Directly out of college, Alex Caine had a great public relations job that he wound up hating. “I realized I missed performing,” he says. He took a risk, quit that job and headed to Los Angeles three years ago to make a name for himself in comedy. While most comics start out in their late teens, Caine joined the fray older, with a degree and life experience under his belt. “I had to show the world that I’m not doing this as a hobby or for fun,” he says of his total commitment to his stand-up comedy career. He’s now 26.
Caine moved around in Texas as a child with his parents, Heather and Steve Caine, but spent formative years in Tucson among his entire multi-generational Jewish family. He thrived in a children’s theater performance group here but dropped out to focus on academics. He did well at the University of Missouri, earning a bachelor’s degree in journalism with an emphasis in social media. He transfers that storytelling talent to the stage in his stand-up act.
L.A. is so comedy saturated, Caine says, he often feels more relaxed in smaller markets. He has played in Tucson, Phoenix, San Diego, Sacramento, the San Francisco Bay area, Dallas and across Michigan. He has gigs coming up in St. Louis, Kansas City, Chicago, San Diego, and Texas.
Some material that works in one place, for some reason may not be funny in another — the delivery is off or the audience isn’t receptive. None of his jokes are offensive, yet he finds audiences in the Midwest and the South have different tastes in humor. “California is way more sensitive,” he says, adding that L.A., New York and San Francisco audiences each have their own particular mindset.
Caine stays away from pop culture and current events. He jokes mostly about himself in a self-deprecating manner. He riffs a lot about his color-blindness, and jokes about being Jewish in the South, about why Batman should have chosen the hippo as his spirit animal, and life in his day job as a manny. “I can only talk about my experiences,” he says. Those experiences include growing up with a lot of anti-Semitism. “It’s strange to even talk about being Jewish in L.A.; people get uncomfortable. Talking about anti-Semitism bothers people sometimes,” he believes, because they don’t want to acknowledge it.
Comics spend hours writing to make those few moments on stage good. The Catch-22 in the comedy world is that you need an agent to get credit and you can’t get credit without an agent, says Caine. It’s a full-time job contacting clubs for bookings, emailing videos and securing a spot on a stage. It may be a guest spot or a feature spot, and it may not pay at all. “When you’ve played there a number of times — and gain credit — you may get called to come back.
“I don’t want to do acting and standup gives me the opportunity to work and perform,” he says, adding that comedy festivals are a favorite. “A bunch of comedians get together somewhere and are all connected by the same things. It’s almost like teamwork. That’s where some of my best memories are in standup.”
He recalls the Paul Bunyan Comedy Festival in Oscoda, Michigan. “It’s in a tiny town that’s frozen over most of the year. Then in April, they have this live festival that’s sold out every night. People come from miles around to see live entertainment. It’s easier to get a laugh there.”
Caine is at Flapper’s Comedy Club in Burbank, California, every Wednesday night and will spend the fall along the West Coast, including San Diego the week of Sept. 14. He will be in Tucson Nov. 24, at Laff’s Comedy Café, a venue he says has been “really good” to him. Further appearances are at www.alexcainecomedy.com.
“Someone once said comedy is the strangest art, the only form of art where the art has to be really good for it to even be art. God bless every comedian — not all of us are good,” Caine says.