What do they say about New York City: There are eight million stories, and sometimes it seems as though eight million of the people telling them think they're comedians? No, that's not it. It is a fact, though, that America's biggest city is also its biggest comedy mecca. Hollywood may be Hollywood, but New York City is where comedians are born funny, become funny or arrive to thrust their funny upon us. I think we should meet some of these people. This is a new recurring feature, a mini-profile of newcomers, up-and-comers and overcomers of New York's vibrant comedy scene. It's called Meet Me In New York.
Victor Varnado (photographed by Rafael Fuchs) is many things. Yes, he is a black albino and he'll be the first to joke about that. Varnado also is a talented comedian, actor and filmmaker. You may have seen him on Conan, or perhaps Julien Donkey-Boy, End of Days, The Adventures of Pluto Nash, or My Name is Earl. And he is the brains behind the camera and sometimes in front of it, helming the stand-up documentary film, The Awkward Comedy Show, which debuts on TV April 9 on Comedy Central, and comes out later this year on DVD. (See my early review, when it was called the Awkward Kings of Comedy) But before all of that. He was just another comedian moving to New York City to make it. In 2007 he was profiled on the cover of the Village Voice. Let's learn more!
Name: Victor Varnado
Arrival date: August 27, 1998
Arrived from: Minneapolis, MN
When and where did you start performing comedy? I didn‚Äôt really do a lot of standup until I reached New York. Before that I was working mostly in the exciting field of comedy improvisation. I started with ComedySportz in Minneapolis. Lots of lights and games and generally a good time.
What was your best credit before moving here? Before coming to NYC my biggest part in a movie was starring in an exercise video that was a full-length movie (yeah, I know) and it was based on the wizard of Oz. The woman who played Dorothy was a body builder. (Yeah‚Ä¶ I KNOW) I played the tin man.
Why did you pick NYC over LA or anywhere else? It was pretty simple, I had more friends in NYC than I did in LA. I was determined to go out and see if I could ‚Äúmake it‚Äù and my buddy Colton was willing to move to NYC with me. We moved into a tiny apartment in the Lower East Side that had a mouse. If only he was a sassy-talking mouse, it wouldn‚Äôt have been so gross.
How long did it take to get your first paid gig in NYC after moving here? It took me about six months to get my first paid gig, but no need to be impressed, I was doing work as an extra. Shortly after that I was hired to be part of the touring company in Chicago City Limits, an off off Broadway improv theater company. During that period of time, I seemed to make a lot of people angry. I couldn‚Äôt tell you why.
How is this scene better/same/worse than the scene you moved from? The scene in Minneapolis compared to New York is actually pretty similar. There aren‚Äôt as many clubs and shows there but I would maintain that the quality pretty high. I have three pretty good friends that all moved from Minneapolis to do our thing on the coasts and all of us are working steadily right now.
Do you already have an "only in New York City" moment yet? I went to the Mars Bar to see how ‚Äúcrazy‚Äù everyone said it was. I was unimpressed until one of my friends went to the bathroom and somehow I quickly got into a bar fight with a large Frenchman. I ended up throwing him out of the bar. When I came out to the sidewalk later he was still there and was so drunk that he had forgotten that I was the guy who beat him up, so I asked him if I could take a picture with him. (picture attached)
What tip would you give to any comedian who moves here? If you can't make yourself laugh then you probably won't make your audience laugh, Jewish girls have amazing butts, and live in Brooklyn.
Where do you see yourself five years from now? I want to keep making funny movies. I will always be a stand-up but writing and directing keeps my soul from rotting.
Here's a short clip he produced. Take a peek!
Which NYC comedian would you like to see me style and profile next for Meet Me In New York? Send your nominations to: thecomicscomic AT gmail DOT com