When Tyrone Maclin started stand-up comedy almost a decade ago, he joined a generation of local comics including Rick Matthews, Josh Potter and Mark Walton who helped revive funny business in Buffalo. Now a comic in regular rotation at Helium Comedy Club, Maclin is also the co-producer (with Kristy Rock) and host of the area’s nuttiest and lively open mic venue at 8 p.m. Wednesdays in Milkie’s (522 Elmwood Ave.). We spoke to Maclin just before he performed in the first round of Buffalo’s Funniest Person contest at Helium Comedy. He also hosts brunch trivia at Hot Mama’s Canteen in Buffalo at 1 p.m. on the first Sunday of every month.
Question: When you started doing comedy around 2007-08, you were pretty much the only black comic in a parade of white guys. It’s more diverse now, but did that make things easier or harder, as you evolved as a comic?
A: Even when I was a kid, I knew I wanted to be a comic. I always said, “I wouldn’t be a black comedian; I would be a good comedian who’s black.” I remember when I first started, my brother Freddie came to every show with me for years because he saw something in me. When he finally saw that I wasn’t going to quit, he doesn’t come to as many shows now, but he’s a staple in the Buffalo comedy scene, almost as much as I am.
Yeah, I can touch on different topics than other people just because I am black, as my experience deals with that as well, but we all pushed each other to be better. When I first started, I said that in six months, I want to be as good as Mark Walton and Dan Fisher. I don’t care how much [those guys] evolve in the next six months, but where they were at the time I started, I needed to be there. We only had one open mic at Nietzsche’s, so we were forced to push each other.
Q: During that time, Kristen Becker mentored a lot of comics, but now you’re on the other side of it as an established local comic and producer. What kind of advice do you give to the young comics?
A: I give them honest advice. I’m not going to try and crush somebody’s dreams, but I do understand what Becker went through. Comics aren’t usually good at all when they first start, and if they’re bold enough to ask me for advice, I try to be helpful. Sometimes my advice really is, “Be funnier.” I don’t want somebody years down the line say they came up under me, the way that I say I came up under Kristen Becker, that if they’re going to be my product, I don’t want to put bad product out there on the street. So I try my best to coach them on how they can punch up a joke here and there, because I have to listen to them every week. If I have to do that, I’m going to try and make you as entertaining as you can possibly be.
Q: You’re in the Funniest Person in Buffalo contest. How do you prepare for a set? I know a lot of comics write their set list down and never deviate from it, but you seem looser, from what I can tell.
A: You presume very correct. I have a set list that I’m doing tonight, but where the crowd takes me, it takes me. There are some standard staples of mine, so I don’t really have a problem staying on point for these [contests]. There’s not a lot of room to play around as it’s only like six minutes. This is going to be a lot tighter than if I was doing 20 minutes or a half-hour.
Q: What’s the next step for you and your career?
A: I’m trying to get feature work at Helium. I have a website (tyronemaclin.com) now with a few clips. I’m trying to get on the road too with some out-of-town gigs and move out of Buffalo in the next two years. Either New York or Los Angeles, so I’m either going to be broke and cold, or broke with a tan.