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Best of the CRANDIC: Comedian Travis Coltrain on what prepared him to bomb



Travis Coltrain at Joystick Comedy Arcade, December 2022. — Jordan Sellergren/Little Village

This year’s Best of the CRANDIC winner for Best Stand-Up Comedian graduated from the University of Iowa in 2021, where he took Megan Gogerty’s stand-up comedy course and worked as a DJ at student radio station KRUI. These days, he teaches preschool and works as the booker at Joystick Comedy Arcade (formerly The Yacht Club), where he first cut his teeth as a comedian.

How long have you been interested in comedy?

I did spoken word poetry for a while and the parts that I always really liked in spoken word were when I got laughs. It just never occurred to me to do stand-up. And then three years ago, Megan Gogerty’s class popped up and I decided to take it, and then that was when I realized, this is what I want to do.

What were some of the key lessons you took away from Megan Gogerty’s stand-up course?

I think being authentically yourself in your comedy is the main thing Megan pushes in her class, and to just have fun with it. And those are the things that ground me. Like, I’ll have like a few bad weeks, or a few bad shows. I’ll just like sit there and realize, Oh, no, I wasn’t having fun with it those few times. That’s probably why I didn’t do well.

Megan Gogerty hosts The Last Night In America at The Mill in Iowa City on Thursday, Jan. 19, 2017. — Zak Neumann/Little Village

Did your years at KRUI shape your competence as a speaker or comedian?

Definitely. It kind of prepares you to bomb in a sense because when you’re speaking as a radio host, you have absolutely no idea if people are enjoying what you’re doing at the moment. It definitely helped me gain that confidence.

How would you describe your approach to comedy?

My approach to comedy is honestly looking at my life within the last two weeks, and that’s usually what my jokes are about. I think when you watch me on stage, you’re like, “OK, I know who that dude is.”

Honestly, it feels very much like how I am when I teach to my preschoolers — I’m just a lot more vulgar. When I go on stage I just like to have fun so I’m just being myself. Teaching preschoolers is like bombing a stand-up set over and over and over again until finally one joke hits. I think that’s why so many teachers are stand-up comedians as well, because teaching and stand up are very, very similar forms.

If someone hasn’t been to an open mic at Joystick Comedy Arcade since it was the Yacht Club, what are some of the biggest changes they might see?

I think the biggest thing is there’s more than one opportunity; there’s two, sometimes three opportunities a week where you can do it. We generally have larger crowds and there’s just such a good stand-up comedy community in Iowa City that’s kind of always been here. I think that part still exists if you know it as Joystick or if you remember it as Yacht Club.

Is there a show this year that stands out to you?

I think there were two. The most fun one that I did was when Megan Gogerty headlined because it was her and all her students, and just being able to see the amount of growth that all of us have been through, opening for Megan — it was just a huge thing for all of us.

Probably the best show that we’ve had this year [was] when Jessica Misra came down. Jessica is from Iowa City, originally started here, and she kills it every time. She is an amazing comedian.

Is there anything coming up that you’re excited about?

Floodwater Comedy Festival is making a big return in Iowa City. I’m working with quite a few amazing comedians, directors and producers on it. I don’t know a fun way of saying that; “The flood of laughter is coming back to Iowa City!” I don’t know.

I host Open Mic every Thursday at 9:30. Anyone who wants to try stand-up comedy or has ever been curious about it, come out on a Thursday. It’s a very nice crowd. We will welcome you with open arms and help as much as we can.

This article was originally published in Little Village issue 313.


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