Don’t let his downy, delicate-sounding surname fool you. Ask stand-up comedian Jay Whitecotton about the comedy scene in San Antonio and he’s brutally honest about his complicated relationship with it. A stand-up for 15 years, Whitecotton left for Austin in 2012.
Before he bailed, however, he opened the Blind Tiger — an underground comedy club and stand-up collective run by comedians and focused on comedy as an artform. Whitecotton said the comedy scene in San Antonio has a bad reputation, so he wanted to create a respectable venue that local comics could depend on and a place to hone their craft.
How would you describe the comedy scene in San Antonio?
It is very insular. Comedy already attracts a lot of narcissists, so because of the club system, you have a lot of guys who get tunnel vision and can’t see outside their scene. The second they get a few weeks [at a club] and start seeing these big headliners and start taking pictures with them, they think they’re on par and start getting cocky attitudes. That happens everywhere, but in San Antonio, it’s an epidemic. The fraud syndrome is very high.
What do you mean by “fraud syndrome”?
A lot of comics in San Antonio fake it till they make it. There are some really good comics that have come out of San Antonio who haven’t gotten the credit they deserve, but a lot of comics are frauds. That will move some comics forward, but there is a very low ceiling. A lot of comics hype themselves up, so when they hit that ceiling, they get frustrated because they bought into their own lies.
If San Antonio has such a bad reputation, why did you open the Blind Tiger?
I wanted to show comics that they can’t rely on just one club to make or break their career. Everything they do, they have to do for themselves. Everyone who goes [to the Blind Tiger] respects the show and respects comedy. It’s really how you build a better scene. There’s a standard. I want comics who go there to be working comics, not the guy who works in the kitchen who occasionally gets asked to do a set. If you’re not trying to be a better comedian, get the fuck out of here. You’re wasting our time.
Who is the best comedian still based in San Antonio?
The best comedian in San Antonio probably isn’t doing comedy. He’s probably working at Chili’s and is really frustrated and angry. There’s no “best” comedian. There are experienced comedians. There are comedians people gravitate toward.
How truthful are you with fellow comedians when they ask you for constructive criticism?
I’m too truthful. It makes it uncomfortable to keep friendships, unfortunately. But if you suck and you want to get better and you care about comedy, then I’m going to try to help you get an opportunity to do that.
What advice do you give that 20-year-old comic just starting out?
Go to college.
And major in what?
Chinese philosophy. Learn about Confucius because that’s going to make poverty so much easier to deal with.
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