July 2017 - Make 'Em Laugh: Rusty Rutherford
Where did your love of comedy come from? I grew up in a family that laughed a lot. My dad has always been quiet and serious, but very clever when does make jokes. My mom is very warm and often accidently funny. Since I can remember I’ve always enjoyed making people laugh. I was voted “class clown” in high school, as well as “most likely to start a cult.” I was pretty proud of both of those. When I realized that through comedy I had the power to make someone’s day a little bit better, I decided it was something I wanted to do for the rest of my life.
Do you remember your first gig? What was it like? My first time doing comedy in front of a live audience was my sophomore year of high school. I had just started my own Public Access TV show called “Don’t Watch This” and my plan was to do a stupid routine for the talent show auditions and film myself getting kicked out of the auditions and pulled off stage. To my surprise, the judges liked my act, which involved me running around with a rubber mallet chanting, “When I say Rubber, you say Mallet!” and I was chosen to perform in Sandia’s talent show. The day came and I was confident that the entire audience of 2,000 teenagers would hate the act, but I thought it would be funny to watch on tape later on. Well to my surprise, when I walked onto the gym floor wielding my rubber mallet, the audience went wild. The euphoric rush I got from the screaming audience got me instantly addicted to the stage.
My first time do straight stand up was the opposite. I was 17 and did an open mic at Chelsea’s Street Pub, a restaurant that used to be at the mall. It was a Monday night and the audience consisted of a few other comedians awaiting their turn on the mic, and two tables of families eating dinner that had no idea a comedy show was going on that night. I did what I thought stand up was supposed to be, and I filmed it. I watched the video of my set and realized just how bad it was. I was very bad, specially at stand up, for quite a while before I started getting into the grove and discovering my voice. Stand up comedy takes a lot of persistence of being bad for a while and grinding through those painful times with the hopes that it will pay off down the road, but I’m definitely glad I stuck it out.
What do you feel is missing when it comes to the comedy scene in Albuquerque? Stand up is finally starting to boom again. Our city has a growing handful of up and coming comics, who often double as producers and promoters, working their tails off at their craft and making our scene know. That being said, the majority of our city still has no idea how much comedy is happening here. It would be great to have producers and promoters that aren’t necessarily comics to but still have a passion for the art to help make it know how much comedy happens here. It would be great to have a comedy club again, but in the meantime I would like to see more of the casinos and venues that bring big national comics to New Mexico reach out and start working to have local openers. The comedians would get more exposure and the audience would discover hilarious local talent that they may have no idea was here otherwise.
What is your inspiration when it comes to planning your sets? Being on stage alone with a microphone and an audience is one of the most freeing and liberating feelings in the world, but the time a comedian is on stage is a small fraction of the actual work that goes into stand up. The stage is when you get paid off for all you’ve been working on. I strive to find inspiration in everything around me. Much like a photographer will always have an eye open for their next shot, I try to stay constantly open and aware of the potential for humor in everything around me. Because of this, some of my jokes come from little things I’ve observed that sparks a funny thought, others come from personal struggles that I try to find the humor in, like girls breaking my heart or trying to figure out how I’m going to pay rent this month, and other bits come from things that I find bigger to society that I attempt to get people to view in a new way through humor. I feel like constantly looking for the humor in everyday life is a good way to live, not only for comedians, but for everybody.
What gigs do you have coming down the pipeline?
I host the “First Friday’s Comedy Contest” on the first Friday of every month at 8:00pm at Tractor Brewing in Wells Park. It’s a great chance to see myself and 10 other comedians all in one night. I will also be performing at Palmer’s Brewery on Friday, July 28th at 8:00pm. And if you want to mix things up a bit, I act in The Dinner Detective, an interactive murder-mystery dinner theater show that is full of laughs at the Marriott Uptown, July 8th and July 29th at 6:00pm.
For an updated show schedule check out www.RustyComedy.com