Steve Hernandez [Interview]

 

Hello Folks! I simply can not tell you enough how damn excited I am to have today’s guest here on Trainwreck’d Society. I’ve been wanting to have this wonderful human being on the site for quite some time. And I will admit, I sort of bought his participation in a way. It’s Steve Hernandez!

Steve is a brilliant comedian and podcaster who, amongst many others that we will discuss further, is the co-host to my absolute favorite podcasts, Who’s Your God? alongside our dear friend and past guest Amy Miller. Nary a Friday goes by that I do not listen to this incredible show. In fact, many of the guests we have had here on the site, I discovered from listening to this damn fine show. Folks like Lydia Popovich, Jackie Fabulous, Billy Wayne Davis, Bri Pruett, and Steph Tolev entered into my own personal comedy fandom and the TWS family. Other wonderful comedians we have shared proverbial stages with have included Sarah Tollemache, Shane Mauss, Allen Strickland Williams, Kyle Ayers, Martha Kelly, Brendon Walsh, and more!

As I mentioned previously, I sort of bought Steve’s attention. And it was in a way I would recommend everyone do! Who’s Your God? has an absolutely wonderful Patreon that I need you all to get on. It’s absolutely wonderful. And that, Folks, is how I managed to essentially bribe this kind soul into being a part of the TWS family. I am still a patron, and I will forever be

If you are familiar with Steve’s comedy and work in general, it is obvious why he is an absolutely wonderful and kind human being with so much to offer the world. We are so happy to have him on the site, and the world should feel lucky that he is out in the world (well, when it’s safe to do so) entertaining the world with his art. And he gave us some wonderful and thoughtful answers below.

So Folks, please enjoy some amazing words from the brilliant Steve Hernandez!

 

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What was it that initially inspired you to get into the world of comedy? Was it something you’ve aspired to do since your youth, or did you happen to find yourself in this world one day?

A lot of things had to go wrong for me to get into stand-up comedy! I grew up in the evangelical church and was a youth minister until I was 23, but then I left that all behind to work at gas stations and liquor stores and finally, restaurants and bars. I got married when I was 30 and after some prodding from my then wife, I went back to school to become an English professor. And I liked it! Ive always loved reading books and analyzing literature (like the Bible), and I was used to teaching in front of an audience, so it was really a no-brainer. Going back to school as an adult was a lot of fun and interesting and I had a goal and everything was going pretty well. In the summer of 2010 I needed to take just ONE more class and I’d be able to transfer to UCLA. I couldn’t be more excited! I registered for the class, but thanks to a clerical error, I DROPPED the class. Because that particular class was only offered during the summer, I would have to wait a couple more semesters to transfer. Man, I was BUMMED! 

But I also had a free summer for the first time in a couple of years. I had recently gone to my buddy Scott Luhrs’s first comedy show (a bringer show at El Cid) and he did great, and he said he was going to start doing open mics. I thought, “I guess I could just do open mics with Scott, it can’t be that different than preaching”. And I was right, it wasn’t! What I didn’t expect was in just a couple of months  I would be willing to throw away any previous plans just to get up onstage and tell jokes in front of strangers. Boy, what a dummy!

 

I have been a huge fan of your podcast you co-host alongside our dear friend and past guest Amy Miller, entitled Who’s Your God? I seriously can’t miss a week! I am curious to know why you think the show works so well? What do you believe it is about your chemistry with Amy that makes it work so well?

Thanks, Ron! Those are very kind words! I can’t tell you why people  like this damn podcast so much, but my guess would be Amy Miller. She is very funny and very smart and I am not lying when I say that there are very few people I would agree to do a God podcast with, especially when we started a few years ago. I think both of us are truly trying to be the best version of ourselves and the podcast really is about our spiritual journey and I think are listeners appreciate that. We’ve had real fights on the show and I got sober on the show and there’s really not a lot that we DON’T talk about . We’ve also have had the real pleasure to interview some of the best comedians on the planet and they usually come on the show ready to play ball and get deep and be funny! Now that I think about it…of course everyone loves this podcast! 🙂

 

 

In your obviously expert opinion, do you notice any similarities between stand up comedy and being a mega church pastor? Are there similar forms of manipulation involved?

There’s a lot of different aspects to being a youth pastor at a mega church, preaching being one of them, and yes, I do think preaching and stand-up are very similar. Both audiences want to be seduced, but they’re not trying to hand themselves over to just anyone! I think the word “manipulation” implies that there is some kind of deception going on and I believe people come to church and comedy shows wanting to FEEL something, so everyone chooses to  suspend belief about where they are and what’s really going on. Whether it be at storefront church in a strip mall or a dive bar in Covina, people go wanting to feel the presence of God. All that to say, it’s not really manipulation if you want to get manipulated! You’re not being deceived if you want to be lied to! And as someone who has experienced both, it’s really not that different when a comedy show gets rocking and church gets rocking. 

