ready to do this.
I’m taping in Montreal because it was the place where I started my journey in comedy. I was born in Colombia, but I had the opportunity to move to Canada and assimilate with the Canadian culture. I feel more Canadian than I feel anything else and Montreal is my home.
D: What can your audience expect from the show?
They can expect a lot of personal stories (hence the title Now It’s Personal) about me and how I have gotten to the point I am in my life. I am a third culture kid (TCK), which for those unfamiliar with the term, it means I was raised in a culture other than my mom’s for a significant part of my early development years. This has made me look at things from many angles, which has become very useful in the crazy times we are living in right now.
So to sum things up, people coming to the show can expect hilarity, honesty and a good time.
May 27th 7pm & 9:30PM – 15$
Theatre Ste Catherine