JR De Guzman chases laughs through song
The Sacramento comic sets sights on television and an international fanbase
There was a time when JR De Guzman felt like he wouldn’t get back onstage.
“I got off after two minutes and thought about maybe never doing it again,” he says.
Still, it was just the beginning of his musical comedy career. Bombing for comics is inevitable, but now, De Guzman is busy riding comedy highs after appearances on Kevin Hart’s Comedy Central show Hart of the City and MTV’s stand-up and sketch comedy series Acting Out.
“It was the best feeling in the world to see Kevin Hart laughing at my jokes,” De Guzman says. “That was so validating. I have this dirty Christmas song and he was like dying.”
And De Guzman recently returned from Los Angeles, where he was a finalist for Stand-Up NBC. The initiative aims to diversify what’s an ordinarily very white field, with the winner—past success stories include Hannibal Buress and Ian Edwards—receiving an NBC development deal. The results should be coming any day now.
With his debut comedy album, Dual Citizen, set for release in February 2017 through 800 Pound Gorilla Records, the 26-year-old is already focused on next year’s possibilities.
“I’ve always had this in my head that 2017 is going to be a really big year,” he says. “I took a leap of faith and the net came out. It sounds cheesy, but it worked out.”
De Guzman was born in the Philippines and his family moved to the United States shortly after. His comedy reflects his culture, his family’s early struggles living in a new country and the more awkward moments of high school.
During his sets, De Guzman is accompanied by an acoustic guitar, which he lightly strums as he delivers jokes and sings original songs. Taking note from comedic influences like Flight of the Conchords and Demetri Martin, he sings quick and witty tunes with a soulful, R&B-like voice that invites the audience into his world of real-life experiences—like the time another guy swooped in on his prom date.
The once-unfortunate scenario turned into opportunity. A YouTube video of De Guzman’s prom song has received more than 200,000 views. In October, the song was reenacted on Acting Out.
Comedy is De Guzman’s full-time gig. He spends a majority of his days traveling to venues all over the country. Through his experience, he says he learned to develop a body of jokes that are relatable to audiences in any city or country willing to give him five minutes onstage.
Two years ago, he flew to the Philippines to volunteer with the country’s earthquake relief efforts. When he found a “booming comedy scene” at night, his plan to stay a month turned into a year. His goals for next year include writing a television pilot for a major network and building his fanbase overseas as well as at home.
“Doing stand-up in the Philippines and in Asia and Europe, I wanted to find ways to make everybody laugh,” he says. “I’m really interested in what makes old people laugh, young people laugh, gay or straight. I can believe one thing religiously or politically, but if we laugh about something in that moment, we’re agreeing and connecting.”