Moonlighting has been an American staple, holding a stable job during the day while pursuing something more personal and fun during the night time. Although associated in the media with private eyes, shady business deals and freelance medical personnel, others have found that their off time can be put to some rather humorous use.
Enter Department of Corrections worker Robert Rau. Rau holds a desk job many of us can relate to. He works until he has to clock out, when he then can start his more personal routine: comedy. Although he says he never really intended to get into the field he’s in now, he knows it allows him to pursue things he’s wanted to do.
“I just developed side things, doing other things during the time off,” Rau said. “You develop another routine, kind of like how you had clubs in school. This is basically what it feels like. I’m now apart of other clubs, it doesn’t earn me money but it keeps me social.”
Rau’s interest in stand-up comedy started back when a podcast he listened to held a yearly stand-up routine that allowed for listeners to submit their own stand-up to be put on the podcast. He decided to give it a try.
“I went to Phil Brady’s who doesn’t have an Open Mic night anymore, that was the only open mic that I knew of at the time,” Rau said. “I went and watched everybody one week and said ‘Eh I can do this,’ and then the next week I went up and did some stuff and kept going. That’s basically what happened. By the way, I submitted the next year and was laughed off, for ever competing in that sort of thing again.”
Since then Rau has become invested in the comedy scene in Baton Rouge. In addition to his weekly Wednesday night out to The Station for their stand-up mic night, Rau hosts the “Let’s Get Quizzical” Tuesday trivia night at L’Auberge. Rau also has a huge interest in movies, which benefits his participation in the local improv group “Family Dinner” who hosts spoof nights in conjunction with the Manship Theatre.
Rau explained that the spoofs nights are similar to the cult classic show “Mystery Science Theater 3000,” where the group riffs on bad movies. However, Rau added that they select more popular movies and throw in movie edits as well to surprise the audience.
“Those are fun, we dress up, we make fun of it and we try to make film edits,” Rau said. “I’m not a great video editor so most of it is simple little things. You don’t want to do too much to the movie anyway, you just want to surprise people every 30 minutes with something they wouldn’t expect.”
Having been in the comedy scene in Baton Rouge for a while, Rau added that the community is much closer and supportive due to the lack or number of comedians here as compared to other cities.
“I really like the people who perform, it’s a nice close-knit community,” Rau said. “I don’t know what it’s like in other cities, I mean I’ve gone to other cities, and I know New Orleans is very cutthroat and they have open mics where it’s 20 people constantly wanting to go up. It’s a very tough grind to get up there and be a part of the community. Here, we just don’t have that many comedians or many open mics to worry about. You have to support everybody, because nobody does this for a living and lives in Baton Rouge. “
Rau added that comedy here isn’t really a living, more of a hobby or side passion.
“They have to do something else,” Rau said. “They are a student, just practicing or it’s a hobby. It’s a horrible word to tell another comic, that it’s a hobby. But it is. It’s just one of those things that just exists, it’s a hobby what they do. So you want to support them and you definitely feel better if they are off going somewhere else.”
Rau also commented on the audience here in Baton Rouge, adding that it’s a great place to get started in stand-up due to the mixture of good crowds and bad crowds, rather than one or the other.
“Baton Rouge feels like it’s a nice Goldie Locks of those two,” Rau said. “Where it can be good sometimes, but sometimes it can be bad, so it depends. It’s a nice mix.”
Although he sees a resurgence, Rau commented that there was once a Golden Age of comedy in Baton Rouge when a shop called The Funny Bone was in business and hosted weekly stand-ups. Rau added that having a place like the Funny Bone again could bring Baton Rouge back to a better time for comedy.
“We don’t have that place anymore, no place like that exists,” Rau said. “That was there for like 20 years. But it’s not there anymore. That would be the hay day. It’s slowly building back up but we need a place that has an owner that’s willing to work around comedy.”
Photo by Rande Archer.