INTERVIEWS

Steve Treviño: The Fourth Amigo

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steve trevinoSteve Treviño is fast becoming one of the country’s hottest comics and the new voice for the 21st century Mexican American.  Finding his way from a Hispanic upbringing in a small South Texas town to living his dream in Hollywood, has infused Treviño’s comedy with a “TEX-MEX” sensibility, yet as a performer he has a uniquely American voice that transcends anything about ethnicity, making him universally relatable. Outside of being a national headliner, Treviño has made memorable appearances on The Late Late ShowComics Unleashed and BET Comic View, among others. He also wrote on Mind of Mencia and produced and wrote on rapper Pit Bull’s La Esquina.  Treviño landed in the Nielsen Top 20, with his 1st Showtime comedy special, Grandpa Joe’s Son. His 2nd special Relatable hit Netflix on January 13th . You can see him at Rooster T. Feathers this April 14th–17th. . Get your tickets here: http://tinyurl.com/hdfadst

SUSC: I know family was super important to you for developing your comedy voice, did you also hit mics and clubs in South Texas?

Treviño: There wasn’t any clubs, but I have a huge family. We were always having barbecues. Every weekend there was an event at my house. It was my house that had the parties. When I was eight years old, my dad would put me on picnic tables in front of my uncles and I memorized Eddie Murphy “Raw”. That continued for a long time. By the time I got to High School, relatives would call me and say, “Hey, I have a party. Come perform in my living room. Steve come over and make us laugh.”

When did you see your first live comedy show?

Carlos Mencia came to town to a place called the Harbor Playhouse and I had to go. It was my first chance to see a live comedian I had seen on HBO. I watched him perform and afterwards I said, “You gotta let me open for you. I’m a comedian.” And he would let me open.

Did you have enough original material?

At that point I had already been doing material at barbecues.

You can’t do the same material at every family barbecue.

You gotta bring the funny! I had some material and of course it was horrible. The promoter who brought Mencia started bringing George Lopez and he would call me up and say, “You can open the show, but you have to bring all your friends.”

Would the feature act also be a local comedian, or were you representing all of South Texas?

Mencia, at that time was bringing Bobby Lee around. Freddie Soto, God rest his soul, was coming through as George Lopez’ opener. And I think more than anything, the promoter needed to sell tickets and I was that guy they would call. I don’t think he cared how funny I was, he was just like, “Dude, bring your friends, bring your family.”

How did you make the break?

Lopez and Mencia told me that I should move to a town that had a comedy club. I had no idea where that was. Then, my cousin Jeremy calls me up and says, “I live blocks away from The Improv in Dallas. Come crash on my place, I need a roommate.” And like that, I was gone. I walked in there on a Tuesday, did the open mic on a Wednesday and I had a job there on that Thursday.

How long did you work at that Improv?

I worked there a couple of years. Menica and Lopez and all the comics I met would do their routes through there. They would come through and see me working the door and be like, “Oh shit, you moved. Good for you.” I was like, “Yeah, this is what I’m going to do.” One night George Lopez’ opener didn’t make his flight and I’m waiting tables at the club and the manager was like, “Open for George.”

In the middle of your shift?

Yeah. I told my tables, “Hey, you’re going to have to wait.” I jumped on stage and that was the start. I ended up on the Three Amigos Tour. The original Three Amigos were Mencia, Lopez and Pablo Francisco. I did a few dates with those guys, which was huge, but those three couldn’t get along. So then it was Mencia, Lopez and Freddie Soto and I got to open up for that tour.

You were adopted.

I was just so excited to be around those guys. I would do anything. I wouldn’t let them carry their bags. I was 21 years old when this was all happening. I was like, “I’ll carry your bags. You need a Coke? I’ll get a Coke. Pablo, you need cocaine? I can get that too!” I was a guy of service.

So what would be your message to millennials and younger comics?

