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Talking Comedy Central specials, big goals and feeling pasta with Baron Vaughn

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Baron Vaughn is polishing new material for an upcoming Comedy Central half-hour special.
Photo: Anya Garrett
Julie Seabaugh

Stand-up comedian and actor Baron Vaughn (Cloverfield, Fairly Legal) grew up in Las Vegas, paid his dues in Boston and New York, and currently lives in Los Angeles. The Conan and Late Night with Jimmy Fallon vet has performed at the Bonnaroo and Bumbershoot festivals, released an album through AST Records, and last week scored himself a Comedy Central special.

You were one of 17 comics recently confirmed to tape The Half Hour Comedy Central specials in Boston February 26 through March 1. Are there any further details available yet? You mean details in terms of where to get tickets and where it’s going to be taped and all that stuff? I don’t know. And honestly I probably won’t know until the day before. I’m just going to get into whatever car they tell me to get into, and suddenly I’m going to show up at a place where there’s an audience. All’s I know is that the theater is called The Royale Theater, like a royale with cheese, and there’s going to soon be a website to go to to get tickets, but they haven’t given me any of that information yet.

Other than getting in the correct car at the appropriate time, what will your preparation entail? I had to submit the material I wanted to do, and they choose based on that stuff, but you can change it as well, but you have to kind of get your material approved by them. So what I need to do now is not only make sure that the material that I sent and I want to do is polished and good and ready, but also figure out if there are things I want to take out and replace, and workshop those on stage, make sure those also get tight and polished, and then I have to go through the process with Comedy Central of seeing what I can and can’t change, or how much, stuff like that. But in general I’m just going to be doing as many shows as I can to work on those bits and get them better.

Are there any particular personal or performance goals you are setting for yourself? I’m just trying to remember what it means to have fun onstage. The more established I’ve become as a comedian—and it’s all in my head—the more I put pressure on myself that I have to meet a certain expectation because now I’ve got these credits and this stuff going on, so I must be great, so I always feel this need to deliver and to be great. But I don’t give myself enough time to workshop and experiment and have fun, to make better material and more material.

What do you attribute that need in your head to? It’s just about being in this industry, comparing myself to other comedians that I love and respect, especially if they’re people that are way, way, way ahead of me. I don’t know if I’m where I need to be in terms of someone like a Chris Rock or a Chappelle or a Louis CK. Am I as good now as they were when they were at my experience level? You know, just wondering if I’m on the right path, or if I’m on any sort of path in general. Am I delivering? Am I this quality of a comedian? I’m trying to break that crap. But it comes from comparing myself to others and feeling like I have to be a certain thing when I don’t really have to.

Where do you see acting work fitting in? My acting career has always been a little separate. They both grew independently of each other and then they kind of met in the middle. The stuff that I always booked as an actor has never really been related to my stand up, and the stuff that I’ve booked as a standup has never been related to my acting. So I always think there’s a gap in my career, because there are a lot of people that get popular and known as a standup, and that’s what gets the roles. I feel like I’m trying to bridge that gap and create my own roles for myself, because I know me—possibly better than anyone else that’s providing roles for me, so why not just write it myself? I’m trying to do more stuff than that.

Any current writing-slash-acting projects other than the Comedy Central special in the works now? Nothing to speak of. I’ve been doing that real Los Angeles thing, having some “meetings,” meetings in quotation marks and italicized. There are people I’m talking to that will help me talk to more people that will eventually want to talk to me. So there’s nothing particular in the works, but I’m talking to people about trying to get things in the works.

You lived in Vegas from age 7 to college, when you went to Boston, but you didn’t do any comedy when you were growing up in Vegas. How often do you perform here now? Not really ever. I’ve done a few independent shows, but I haven’t really done anything major in Vegas where I was like, “Everyone needs to come to this!” I was trying to start an indie show myself in Vegas for locals. I always felt like there’s not a lot of stuff that’s local-centric in terms of performance. All the comedy clubs and the comedians that come to town are really coming for the tourists. If you like that, you luck out, but you have to pay those Vegas prices. So I want to try to do something, and I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately, to try to rent a theater, try to do something where I can do a good, long show in Vegas for locals to enjoy at a price that’s not ridiculous.

What kind of hurdle-jumping does that require? A comedy club is already an established entity; they have an audience, they have a staff, they have a sound system and a stage and lights and tables and chairs. So I would have to put all that together myself, which, in general, the quickest way is just find a good performance space, whether it would be a really nice bar that has a good performance room or renting out a theater for a night and doing a show in there. And make it enough time that I can advertise it, try to get the word out about it so it doesn’t mean financial ruin for me.

Any other big goals? I want to record a new comedy album this year. I have already been working on the material, spent the last year working on the material that will be in that next album. I’ve been doing a lot of clubs around the country so I just want to break into more clubs, return to the places that I love, and then I’ve talked to a couple friends about possibly trying to organize a little indie tour or something. It’s just that, again, that’s very work-exhaustive because there’s no one that would do it for us. We have to do everything ourselves, which is hard, but everybody has completely different lives and schedules and lives in different cities. And the other ones are just lofty, artistic goals, like “Create!” and “Live!” “Taste and touch!” you know, where you say like a sense that you have, like it’s really profound. “Ah man, I really feel this pasta. Ah man, I’m tastin’ this music!” Stuff like that.

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