100 Creatives 2013: Vic Shuttee, Comedy Writer and Performer
We talked to comedy writer and performer Vic Shuttee just a few hours before the first preview for his play, Brick Wall, at the University of Houston, where he's a student in the theater department. The play, which Shuttee began writing three years ago for a class, follows three comedians, each at a different stage in his or her career, who are performing at a benefit. The action goes from the stand-up routines to flashbacks of the inspirations for those particular bits. Actors playing the on-stage audience become the other characters in the flashbacks.
Courtesy of Vic Shuttee
"I've been out of the rehearsal room for the last three or four days because they've been doing technical stuff," Shuttee tells us. "I wanted a little bit of a surprise, so I'm seeing it in its completed form for the first time tonight, along with the audience."
Even this close to the show's opening, Shuttee is still making revisions. "When you write a play it changes when the actors say the lines out loud. Every day [I've been] changing bits of the scripts...so we're in rewrite number 50 or so," he says. "There came a point where I said I can't give any more changes to the actors or they won't remember anything. Last week I just started making changes for me, for the future. I'm hoping the play will have legs beyond this one performance so I'm continuing to make changes in the script."
What He Does: "I'm a comedian, a writer, a performer and [radio host]. I do a lot of other things like improvising and producing and other things, but it becomes a long, long list. I try not to sound like a jerk so I don't list them all. It's been hard nailing down what I do, because I don't fit into just the acting program or just the writing program. I enjoy all of it -- performing, writing, directing -- all of it.
Courtesy of Vic Shuttee
Shuttee concedes that as with many other artists, people occasionally question his career choice. "People find out you're a comic and they say awful things, like 'You're not that funny. I'm funnier than you.' It's awful. I usually don't know them that well, so I'll say, 'Yeah, you might be funnier than me, I don't know. It's just that I choose to be funny in front of other people.'"
Why He Likes It: "If I didn't perform, I'd be missing purpose. In high school I played sports and I played music, trying to find a place to fit in but the one thing I really had a passion for was comedy. I didn't think about it as a career, either writing or performing, but once that clicked, it changed everything. I have no other way to channel that energy into a productive enterprise, other than trying to be funny.
"I have always been interested in the history of comedy. I love vaudeville and don't understand why there's no vaudeville today. I studied some of those performers and can see where they became stand-up comics and then stand-up comics became television writers, still telling jokes. I love that, that the history all connects.
"I also admire those who do it well. It's a skill set that's so unique, the ability to turn your depraved thoughts into someone else can relate to and enjoy."
What Inspires Him: "I keep a little notebook on me at all times. If I see a guy getting chewed out by his girlfriend, I think 'If I was that guy, I would say this...' I have hundreds of these little notebooks, full of ideas and lines. Some are for a sketch, some are for a full-length play or a movie.
"It also inspires me to watch someone else grow over their career. Watching a young Jon Stewart, back when he was 25 and seeing how bad it was and how nervous he was, then seeing him and where he is today, it's inspiring to see that kind of progression."
If Not This, Then What: "Right now I'd probably say advertising, because I'm watching Mad Men. I know it's a very romanticized version and real advertising is probably nothing like that, but if it was, I'd like to do that.
"When I was growing up I always romanticized being a hobo or a vagabond. I always wanted to be in an O Brother, Where Art Thou script, going from town to town doing odd jobs and seeing the world. It occurred to me many years later, that's really what a stand-up [comic] is, a vagabond who drifts into town, does a couple of jobs and then moves on. 'Oh, I am like a hobo! I'm just a less dirty one.'"
If Not Here, Then Where: "Chicago. I think Chicago is a beautiful place, but I would probably live in LA, at least for a while trying to get a writing job and doing stand up. That might be where I'll be in a couple of years."
What's Next: Shuttee has a long on his to-do list. "I'm doing a sketch show with a couple of friends; that will go online. I'm hoping to do a book from all the interviews that I'm doing for [my radio show] Hail, Satire. I can see writing a book called How to Make it as a Comedian When You're Poor and Stupid based on those interviews.
"I'm thinking about applying to grad school. I'm sending Brick Wall to some more contests. In the meantime I'm performing around town and writing."
