There’s only a small, but special group of comedians who manage to find constant success adapting with times. Now even though the times and the jokes may always be changing, one thing that will always be the same is the ability to be yourself once you walk on stage. As part of We Own The Laughs.com’s Comedian of the Day, have a few laughs and get to know comedian Steph Sanders. The Dayton, OH native shares with us some of his favorite moments in stand-up comedy and why he owns the laughs.
Name: Steph Sanders
Hometown: Dayton, OH
Years in Comedy: 14
Haven’t we seen you somewhere before: BET’s ComicView, ABC’s “Extra Butter”, Napa Commercials, Bank Commercials, along with motion picture films Atonement and The Chosen One.
Comedic Influences: Bernie Mac, Billy Crystal, Eddie Murphy, Robin Harris, George Carlin, and Patrice O’Neal
Favorite Comedy Album: Eddie Murphy “RAW”, Bill Cosby “Bill Cosby is a Very Funny Fellow…RIGHT”, Robin Harris “Be-Be’s Kids”, and Richard Pryor “Live On Sunset Strip”
Favorite Comedy Special: Dave Chappelle “Sticks & Stones” and Patrice O’Neal “Elephant In The Room”
Favorite Comedy Movie: Piece of the Action, Uptown Saturday Night, and Friday.
Favorite Comedy TV Show: Blackish, Sanford & Son, The Jeffersons, In Living Color, Mad TV, SNL, Martin, Living Single, and Seinfeld
Favorite Comedic Character: Any of Martin Lawrence’s characters from Martin, Jim Carey’s Fire Marshall Bill, and Braxton from The Jamie Foxx Show
Favorite City to Perform In: Chicago, Atlanta, and Oregon
Favorite Topics to Joke About: My children being not what I expected at this point, being adopted, my size, and what women love me, dating, getting older, and what changes.
Favorite Type of Audience for a Comedy Show: Diverse
Favorite Comedy Club: Punchline Sacramento/San Francisco and Comedy Cafe in Milwaukee, WI
How did you discover your passion for comedy:
I realized that making people laugh was a great way to divert the questions of why I was adopted, forgetting about my traumas suffered as a kid, and how to fit in easily if you’re awkward. So I made kids laugh on the bus on the way to school, recess, study hall, and even free time the teacher would give us at the end of classes.
What do you remember most about your first time performing stand-up comedy:
I remember not having any timing and rushing through the jokes like a speech in school and my final joke was a hit and that is what brought me back.
How would you describe your comedic style:
I have been told I am a little Chris Rock, Jamie Foxx, and Ced The Entertainer
Describe your process for comedic writing:
I would say I am a topical/observational comic, so I write a topic or scenario that seems like an ordinary one but glean the “funny” from the situation like not having a father, how much fun we had being young and broke, interracial dating, or having anxiety about everyday activities like bagging your own groceries. I then present them onstage with 3 possible punchlines and once I get 3 big laughs from 3 different audiences I keep the premise and punchline and grow it from there. I am great at crowd work too so I am not afraid to take risks onstage and write while onstage.
Describe the comedy scene in your area:
The comedy scene in my area brings out some of the strongest comedians in the country because our audiences are some of the toughest. 10 years ago, there were several spots to hone your craft, but now there are only a few spots and you’re fighting with many comedians for stage time. It is not so much about funny anymore as it is exposure. How many people “follow” you on social media, and so forth. There is a distinct line of comedy spots that are either very daunting black rooms to lily-white comedy spots, and very few in between unless you go to the Bay Area where there are tremendous diverse crowds.
How do you judge success in the world of comedy:
For everyone it is different, but if you’re making a living at the income point you need and want, then you are successful because you’re doing something you love and getting paid for it. Most people cannot say that, so we’re WINNING if that the case, specifically, if I’m on the road 30-40 weeks per year, a regular on a show or shows, and film 2-3 movies per year, then that is a success for me.
