Local comedy star Paul Varghese just celebrated his near decade in comedy.
“It was my nine year anniversary for comedy on June 6th and this guy said ‘You’ve been doing comedy for nine years!’ and I said ‘You call it comedy, I call it a nine year gap in work history," Varghese told us.
Some of the most outstanding highlights of his career include his appearances on Season 2 of “Last Comic Standing,” where he progressed to the semi-finals, and Comedy Central’s “Live at the Gotham” in 2007. He is also the winner of the 2009 "Funniest Comic In Dallas" contest.
Varghese is characterized by his deep voice, quiet confidence, and mellow disposition on stage. Although he is of Indian decent, his aim on stage is to cross cultural barriers and appeal to all demographics.
Being a local celebrity is no new thing for Varghese. He is still humbled by the experience every day.
“When I was on the front page of the [Dallas Morning News] I remember reading this thing about me being the ‘next big thing,’ and I’m sitting on my bed, looking at my dresser drawer with the clock flashing 12, and I was thinking ‘if only everybody reading this right now could see [what its actually like]. I’m just a kid living in a one bedroom apartment in North Dallas and my iPhone is my computer access,” Varghese said.
The lifestyle of the rich and famous isn’t what is sitting on the forefront of Varghese’s mind. Although he would appreciate advancement in his financial career, he doesn’t seek mainstream success for material gain.
“At this point I’ve been doing this as a labor of love for nine years, and I’m hoping I will move up but not expect it to. My folks were never really rich, just comfortable, so it was never about ‘This is what you have, and this is what you have.' My family is all about giving back. If I wasn't doing this, I would probably join the peace corp,” Varghese said.
Don’t let his clever charm onstage fool you; offstage, Varghese is actually quite shy and used to be socially awkward growing up. It’s only recently through his experience as an entertainer that he has come out of his shell a bit.
“I remember hanging with my cousins more than people at school because I was just so shy. It was with them that I felt the most comfortable so I would joke around with them the most. I was so shy that it was a complete twist when people came out to see shows, they’re like ‘When did you start doing this?’ and I’m like ‘I don’t know, I just sort of fell into it,” Varghese said.
Varghese received his bachelor’s degree in Radio, Television, and Film from the University of North Texas. During his time there he put his stamp on the department by running several of his own shows.
“It was literally if I could get an interview with a musician or comic I would do that, and the other two were us plugging something from campus, and the other would be some random sketch/skit that we did. I enjoyed the creative process of it. I mean, I was on camera too, but the best part was the creative process behind the scenes,” Varghese said.
During the course of his studies Varghese obtained an internship at the Sally Jesse Raphael talk show.
“I was interesting in doing that kind of stuff anyway and I wanted to see how things worked behind the scenes, but once I saw it, it kind of lost its appeal. It was kind of a glimpse into celebrity. To see the kind of lifestyle she led compared to her staff was a really weird thing. It was during a time when talk shows were really big and everyone was competing to be second because Oprah was locked into first. I was just a wide-eyed college student who didn’t know what he wanted to do,” Varghese said.
After testing his hand at television and working a series of odd retail jobs along the way, Varghese finally decided to take a stab at stand-up. He was inspired to take the chance after seeing George Lopez perform live in Dallas in 2001.
“I would just keep watching to see my own; someone that looked like me up there doing it. I was vicariously living through the TV like 'Maybe this guy will come out and do it.' But then I never saw it. It was awesome because they had a flier [at the Improv] for a stand-up workshop and I thought maybe I’ll just sign up and do it. I was on the stage for the first time June 6th. Starting getting work a couple of months later, but the whole time I was getting work I was like 'This is coming too easy for me,'” Varghese said.
Varghese’s success and progression in stand-up came just as quickly as it started. He now does comedy full-time as a career, performing locally as well as traveling the US about once a month. Offers from overseas are now coming into his near future. But even though he has come so far in so little time, Varghese finds an open mic to perform at every night, regardless of pay, in order to keep up his craft.
“I always compare it to Kobe Bryant; it’s like people who are dumb think Kobe Bryant just walks up on court and is that good, they don’t see the 10 hours practice he does every day. And the reason they are paying him so much is they are paying him for all those times that he never got paid for. Like he was playing since he was 7 all the way up till he was 17. To get where I got I didn’t just randomly show up and start talking about it,” Varghese said.
Varghese also spends some of his time on the radio. The experience however, is quite different from his typical stand-up gig.
“There’s no audience there so you don’t know if what you’re saying is actually funny; you’re just trying to get the other guys in the room to laugh. You have no concept of people around listening and laughing. That’s the weird thing for me because I’m used to instant interaction and reaction. You also can’t see facial expressions or anything so you have to almost describe everything that you can. If we do an ethnic joke I have to mention that I’m Indian because they can’t see me,” Varghese said.
Varghese reminisced about the course of his life the past ten years. Even though he is proud, he is still not satisfied. His eye is focused ambitiously on the national scene target where he hopes to someday soon become a household name.
“I define [success] as doing what I love to do, and making a living doing it,” Varghese said.
You can catch Paul Varghese at the Houston Street Bar and Patio at 8:30 p.m. June 23. For more information click here.