One comic, still standing
Christian Reyes might be the most accomplished comic in Reno—certainly for his age. Sure, he was doing a gig in Fallon a month ago, but he was walking the red carpet in Hollywood last summer.
“I’m a Mexican only child,” comedian Christian Reyes tells an all-white crowd of latte drinkers at a coffee shop in Fallon. He waits for the joke to sink in. He gets some chuckles. He waits another few seconds.
“You’re welcome!” he says.
The somewhat skeptical crowd is now ready for whatever Reyes throws at them.
But Reyes, 21, with no trace of an accent unless he is doing an impression, doesn’t want to be known as just another “Mexican comic.” He wants to be known as the comic.
The comedians in Reno are a tight-knit group, almost like a family, Reyes explains. He brushes it off when he’s asked if he’s the best comic in Reno.
“There’s only 12 comedians here, and we all have big egos anyway,” he laughs.
It was because of a national online competition called “So You Think You’re Funny,” where Reyes was one of eight comics chosen from a stand-up video he submitted to Myspace, that he got his first taste of the big time. The videos were voted for online with the top three comedians off to Hollywood.
As part of a promotion for the Pixar movie Ratatouille, Reyes and the other two comedians, both from New York City and far more experienced than Reyes, competed at the prestigious Improv Club in front of executives from ABC, Myspace and other media companies.
Reyes, then 20 years old, did his set first. A good set, he says, but not his best. Afterwards, he went outside, figuring he should at least try to meet some comics while he was there.
“This one guy comes up to me and says ‘Congratulations!’” says Reyes.
“For what?” Reyes asks.
“You won!” the guy says.
Reyes spent the night at an after-party meeting celebrities, (like Brad Garrett from Everybody Loves Raymond and ’Til Death), and getting a first taste of what he hopes will one day be routine.
He almost had a second run-in with fame for winning the Jimmy Kimmel College Comedy Competition at Arizona State University. Reyes didn’t even know he was competing. He thought it was just a regular gig.
“There was supposed to be a live feed to the Jimmy Kimmel show,” says Reyes in between sips of a Blue Moon ale in his one-bedroom apartment. “I was supposed to be on television that night. But due to the writers’ strike, I couldn’t be on that at all.”
Reyes dismisses his ill fate casually. He hopes to get on Jimmy Kimmel Live later. Of course, everything in show biz is sketchy, but Reyes says the show executives told him he has a “really good shot.”
Break a leg, kid
“Stupid fucking kid!” some comedian said to the crowd after Reyes got off the stage after his first time doing a paid gig.
Reyes was introducing Marc Wild, the headline comedian that night, and mistakenly called him Mike, not Marc.
“And I’m like ‘Oh my God. This guy’s an asshole,” Reyes recalls.
Later that night, Wild was waiting for him backstage.
The comic, middle-aged and considerably smaller than Reyes, starts bitching him out.
“After a while, I get up and was like ‘What the fuck is your problem?’” says Reyes.
Wild really went wild then—screaming up a storm and even ripping Reyes’ headshot photos that were sitting on a table nearby.
“He called me everything in the book,” Reyes says.
“I thought, ‘This guy is gonna punch me.’ And I’m like, ‘Fuck it, I’m gonna punch him back.’”
Just then the club owner steps in and settles the dispute.
“I never hated someone that much in my life!” Reyes says.
Wild was scheduled to headline that whole week. Reyes, then 18, was getting paid $150 a week to perform his set, introduce comics as they came on stage, seat audience members and sweep the floors after the show.
“I thought I was fired for sure,” he says.
Reyes kept his job and made sure to pronounce the headliner’s name right, but he did it with no enthusiasm whatsoever.
At the end of the week, Wild apologized to Reyes, hugging him and everything.
“I’m just like weirded-out,” Reyes says. “And that was my introduction to comedy.”
Reyes found his career in a phonebook.
It was during 12th grade at Wooster High. He had to do a report on a possible career field.
“A lot of friends used to tell me I was funny and should do stand-up. … I remember that was the first time in life I was actually determined to do something,” he says. “I’m a slacker.”
He called an entertainment company that books magicians, clowns and comedians. After explaining that he was a 17-year-old student looking to do stand-up, the receptionist gave him comedian Josie Spadoni’s phone number.
Spadoni asked him how his grades were. They sucked.
“Perfect,” she said. “Successful comedians usually don’t get good grades.
“You just have to be really flexible,” she later tells him. “Learn to like the taste of Top Ramen.”
“He’s doing the right thing,” she now says of Reyes. “He just has to wait for a manager to, you know, put some money into him.”
A Mexican only child
Being funny isn’t always fun.
Reyes, who crossed the border illegally with his parents when he was 2-years-old, points around his modest one-bedroom apartment, where he lives alone.
“This is the nicest place I’ve ever lived in,” he says, taking a bite out of a microwaveable chicken wing.
Born in Tijuana and moving back and forth from Inglewood, Calif., to Reno, Reyes tells some not-so-funny stories about his childhood.
He has a joke he uses to open his stand-up set: “You see this crowd here,” he says, pointing at the audience. “The equivalent of a Mexican one-bedroom apartment.”
Reyes recalls living in a converted-garage, one-bedroom apartment with his father, two uncles, his father’s girlfriend and an uncle’s two children on weekends. Reyes was 13. He had just left his mother in Reno, who had recently remarried.
“Honestly, I was so stressed out. I remember being angry and shit.”
But comedy wasn’t much of a release.
“Black people and Mexican people hate each other in L.A.,” says Reyes, explaining how he learned to fight after a few days at his new high school—to fight gangs, that is, not individuals. Reyes is barely 5 feet 9 inches and about 145 pounds.
Life has gotten better, he says. So he does with the hard times what he now does best, make jokes: “I used to live in Inglewood,” he says on the audition tape that got him to Hollywood last July. “No, I really did. I went to high school there. I used to wear my mom’s paternity clothes.”
“Because nobody will jump you if you’re pregnant.”
“But I learned they will fuck up a Mexican kid wearing paternity clothes.”