Steve Treviño wants you to notice him. And if you’re someone form Hollywood, he really wants you to notice him. But it’s fine if you don’t. He’ll keep working as much as he’s been working. Two self-produced specials later, he’s doing just that. We recently sat down to have a chat about getting those specials – including his latest done with the Comedy Dynamics Network, ‘Til Death – out to the world; the endearing support of his fan base; and how his wife helped him change his comedy for the better.
When the interview begins, we’d just been talking about how his comedy is relatable.
Simple comedy -- I think -- in a world where everything can be overly written or just under written, I think we need stuff that can beat the underwritten part. Stuff that anybody can relate to -- which is what your comedy does.
Steve Treviño: I never thought I’d be that guy. When I started out, I was young -- I started when I was 19 years old. I was a very physical comedian talking about chasing women and drinking booze. My wife came into my life. I walked on stage and started complaining about her. I was like “Wait a minute. I’m onto something here.” The special on Netflix came out and I became the married guy comedian. I enjoy it. I’m a very normal guy; I live a very normal life. S a matter of fact, I’m at LEGO Land right now with my three year old and my wife.
[laughs] That’s so cute!
Treviño: I never thought I’d be that guy but here we are. I’m really proud of [‘Til Death]. By the way, that’s the hardest I’ve ever worked on a special. I’ve been very lucky that I’m a talented guy. I’ve relied on that in the past. This special...I really prepared; I really wrote it. I got into detail on every word, got it down pat. It was two years of hard work so I’m really proud of it.
It really comes off whenever you watch [‘Til Death]. You said you started when you were 19 and then your wife basically changed everything for you. What was that transition like for you? You thought, when you were younger, you already figured out what comedy was. But then this whole new thing makes you see an entirely different side of it. What was that transition like?
Treviño: It was tough to be completely honest with you. There was material I put on an album that I’m not too proud of. I sounded angry; I sounded like I needed my wife. At that time, she came into my life. She changed everything. I was this single guy on the road doing standup comedy, doing whatever I wanted to do. And then I fell in love with her and I was mad at her for a while for making me fall in love with her. It was rough in the beginning! Making the transition…[before, I felt people were] like “Whoa. This guy hates women!” And then, once I settled into “I’m that guy and I still love my wife” -- once that came out in my standup, I think it came out more endearing. And people started going “Oh this guy loves his wife! And he’s frustrated with her. But there’s no doubt he loves her.”
The transition was rough. There was a couple years where people thought I was funny but they were like “This guy’s too rough.” Now, it’s endearing and now it’s real. The more it got honest...the better it got in my opinion. I have people telling me I helped them survive cancer. Or I saved their marriage. That’s really freaking cool, you know?
That really hearkens back to the relatable aspect. Speaking of Relatable [the Netflix special], I was watching the special and I thought, when you came out, it was really interesting to see your intro be this big, bombastic country down-home concert and then have you walk out on stage to a crowd that just -- I’ve seen a lot of comedy; I’ve talked to a lot of comedians. That crowd is in love with you. It’s insane to see you walk out on that stage to all those people cheering and chanting your name.
Treviño: That was what was crazy and it’s still crazy to me. I’ve been selling tickets a long time. I have been a very successful comedian for a very long time. Before the Relatable special on Netflix, I was selling tickets and it was one of those deals where people were just coming out. They were fans. They were rooting for me that I got a special for Netflix. And that was another thing…It was “The industry doesn’t pay attention to me. I’ll show them I’m a star.” There were 6,000 people in that audience. Everywhere we go, it’s sold out. No TV show. No guest appearances. No movies. Just me and my stand up.
In order for you to make the world pay attention to you, you went out and shot that entire project and essentially sold it based on those merits?
Treviño: Yeah. We did the Showtime special. I thought Hollywood would call. They didn’t. e and my wife, we sat down on the bed and decided we’re going to take things into our own hands and shoot it ourselves. I shot Relatable on my own, with my money. It almost broke us. It cost $130,000 that my wife and I put out. We gambled everything that I would find that audience. And we did. Relatable was very successful. I have 600,000 fans on Facebook. Another 30,000 fans on Instagram. Hollywood didn’t call again. Hollywood did not offer me another special. ‘Til Death, again, my wife and I filmed and recorded it ourselves.
That’s a very endearing aspect of your character. That’s something that not enough comedians do. Some are content with touring. Others, they want to reach for the stars. You fall in that latter camp where you’re not going to wait for anybody to tell you it’s okay to reach for the stars. You’re going to go up there and grab it and make the star your own. That’s something that not every comedian has in their blood – even if they go out every night…they do these open mics, they do these small dive bars in order to want to make it big.
Treviño: The funny part is…[a lot of] these guys are funny, talented, established comedians. They call me up and go “Steve, how did you do it?” And I go “Just do it. Stop waiting for Netflix to give you a deal. Stop waiting for Comedy Central…” Which, by the way -- I don’t know if you know this – they didn’t break Kevin Hart. They didn’t break Katt Williams. They didn’t break Larry The Cable Guy, Ron White, Jeff Foxworthy. They missed on all those guys. They didn’t break George Lopez. They didn’t break Kevin James. They completely missed Sebastian Maniscalco! They completely missed on all those guys. You’re going to wait for those [networks] to tell you if you’re funny or not? Just do it!
You name dropped a bunch of funny people. Did you look to them as – not your contemporaries – but as the kind of people you wanted to… Who are your comedy idols is what I’m asking essentially! [laughs]
Treviño: My comedy idols now are more Jeff Foxworthy and Ray Romano more because, not only are they talented and funny, they live a very normal life. They’re happily married to their wives and they raise children. They make me feel like I can have the wife; I can have the kid. And I can also have the career and continue my career without sacrificing the wife and the kid.
You look at Ray and he’s just a normal dude. His comedy’s just like mine where it’s about real life. He’s a normal guy and he’s successful because of it. I’m going to stick to that. If Hollywood ever calls, I’ll continue to sell tickets. I’ll continue to put specials out. And I’m going to raise my family.
I hate to pitch you ideas but you come off with your reverence for Ray Romano and your southern roots…I think you would be a great lead for a multicamera sitcom on an ABC or something. It’d be a mix between Everybody Loves Raymond and George Lopez. I think that would be perfect for you.
Treviño: I think so too! Believe me, I’ve met with the networks. I’ve pitched. I’m not Mexican enough for them. I’ve pitched my sitcom; I’ve showed them my numbers. They’ve seen my specials. For some reason, Hollywood doesn’t think I’m worthy of a sitcom – which is fine. It’ll come. I will continue to show them and convince them. Hopefully, we will get that sitcom, that TV show. I was told “Not Mexican enough…Too traditional…Where’s the Mexican jokes?”
I’ve been told all of this. Again, I continue to do standup. It’s funny. After my shows, people hit me up and they go “Hey, is there a meet and greet. I’d love to meet you!” After every show, I meet everybody who wants to meet me. I will continue to shake everybody’s hand and thank them because they’re my employer at the end of the day. They’re paying my bills. I work for them.