Sub.Urban Comedy Connection

Monday, August 15, 2011

Made Men: A Sit-Down with the Laugh Mafia

A week ago, I found myself at an Einstein Brothers Bagels having a very surreal moment.  Jason Powell, Byron Stamps, and Bobby Friske, three of four local greats who make up Dallas' own Laugh Mafia comedy group, sat around my table, drinking coffee and waxing hysterical.

I felt as if I had been transported into the middle of a sit-com, with the Laugh Mafia as the ensemble cast - the dynamic was incredible, and this was just breakfast.  Jason, Byron, and Bobby have such great chemistry with each other, even though each comic in the Laugh Mafia brings their own unique style, which is pretty much by design.

Bobby Friske, Byron Stamps, and fourth member, Bobby Romano, met in a comedy workshop run by Emmy Award-winning comedian and writer, Dean Lewis, which has churned out such greats as Paul Varghese, Raj Sharma, and Aaron Aryanpur. The three began hitting Dallas-area open mic nights, where they "accidentally" crossed paths with Jason Powell. The guys hit it off one night at the Backdoor Comedy Club, and have been writing and performing together ever since.  The group produced their first comedy show at the Eisemann Center in 2009, and never looked back.

Byron Stamps, "Wylie's only African-American resident," grew up in the Gulf South.  Quickly recognizing the limited opportunities to perform stand up comedy in his native Mississippi, Byron began traveling on weekends to places like Memphis and New Orleans.  Stamps took a brief hiatus from comedy to marry and start a family, but once his regular job (teaching) provided a chance to relocate to the DFW area, Byron knew he wanted to revisit his first love - stand up.  

Byron was the strong, silent type of the group, who sat back, observing, and only provided commentary when he felt he had something of substance to provide.

Bobby Friske endured a rural upbringing in West Texas, which provides him with an unending supply of rich comedy.  Bobby's quick wit and progressive style of comedy made me almost forget he had grown up in a small town outside of Lubbock, but his slow Southern drawl would not let me.  Bobby seemed to be the major motivating factor in who and where the Laugh Mafia is today.

Chicago native, Jason Powell, was surrounded by improvisation a la Second City, yet his focus was strictly stand up comedy.  After traveling and even taking Judy Carter's stand up class in Los Angeles, Powell returned to Chicago, and immediately noticed what he described as a "Chicago predisposition" to improvisation, with little focus on stand up comedy.  Jason had the chance to move to Dallas for a job, and was encouraged by the stand up network and scene.

I did not get to speak with Bobby Romano of the Laugh Mafiabut Romano comes from a strong music background, and his comedy is an edgy blend.

"Our show has something for everyone," Friske explained. "We're a diverse group, and our hope has always been to provide a diverse comedy show." 

The boys have already put in a huge amount of preparation for the August 27th event.  This group has been meeting regularly, and have been performing and perfecting their craft at various shows all around the DFW area.  The guys made it very clear that they appreciate their supporters, and I believe wholeheartedly that they are both sincere and grateful.

In fact, Friske and Stamps just returned from a nine day "immersion" in Los Angeles, likening the city to "The Olympics of Comedy."  L.A. had a great divide in the levels of performance of "open micers" versus "openers." There seemed to be no middle ground to speak of, even though each and every comedian was incredibly kind and showed respect for the Dallas Comedy scene.  Stamps and Friske were fortunate enough to have good contacts in the upper echelon of L.A.'s comedy scene, but clearly could differentiate between the "haves," and the "have nots," which made them both very appreciative of the nurturing and supportive comedy network back home. 

I encourage you to see the Laugh Mafia Saturday, August 27th at 8:00 at the Eisemann Center - this show will surely sell out, as the previous shows have, so get your tickets ASAP!

tix available at www.eisemanncenter.com

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