A new TV show is trying to bring stand-up comedy back to mainstream television in a way that doesn't pit eager chuckle monkeys against each other in a battle of meaningless challenges that have nothing to do with comedy. Two names who first took to the mic in Dallas' burgeoning comedy community will be featured on the show and they didn't have to pick a fight over who ate whose Oreos just to earn a few extra seconds of airtime.
Hofstetter said he met Johnson and Aryanpur in different ways. Johnson first caught Hofstetter's attention on the Reddit page "Standup Shots" where comedians post memes of their work.
"He was just consistently just killing it and I thought he'd be funny enough to be great at a live show," Hofstetter said.
Aarynpur said he first met Hofstetter last year while performing at the Laughing Skull Comedy Festival in Atlanta.
"He was smart and unique and that's what we're looking for," Hofstetter said. "We're looking for a range of styles. We also met at a comedy festival, which is reminder of why should do festivals. It's an investment. You give up a week of work because you're working your own way at a festival. He did that."
Both kept in contact and performed at shows with Hofstetter before Fox approached the comic with the idea of producing and hosting Laughs to air in the late night block on the weekend. Hofstetter tapped Johnson and Aryanpur to tape a set at his Louisville, Kentucky, club The Laughing Derby for his new show. The show premieres this Saturday in select markets including Dallas at 11 p.m. on Fox and 10 p.m. Sunday on MyNetwork (Channel 27).
Johnson said he faced an interesting challenge for his set. He not only had to trim down his act to just four minutes but he would also perform for a camera with a national TV audience sitting behind it for the very first time.
"The lead-up was definitely more challenging," Johnson said. "It's my first TV anything so I definintely thought about every single way I could screw it up. You only get four minutes and that they edit down to three so you want to maximize your time up there while still giving the crowd a sense of who you are. A good majority of my jokes are fairly long so it was an interesting challenge to trim them down for the time limit."
Aryanpur faced a different challenge with his set: physically getting to the gig. The plane he had to take to get to Louisville was delayed because of a smoking engine and he couldn't make it for the taping. All he could do was post a stream of rants on his Facebook and Twitter pages about American Airlines' less than stellar service.
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"We taxi a few gates, and they tell us the engine is smoking," Aryanpur said. "Two hours later, after back and forth with maintenance, they cancel the flight outright. ...These chances don't come easy when you don't live on either coast."
Thankfully, Aryanpur will get another chance to tape a set for a future episode in a few weeks at a club in Detroit. Hofstetter couldn't say when either comic's episode might air except that it will be after the first two episodes.
He seems confident the show will get a nice long run since he has support from some of the network's top executives, and he hopes it will give local comedy scenes their first taste of a national spotlight.
"I want it to be a highlight for stand-up comedy," he said. "Dallas is a great place for comedy, but people in Dallas don't know a damn thing about what's happening in Minnesota or Chicago. So we show you not just your local scenes but other local scenes and we show new forms of comedians and exposes comedians to each other as well."