At it’s most basic, they’re the same because you tell safer, funny shit up front, gain the audience’s confidence, and then wack them in the end with the good shit once they decide to trust you. And the better you become at preaching/stand-up the quicker you can be your authentic self onstage 

 

You have another podcast that you co-hose alongside another friend of the site & past guest Allen Strickland Williams entitled The Male Gaze. I am curious to know how the concept for this show came about? What made you want to venture down this path with Allen?

I’ve been doing podcasts longer than I’ve been doing stand-up, and I always start with the same question: who do I want to work with and talk to every week? Allen and I have been friends for many years and we get along really well and make each other laugh a lot, so I’ve always tried to think of a project for us. I’m a big podcast fan and I noticed that New York had a slew of podcasts where  guy comics just sit around and shoot the shit and even though I enjoyed some of them, it didn’t sound like when me and my friends get together and talk. I’m queer and I’m non-monogamous and like many of my friends, I’m trying to cut away the misogyny that I know I have in me, so how would it sound if you had guys talking like that WHILE being funny? That’s how The Male Gaze was born. I really love talking to Brodie Reed and Zed Cutsinger and Allen every week about celebrity gossip and our sex lives and video games and movies. We took a month off when the pandemic started because up until that point we really tried to make  The Male Gaze light and fun, but we’ve sort of morphed into more of a news cast against our will. And I’m glad we did! It’s been super rewarding and I’m reminded every week how funny and smart these four guys are

 

I understand that you would have celebrated a full decade as the founder and runner of the Chatterbox Comedy Night. While the last few months of probably ruined any celebratory events, a full 10 years is still VERY impressive. When you look back to the early days of the show existing, what do you find the most impressive? When you look back on your time at the Chatterbox, what makes you think “Damn, I fucking DID THAT!”?

If I were to never do stand-up again, I think the thing I would be most proud of is Chatterbox Comedy Night. I started it as a monthly show for the first year, brought Scott Luhrs aboard the second year when we did it twice a month, and then in the third year we went weekly. Currently Scott, Lisa Chanoux, Julia Loken and myself are the producers with Ellie McElvain, Johan Miranda, and Brian Barlow helping through the years. 

The Chatterbox is a dive bar 23 miles outside of Los Angeles. It looks a little scary from the outside. It has no business being as good of a show as it ends up being most of the times. I think that it’s great for a few reasons. First, all of us involved with the show really gives a shit about the show. We get there early to set the room up, we shut down the pool table and the televisions and once the show gets started, we’re not afraid to kick out people who are disruptive (big shout out to Ralph the owner for always having our back). We’re booked two months out and try very hard to book diverse line-ups (gender, ethnicities, styles) while also creating a space for new comics to flourish. Our audience is the best audience in Los Angeles. They’re working class people that have become incredibly savvy about stand-up, so they know good comedy when they see it. Chatterbox is one of the few places in LA where you can really get the room cooking. This is not about industry, no one cares if you’ve been on TV, they only give a shit if you’re authentically being yourself and if you’re FUNNY. Comics that usually do well can have just okay sets and someone relatively new can have the set of night. It’s mostly good but when it’s great…there’s nothing like it.

Without the others producers this show would have shut down four years ago. People really always mention me with Chatterbox, but it is absolutely not MY show anymore. When I quit drinking almost two years ago, I didn’t get on that stage for three months and the shows remained incredible. I love Scott, Lisa, and Julia and I love our damn audience and I cannot wait to do stand-up in Covina again

 

What else does the future hold for you? Anything else you would like to plug to our readers?

I’ll be launching my fourth and final podcast Put It in My Mouth with Steve Hernandez within the next month and Julia and I are in the process of turning are second bedroom into a video studio, so you’ll be seeing my face more on the Internet. But other than that, just follow me on Twitter at @BigHern and on Instagram @Hernia! Thanks for having me, Ron!

 

What was the last thing that made you smile?

When the pandemic hit, we started going to this little corner market a few blocks from our house. Like two months ago, they stopped carrying these round tortilla that I’ve never seen sold anywhere else. This really bummed me out. Well, anyway, I went to the market yesterday and they had the chips again! I was legitimately happy and excited. This is my sad story about the last time I smiled.

 

Be sure to check out Steve’s current podcasts, The Male Gaze , Views from the Vista (latest episode features our dear friend Alana Johnston!), and of course, the wonderful Who’s Your  God? !!  I also HIGHLY recommend you become a Patreon Member as well. It’s totally worth it. And when the world reopens (maybe) be sure to look out for Steve in L.A. and possibly on the road, and definitely at the Chatterbox in West Covina.

About rontrembathiii
write. write. write.

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