by Ryan Meehan
Shawn Halpin began his comedy career in Dallas, Texas. After moving to Los Angeles, Shawn became the feature act for Pauly Shore and Tom Green on consecutive tours, and has also performed at the Melbourne Comedy Festival, the Sydney Comedy Festival, Boston Comedy Festival. He is a regular at The World Famous Comedy Store in Hollywood, and as a former Marine he has entertained troops for Armed Forces Entertainment, both stateside and in Afghanistan. Shawn is also touring with The Veterans Of Comedy. A group of Vets turned Standup comedians who are helping to bridge the gap between Military and Civilian life. Shawn’s podcast “Make It Halpin” is on iTunes along with his debut album “Texas Crude” is available now, and he’s my guest today in 7 questions.
RM: When did you first come to be aware of stand-up comedy; and what was it about the art form that led you to believe it might be something you’d like to try your hand at doing?
SH: Oh Man, I started watching stand-up early on. Growing up in a single parent household, I could basically watch and listen to whatever I wanted. My father took off early on and one of the only things he left behind was the album “Peter, Paul and Mary – In Concert”. Until this time I thought they were just folk singers. Paul Stookey, AKA “Paul” told jokes, stories, did voices and sound effects all that painted an amazing picture in your mind. I realized that I was doing some form of that already when I would talk to my friends, often embellishing the end of a story just to get a laugh. Growing up I would always turn to comedy as a way to escape. Then when “An Evening at the Improv” came out it was on. Watching, Laughing, and somewhat studying was what made my week. I would watch and laugh but never really thought I could do it as a career, I just wanted to laugh and make my friends laugh. Years later when I got back into watching comedy I would watch Leno and Conan. I would record their monologues and after the setup I would pause it, come up with my own punchline. When I started getting the punchlines right, I remember thinking, “I can do this”. I think the main thing that made me think I could do “Stand-Up” is that in some way I had been doing it all my life. I enjoy the sound of people laughing. You forget about your troubles when you are on stage telling a joke and the audience forgets about theirs too, nothing is better than that.
RM: Have there been any disciplinary principles you employed from your time in the military that you have been able to translate into continuing to develop your skills at stand-up comedy? Are you someone who sets aside a designated time every day to brainstorm new bits; and overall how has your military background influences the way you look at the practice of stand-up?
SH: I don’t use the discipline in the writing as much as in the performing. Writing for me is more free flowing and comes at odd times. I’ve tried to sit and come up with new bits but for me it mostly comes when I’m out talking with friends at a party or even over a late night cup of coffee. After getting out of the military you tend to break away from the structure but then end up going back to it because it works.
My time in the Marines taught me to never give up, adapt and overcome, and if you are 15 minutes early, you are on time. I look at crowds as a challenge. My objective to make them laugh. It can be 10 people, 200 people, or a 1000 people, I will find away to make them laugh. Adapt and Overcome. So yes, you could say I apply the discipline of my military training to my stand up.
RM: You do a show with Jon Huck called “The Full Count Podcast”, but I noticed that the most recent episode went up on July 9th of last year. Is that something that you plan to get back into doing in the New Year; and what do we need to know about Jon as well as some of the things you discuss on that program?
SH: “The Full Count Podcast” was a lot of fun but I wanted to do a solo project and discover new creative avenues. I’m working on my own podcast, “Make It Halpin” with Shawn Halpin. “Make it Halpin” is about my journey to being a more positive and healthy comedian. My goal is to learn more about myself, make people laugh, and help other people along the way. It’s all about growing, staying strong and moving forward. I’m really excited about it.
RM: What’s your favorite bit on “Texas Crude”; and why do you think that you favor that particular set of jokes?
SH: My favorite bit on “Texas Crude” would have to be “Date Single Moms”. I think they are the unsung heroes of the world. Mainly because Oprah keeps telling us they are. Kidding! I like the chunk about Dating Single Moms because the ladies like to be included. I’ve always been a fan of sound effects and odd stuff in comedy so I enjoy doing that bit.
RM: How much crowd work do you do during an average headlining set? How do you know when the amount of crowd work that you’re doing is too much, and that it’s time to move on and return to the material which you had originally planned for the show?
SH: I believe that you need jokes to fall back on if “crowd work” doesn’t work. It’s an art form within itself. I honestly write jokes to tell them, and you can’t really do crowd work on television, so I just let it happen when it happens. There are times when you feel the room getting chatty and wanting to talk a little or I feel a shift and want to try something new. With crowd work you can find new jokes, or even find new punchlines or tags that you wouldn’t have thought of by just sitting at a coffee shop and trying to write.
Watching someone who is good at crowd work is awesome. Watching someone who is bad at it is sometimes even better, but I respect the beast of crowd work. I try to be more present in the room and be in the moment. If I feel something or have a reaction to something that someone has yelled out I just let it flow. I never start my set by saying, “So what do you do for a living”. But I do try to stretch out bits and find new avenues by doing a little crowd work. So a good rule of thumb is to stop doing “crowd work” is when you hear a guy in the back yell, “Tell Some Jokes!”
RM: Which portion of the joke writing process would you say that you struggle with the most; and which aspect of constructing new bits would you consider to be your specialty?
SH: The struggle for me in the joke writing process is just coming up with something I think is worth talking about. Someone once told me “talk about what affects you, make it personal”. The challenge in joke writing is all about words and word placement. My specialty is whittling it down to what will get you to the punchline the quickest.
RM: What is the most valuable piece of advice that you’ve ever received from another comedian who has had success in the industry; and how have you been able to apply that to your own career path?
SH: The most valuable piece of advice… I think it would be “Don’t take advice from other Comedians”. Just watch, listen, learn, and take from those moments what you will. Listening is a lost art. Listen to people…you don’t always need to be the one talking. And also, “Don’t worry about what other people are doing”. That is a hard one. If you worry about what other people are doing, it can turn you bitter really quickly. I try and look at other comics successes and think, “That’s for me”, or “I can do that”. Instead of “How the fuck did he get that” or “Why did he/she get that”. Not every opportunity is yours, but be ready for all of them.
RM: What’s up next for you in 2015 and beyond? Anything big in the works that we should know about?
SH: 2015 is looking pretty good. I pitched two show ideas at the beginning of the year and I’m shooting a Pilot for one in May and the other in July. In June I am taking another trip to the Afghanistan area and being a Veteran, I’m always pumped to go and entertain the troops. When I was in the military it was a goal of mine and to be able to do this is truly an honor. I’m touring with The Veterans Of Comedy. We’re a group of veterans that are now comedians and just want to give something back. Besides that, I’ll be writing, YouTube’n it, just staying creative and moving forward. Oh…and trying to get into a Kevin Hart movie, that too.
Official Website: http://shawnhalpin.com/
Shawn on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/comedianshawnhalpin
Shawn on Twitter: https://twitter.com/shawnhalpin
Once again thanks for visiting First Order Historians and enjoying more of the internet’s finest in user generated content.