I walked into the lobby of the Stephen F. Austin Hotel looking for local comedian Lucas Molandes. I spotted him sitting with a group of friends, and when I introduced myself he tried to trick me into thinking one of his friends was actually Molandes. Good thing I did my research, right?
The veteran comic has appeared on Comedy Central’s Live at Gotham and has performed at comedy festivals from Austin to Montreal, Canada. Molandes sat with Red River Noise to tell us how he got his start in comedy and what’s in store for the Austin-based comic.
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So you first decided to do comedy while you were in college at the University of Texas. How did that come about?
Lucas Molandes: I was always a fan of comedy and I just thought I couldn’t do anything with comedy, since I hadn’t really written anything. I remember riding the UT shuttle to school everyday and writing in my journal. I didn’t like the major I was in—which was engineering—and I just decided one day that I should do something with all my writing, so I went to an open mic at the Velveeta Room. That was in 2004, and I’ve been doing this ever since.
How was your first time on stage?
Molandes: I remember my first time on stage, I forgot everything I was going to say, so I sort of had to talk myself out of a corner. It felt really good though. I remember walking back to my car and feeling really elated, like a natural high, and I’ve worked at getting that high ever since.
What’s the creative process like for you?
Molandes: Sometimes when I have a conversation with someone, some things will just spark my imagination and I’ll follow a thought pattern and then find something funny within it. Other times, I journal and look back at what is written and spin something into the comedy level that it needs to be at. For example, I will go to open mics over the course of the week and I’ll have one idea in the beginning of the week that is about 30 seconds long and then it’ll change into a three-minute bit by the end of the week.
You’ve been to a few comedy festivals. What’s that experience like?
Molandes: The first festival I went to was the Montreal Just For Laughs Festival in 2007 and at that point I had only been doing comedy for two and a half years, so that was a great experience. I also did a festival in Nebraska and I don’t know how I got on there. I performed in a high school auditorium in front of townsfolk who’s median age was probably 60, and I’m up there talking about being broke and living in Austin and New York. It’s sort of like, “How did I get here? I don’t think I can get these people to relate to me.” What I’ll do in situations like that, is if I know the material is not gonna go over well, my set will turn into a nervous breakdown and that’s usually funny. People are usually like, “We should laugh so he doesn’t feel bad,” so I’ll trick them into laughing that way.
How did you end up moving to New York?
Molandes: A friend of mine convinced me to move to New York because he I said I had to move there if I wanted my career to take off. I spent the first year there being broke and eating beans and rice every single day. That’s all I could afford. I did get a TV writing credit there this past year for a TV show called Failosophy, which aired on MTV. It just wrapped up as part of a 12-episode run. So that was an experience, but I’m back in Austin now. If the show gets picked up for a second season, I’ll go back and help them write. Part of me thinks they’re not going to want me back.
Why do you think they’re not going to want you back?
Molandes: I’d rather feel that way and not go back, than feel like, “Maybe I have a chance at going back,” and then they don’t want me. I’m just preparing myself, psychologically.
What other things are you working on as of now?
Molandes: Right now, I’m doing a lot of comedy on the road and I’m also recording a self-produced CD soon. I already did one CD with Stand Up Records and that one will be released soon. I’m working on this new CD as a way to have this one on the back burner and release it in a year or so. I’m also giving recordings away on my website, too. You don’t really make a lot of money in comedy, so you might as well just have fun with it and give it away. Best thing that could happen is someone who hears it may want to book me and maybe I’ll make some money out of that.
What else can be considered a struggle for comedians?
Molandes: It can get tough because sometimes you want to be on the road, but there’s a lot of politics and it’s all in who you know. Sometimes I feel like I should be on the road and working a lot more clubs, but I don’t know the right people. Then there are times when I get a last-minute email saying, “Hey can you fly out to wherever tomorrow?” So my schedule always has to be flexible.
As a comic, what is one thing you want to accomplish in the future?
Molandes: I try to do this, but the way my brain works, I can sit and write for a couple of hours a day, but then I can’t sit and try to put together the big picture stuff because it gets more complicated and I start to get a bit of self-doubt. If I keep pursuing comedy, something will always come up. I don’t know what is going to happen six months or a year from now. I just know things will keep happening if I stay dedicated to comedy.
Would you want to explore more acting gigs?
Molandes: I’m also too self-aware for acting. I’ve tried it and I just feel like I don’t know what to do with my hands or my entire body. I clam up and turn into a robot, just so I don’t have to feel all the pressure.
What about creating your own podcast?
Molandes: Podcasts are interesting because comedians are really good at podcasts. They are naturally gifted speakers and they are able to hold a conversation and find the interesting or funny parts of it. There are just so many podcasts, even in Austin. I feel like you have to come up with a gimmick for that. I’ve talked to my friend about starting a podcast where we just interview regular people that have regular jobs, like a bus driver or a janitor. Sometimes they are the most interesting people; they just don’t have a platform. I just need to find a way to make them comfortable and have them talk to me openly.
I think that is a great idea for a podcast. So how does the Austin comedy scene measure up against other cities?
Molandes: Austin has really grown when it comes to comedy. When I first started, there were only two open mics, so I would get maybe six minutes a week and now I can do that in one show. This town is really growing creatively as a comedy hub. It took this long for a festival like Moontower to thrive here, but now the scene is really supportive. The Funniest Person in Austin Contest has about 210 participants this year, and the year I did it there was maybe 65. It’s becoming a lot more competitive. New York and Los Angeles used to be the places where you had to be for this industry, but now that the internet is such a dominant force people can stay where they are and still create a career that is visible to the world. I’ve gotten every credit in comedy through Austin—except the MTV writing gig, since I did that in New York, but I wrote my submission packet for the show here in Austin. There’s just a good quality of life here.
So how did you land the MTV writing gig?
Molandes: What helped me get the writing gig in New York was not caring. I didn’t want to work on that submission packet because, at the time, everything I submitted wasn’t getting accepted. My friend made me do it and told me to put some effort into it. I went to a bar and I did it on my iPhone and I didn’t really over-think it. I had a couple of beers and I just wrote jokes based on the criteria they had and then I just sent it to the producer of the show. The producer then said you can take a few more days to work on this if you want, but I decided against it. Out of about 65 to 70 submissions, they chose four and I was one of them. And I wasn’t really trying to get it. Maybe it’s like other things in life, as soon as you back off that’s when they want you. Maybe that’s the secret: Just stop caring and it’ll come to you.
Watch a video of Molandes performing at Austin’s Coldtowne Theater below.