Twenty years ago, comedian Steve Treviño was a regular at the Addison Improv, but not as a comedy act. He was working there.
"I was the answer phone calls guy," Treviño says. "I was the take the tickets guy. I was the cook guy. I was the take the comedians to the radio station guy. I was the bartender. I did everything I could to stay there."
Treviño also performed at open mics and showcases around Dallas, honing his stage presence and preparing for his road to comedy. Now the road has swerved back to the Addison Improv for a string of headlining shows this weekend.
"I'm excited to be back," Treviño says. "It's really kind of a special thing for me to remember literally standing in the sound booth watching my heroes perform to now getting to come back and not only getting onstage but probably going to sell out every show."
Treviño grew up in Corpus Christi before he came to Dallas in the late '90s after a cousin told him about the city's burgeoning comedy scene.
"He called me up and was like, 'Hey man, I live right by a comedy club,'" Treviño recalls of that conversation. "I'm like, 'I'm on my way,' and that's all she wrote."
Treviño got a job at the comedy club and did just about everything an employee can do at a comedy club except get onstage. Between the years 1999 and 2001, if you were asked to leave a show because you were too loud,
chances are that Treviño was the guy telling you to shut up.
"That was the tough part," the comedian says. "There's so many different kinds of hecklers, and when you're working the door, it's hard to kick someone out who's genuinely heckling but heckling positively like, 'This guy's great! Fuck yeah, man!'"
One night, an opener for Bill Bellamy failed to show up, and Treviño says the club decided to put him onstage to fill the spot.
"They were like, 'Get on the stage, Steve,'" Treviño remembers. "I was still in my waiter outfit, and I killed it."
His successful performance at an actual comedy club gave him the confidence to go for bigger gigs and take his act on the road.
"I worked the door and I would go on the road and work the door and I never got fired or let go," Treviño says. "I got bused on the road and the guys would let me go back and pick up shifts and all of a sudden, I wasn't there."
The shows started taking up more of Treviño's time, and he eventually left the club to move to Los Angeles where he got a writing job on the first season of Carlos Mencia's Comedy Central show Mind of Mencia. Treviño says he left the show when he started to become a headliner and because "things got crazy between Mencia and I."
"That was my big intro to L.A.," Treviño says. "I get to The Comedy Store to hang out with these guys, and they hate me because I've already got a job at Comedy Central and I'm 23 years old. It was hard for me to get into The Comedy Store and as you know, Mencia wasn't very popular so me associating with him didn't help either."
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to the Observer's mission. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Dallas's stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
By the time he was done, Treviño was already headlining and touring with his own stand-up shows and decided that the stage was better suited for him anyway. He's since performed sold-out shows across the country and released specials for Showtime, Netflix and Amazon.
"I've always wanted to be a comedian, number one, and I've never had a hard time making people laugh, but in the beginning, it was very silly stuff," Treviño says. "I had this party animal persona and then I met my wife [Renae] and I started talking about my wife, and I really felt like it was clicking into something I genuinely wanted to talk about, and because I genuinely wanted to talk about it, I came off as genuine and it started to touch a nerve."
Treviño says he's looking forward to bringing his comedy to the place that helped him get his start.
"It's gonna be cool," Treviño says. "There's something special about it. I literally helped take down the old brick wall and helped build the new brick wall. I painted the restrooms. There are cooks who are still there when I was there. ... It's like a homecoming."