More Creatives for 2013
(In order of most recently published; click here for the full page).
Robin Davidson, poet and translator
Jessica Wilbanks, essayist and Pushcart Prize winner
David DeHoyos, astronaut photographer
Sophie Jordan, bestselling book author
Jessi Jordan, comic artist, beekeeper and yeti enthusiast
Patrick Peters, architect and professor
Jamie Kinosian, visual artist
Paris F. Jomadiao, mixed-media artist and stop motion animator
Shanon Adams, dancer
James Glassman, Houstorian historian and artist
Lou Vest, photographer
Sara Gaston, stage and screen star
Rachael Pavlik, a writer mom
Ana Villaronga-Roman, Katy Contemporary Arts Museum director
Erin Wasmund, actor, singer and dancer
Karim Al-Zand, composer
Jan Burandt, paper conservator for The Menil Collection
Deke Anderson, actor
Craig Cohen, hockey fan and host of Houston Matters
Mauro Luna, Poe-Inspired photographer
Trond Saeverud, Galveston Symphony Orchestra music director and conductor
Khrystyna Balushka, paper flower child
Christina Carfora, visual artist and world traveler
Sara Kumar, artistic director for Shunya Theatre
Kiki Maroon, burlesque clown
Gin Martini, fashion designer
Lacey Crawford, painter and sculptor
Homer Starkey, novelist
Jenn Fox, mixed media Shohei Iwahama, dancer
Erica DelGardo, metalsmith
Bob Clark, executive director Houston Family Arts Center
Kerrelyn Sparks, bestselling romance author
Lindsay Halpin, punk rock mad hatter
Drake Simpson, actor
Shelby Carter, Playboy model turned photographer
David Matranga, actor
Crystal Belcher, pole dancer
Daniel Kramer, photographer
Blue 130, pin-up explosion art
Nina Godiwalla, author and TED speaker
David Wilhem, light painter
Tom Abrahams, author and newscaster
Browncoat, pin-up pop artist
Kris Becker, Nu-Classical composer and pianist
Vincent Fink, science fashion
Stephanie Saint Sanchez, Senorita Cinema founder
Ned Gayle, thrift store painting defacer
Sameera Faridi, fashion designer
Greg Ruhe, The Human Puppet
Sophia L. Torres, founder and co-artistic director of Psophonia Dance Company
Maggie Lasher, dance professor and artistic director
Jordan Jaffe, founder of Black Lab Theatre
Outspoken Bean, performance poet
Barry Moore, architect
Josh Montoute, mobile gaming specialist
Ty Doran, young actor
Gwen Zepeda, Houston's first Poet Laureate
Joseph Walsh, principal dancer at Houston Ballet
Justin Garcia, artist
Buck Ross, dilettante and director of Moores Opera Center
Patrick Renner, sculptor of the abstract and the esoteric
Tomas Glass, abstract artist and True Blood musician
Ashley Stoker, painter, photographer and Tumblr muse
Amy Llanes, artistic airector of Rednerrus Feil Dance Company
Bevin Bering Dubrowski, executive director at the Houston Center for Photography
Lydia Hance, founder and director of Frame Dance Productions
Piyali Sen Dasgupta, mixed media artist and nature lover
Dean James, New York Times bestselling mystery novelist
Nicola Parente, abstract painter and photographer
Cheryl Schulke, handmade leather pursemaker
Anthony Rathbun, Alternative Lifestyle Photographer
David Salinas, computer-less analog photographer
Danielle Burns, art curator
Alicia DiRago, Whimseybox founder
Katia Zavistovski, contemporary art curator
Ashley Horn, choreographer, filmmaker
Amanda Stevens, scary book author
Peter Lucas, film and video curator, music lover and self-described culture-slinger
Ana MarÃa Otamendi, collaborative pianist and vocal coach
Billy D. Washington, comedian
Michele Brangwen, choreographer and dancer
Kristin Warren, actress and choreographer
Kelly Sears, animator and film maker
Colton Berry, Bayou City Theatrics' artistic director
jhon r. stronks,dance-maker
Joe Grisaffi, actor, director, writer, cinematographer