Each month, local comedian, actor and filmmaker, Joe Marshall sits down with a local artist to pick their brain about all things creative and their role in the D.C. performing arts scene. Follow him on Instagram @joelumberjack.
There are often set roles and responsibilities in traditional comedy shows: the comedian performs and the audience (hopefully) laughs. But in his new show, Walker seeks to blend the roles of comedian and audience member alike to create an interactive conversation. The Houston, Texas native who now performs in the comedy clubs of New York City isn’t simply seeking the audience’s jovial approval. Instead, he wants their opinions.
“A lot of times my favorite moments in stand-up are the unpredictable ones that add variety,” Walker says. “Doing the jokes the exact same way every single time can get repetitive, but when I open my set up to the thoughts of the audience — that’s the spontaneous riot I’m looking for.”
In Jerrod Carmichael’s latest critically acclaimed special “Rothaniel,” we experienced a taste of this crowd-performer collaboration. After Carmichael revealed his homosexuality during the set, questions trickled in from audience members, asking the comedian about his journey, family and psyche. Inspired by this, Walker seeks to push the boundaries of audience discussion even further, posing real-time questions to the crowd throughout his set and letting their responses steer the direction and delivery of his material, resembling a live-action Twitter feed.
“I want to see what happens if I give my thoughts on something, and ask the audience what they think about it,” Walker says. “I’m still trying to crack it in a way that feels natural, but I think it’s less about figuring it out and more about exploring.”
As Will Smith’s slap-seen-round-the-world has taught us, there’s nothing more unpredictable than a live audience. In recent days, the world has seen horror stories play out on the stage, even for comedy legends like Chris Rock and Dave Chapelle, as heckles over their material evolved into real-time assault. All of these events make Walker’s tight-rope walk with crowd interaction an even greater comedic risk.
Earning his stripes in the writer’s rooms of Netflix’s “Big Mouth” and Freeform’s “Everything’s Trash,” Walker, a 7-year comedy veteran, doesn’t shy away from a challenge. As a result, his career is on the rise.
Walker is a frequent collaborator with Comedy Central, both writing and performing sketches. He was recently featured in a hilarious sketch from season two of HBOMax’s “That Damn Michael Che” — one of the better sketch comedy shows in quite some time — where he plays a financially-challenged character who’s been inspired by Henry “Box” Brown to mail himself to Miami in a box for an Insta-crush rendezvous.
Alongside friends Alex English and Gary Richardson, both SNL writers, Walker also hosts “DAD” — a monthly comedy show at The Jane Hotel in New York, which has featured comedians like Sam Jay, Roy Wood Jr. and Che himself.
In his upcoming show, produced by local creative studio, Studio Sonic, audiences can expect Walker’s stand-up material to include a mix of internal observations and social commentary as Walker seeks to deconstruct his ego in this new hour of work.
“I’m on a constant journey to share more of myself, but that can be the scariest part, to share the honest, vulnerable version of yourself,” Walker says. It’s a pursuit Walker seems to be enamored with, even more so than the fear of taming the unpredictable opinions of his soon-to-be live audience.
Click here to get free tickets to see Devon Walker at the Sonic Comedy Lab Sunday at 7 p.m. at The Village Cafe. You can also follow Walker on Instagram @internetdevon to keep up with his work, and follow @studiosonic.co for updates on their free monthly Comedy Lab shows.
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