Pay the dues. Be gracious. Be happy to be around comics. John Pinette, God rest his soul, would pay me $1000 a week while I was working the door at The Improv. He didn’t like to have the hotel sheets. So he would give me a thousand bucks and say, “Go buy me four sets of sheets and while I’m onstage, you go change my sheets. Keep the change.” Friends would tell me, “You’re just his bitch. You’re his maid.” I made 600 bucks!!

Being around a lot of road comics, you must have absorbed a lot of knowledge about what it’s really like being a working comedian.

All of it. And when I moved to LA, those guys recognized me, said “hi” to me. I always tell the story of Tom Wilson. He played Biff in Back to the Future. He was doing the Dallas Improv, and while there he wanted to see the JFK Museum, where JFK was shot, the grassy knoll. So I told him I would take him. We ended up spending the whole week together. Fast forward years later, I’m walking through an airport and I hear somebody yell out, “Treviño,Treviño.” I turn around and it’s Tom Wilson. Never in a million years did I think Biff would recognize me in an airport. Now, I’m doing the same gigs he was doing.

How did you make the jump to headliner?

I was touring with Mencia and then he got the deal for Mind of Mencia on Comedy Central. I was asked to come on as a writer. So now I was a writer on a popular show and touring with Mencia. At a certain point it was time to go on my own. I’ve been headlining since 2004 when I was 24, 25. Which was cool, to be that age, on the road and headlining, making decent money. The downside was I WAS 24, 25 YEARS OLD. There are places I am still banned from. I can never go back to Virginia Beach. I was hanging out with my buddy from High School who was a Navy Seal and we get in a big fight, I get arrested, you know, 25 year old shit. The crazy part is, I’ve been in the business so long, people think I’m old. People will say, “You’ve been in the game forever. What are you 40, 45?” I’m 35!!

Do you find you have to create your own vehicles and projects?

Things are starting to happen, my name is getting out there. But every opportunity, I’ve created on my own. I’ve had a sitcom deal since 2008, but the way the industry is . . well, it’s tougher for me because I’m Mexican-American . But, I don’t do taco jokes, so the industry doesn’t know what to do with me. They say, “You’re not Mexican enough to be the Mexican guy, and you’re not white enough to be the white guy. What are you?” I always say, “I don’t know man, how about an American?” They expect George Lopez, and there’s nothing wrong with what Lopez does, it’s just not what I do. My comedy is in english, my comedy is relatable, it’s for everybody. I also hope people support me because they think, “I like this guy and he’s a Mexican-American like me.” I don’t have to go onstage and say (in a stereotypical Mexican accent), “My dad has been messing up at work.” That’s the hackiest stuff in the world and I see these Mexican”American comics doing it all the time. Lopez was doing that in the 80s, let it go. The rough part with the industry is trying to educate them that there are a lot of Mexican-Americans who are educated, who are tired of the taco jokes. When I hear those kind of jokes I always think they are making fun of us. My cousin is a doctor, he doesn’t want to hear, (with accent), “You know how we are!” What? The best thing I ever said was a Mexican cholo who yelled out, “Hey bro, tell stories about being Mexican-America, bro!” I said, “Dude, I’m Mexican-American, my wife is Mexican-American, therefore the stories you just heard are Mexican-American.”

With Trump and his blatant racism against Mexican-Americans, do you feel a need to educate audiences as well as make them laugh?

I’m edgy in the sense that I say things about my wife that I probably shouldn’t say, but when it comes to educating the public about Mexican-Americans, I take that extremely seriously. I hear people saying “The Oscars are so white,” but black people are over represented compared to Mexican-Americans. If anybody should be complaining is the Mexican-Americans. For my stand-up it doesn’t matter if the audience is black, white, purple, Jewish or gay, my acts the same. It kills exactly the same whether I’m in LA, San Francisco, New York or the middle of the country. I’ve heard I’m not progressive enough to play San Francisco and I don’t know what that means. It’s true, I am on the conservative side, but I’m from Texas. I believe gay people should be able to get married, but I also want to keep my gun.

 

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Interviews
02/02/2016

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