Who are some of your comedic peers that you enjoy watching perform or inspire you personally and professionally:
Mike E Winfield, D’Lai, Lance Woods, Tony Baker, Anthony K, Deon Cole, Taylor Tomlinson, BT Kingsley, Tacarra Williams, Tony Roberts, Wanda Sykes, Chris Rock, and Dave Chappelle.
What’s been your most memorable moment in comedy:
My first TV Taping in New Orleans for BET ComicView. The comic in front of me super bombed. He completely dropped a SCUD missile onstage and the host Sheryl Underwood looked at me and said, “Welp, let’s see what you got kid, just don’t do what they did!” I had a great set.
What have you learned most from your failures in comedy:
What’s for YOU is for YOU! Don’t get caught up in someone else’s success. Don’t judge anyone’s comedy or put a value judgment on if they’re FUNNY to you or not. Stay in your lane, keep your head down, be good to EVERYONE, and do better each night than the night before.
How do people react towards you when they realize that you can make people laugh:
They immediately have two responses:
A) Say something funny, which comics hate by the way, and B) people said I should have been a comedian and they eventually slide in a stock joke, HORRIBLE!
Describe what it’s been like building a career in stand-up comedy:
That is a great question because it has changed over the years. It used to be gain a following in your own town and then move to LA if you want a TV/Film career or New York if you want to be the best stand-up you can be. Now it’s all over the place. You can get fame from Youtube, 6 seconds of a skit, a meme, people are headlining with 15 mins of material but 2 million followers….so the answer is I don’t really know anymore, but I do know it all eventually settles in and it becomes about the mic, a stool, and you.
If you could change one thing in the world of comedy, what would it be:
Comedy Clubs would be deemed essential and receive government dollars so the pay for comics would go up and be a steady and liveable wage.
Best advice you’ve ever received from a comedian:
Keep an honest voice. Be you and never be afraid to make whatever in life is funny to you funny to ALL.
If you were releasing a comedy special this week, what would it be called:
I’m Sick & Tired but I FEEL SO GOOD!
Funniest encounter you’ve ever had with a celebrity:
Terrence Howard told me to basically go off book and piss on the casting table before my first big audition. “Go in that MF and tell em’ this is mine MF”.
Weirdest place you’ve ever performed any form of comedy:
A klan bar in Mississippi; Orange County drug rehab facility; and county fair onstage while the band was warming up.
A Steph Sanders Fun Fact:
I was truly kidnapped by 3 large women and put in a car seat as an adult.
Where would you like your laughs to take you:
Sitcom, serious acting roles, writing for a show, and the road all over the world.
What would you tell a potential comedian if they ask you how they can own the laughs:
Watch all comedy from Charlie Chaplin, Jack Benny, Russ Par, Lenny Bruce, all the way up to 2020, construct a 3-5 minute routine, and do it EVERYWHERE and anywhere for 2 months, then watch the videos, listen to the audio, and rewrite and sharpen and do it again for 2 more months. Then find some writing partners and BEGIN.
What are your thoughts on the future of comedy:
I am hopeful because people will ALWAYS need to laugh so comedians and comedy of all genres are NECESSARY and there is room for everyone.
If you could write one episode for one classic TV sitcom which show would be and give a brief detailed sentence on the episode:
Hmmmm..great questions. It would be The Love Boat. The bachelor party and the bachelorette party for a bride and groom would ended up choosing the same damn boat. Special guest appearances by Jim Carey, Jamie Foxx, Martin Lawrence, Sherman Hemsley, Red Foxx, Sanai Lathan, Queen Latifah, Maya Rudolph, and a host of others…hilarious setup.
What’s next for you:
Now, a podcast called The OffDachange Show Podcast (December 2020), audition for more movie roles, Atonement release, and once the world opens back up comedy festivals for more exposure.
Why should a person always laugh at life:
Because sorrow, grief, depression, anger, and storms are ALL temporary. Happiness is ETERNAL. The sun rises EVERY SINGLE DAY!
Watch Steph Sanders at Punchline Sacramento
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