UT students compete for title of “Funniest Person in Austin”

Juhie Modi

The first time David McQuary, supply chain management senior, did stand-up comedy, he performed right after UT alumnus and 2012’s “Funniest Person in Austin” Ramin Nazer.

But surprisingly, he didn’t let the intimidation get to him, and for the next two years he earned his own reputation in the competition, making it to the finals twice.   

“My jokes are like my children,” McQuary said. “I only really love the most recent ones. I want them to make me money and if they don’t perform for me, I’m getting rid of them.”

More than 100 new and experienced comedians will perform in Cap City Comedy Club’s 28th annual “Funniest Person in Austin” contest beginning Monday. Industry people from major companies like MTV and Comedy Central will choose the winner of the competition May 20. 

McQuary described his comedy style as “the more cutesy side of humor,” but he believes that being a student helped him both develop his style and advance in the competition. 

“I can’t deny that there’s an educational component,” McQuary said. “Being young, there’s the element of ‘This is the young guy, we want him to be successful because he’s young.’ So I could feel like the crowd was rooting for me. That was fulfilling because it gave me more credit in the Austin community and it’s legitimate credit. So it definitely helps with confidence afterward.”

Communication studies graduate student Joseph Faina has competed for the past four years, but this year, he hopes to make it past the preliminaries. 

“It’s super tough because […] they cut about 75 percent of people immediately,” Faina said. “And there are a lot of really great people who are really funny and they do a lot of stuff around town and do shows all the time and they just don’t advance because it’s so big. It’s all based on how you do that day. So if [for] some reason you aren’t as clean or polished as you usually are, that’s it for you.”

Many comics who perform in the competition regularly do open mic nights at venues such as The New Movement or Cap City Comedy Club, where Nazer first performed in 2007.

“It was terrible, but I was the last to go up, so being terrible wasn’t a big deal,” Nazer said. “Surprisingly, this did not discourage me. Relationships, bands, classes, I’ve always wanted out at some point fairly early on. Stand-up has been the only thing in my life that I’ve never wanted to quit. Every bad experience in stand-up is a just a lesson, not an injury.”

Like other past winners of the competition, following his victory Nazer performed on TV shows such as “The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson.” He said every comic in Austin competes for a chance to be seen by talent scouts and hopefully to get their first paid gig, regardless of whether they win or not. 

“The preliminary rounds are a blast because you get to see working professionals alongside complete train wrecks,” Nazer said. “If you’re not into cringing, maybe just wait until the finals.”

The year Nazer won the finals sold out, but for some performers the competition can be their first time doing a set in front of a crowd of more than 200 people. 

“It’s all baby steps though, let’s not get delusional,” Nazer said. “I’m still a zilch.”

Nathan Waters, radio-television-film and computer science junior, considers himself an underdog in the competition because he has only performed stand-up twice in his life. He said he chose to sign up because he is single, and so he has a lot of free time. Waters advises viewers to bring a date to the comedy shows. 

“Laughter is the greatest aphrodisiac,” Waters said.