We had the good fortune of connecting with Brian Gendron and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Brian, we’d love to hear more about how you thought about starting your own business?
When I started my comedy promotion and production business, I had been doing standup comedy for just about a year and fell in love with performing, the business, and everything that comes with it. I had been affirmed that I was getting better at comedy by winning a few contests but most importantly began to recognize that I had a unique skillset of business acumen, marketing, and leadership that would be foundational to my success in the industry. I had produced a few successful one-off shows most notably my charity comedy show Haha for Hope (hahaforhope.com) that had raised $12k to date for children related causes like Sky High for Kids and the Hearts Company. So when I had caught wind that management at Rudyards in Montrose was looking to add more standup comedy at their venue I had all the confidence I needed to approach them about my show concept “The Riot.” Serendipitously Rudyards was the first place I had ever performed standup comedy at their Monday open mic which at the time was intended to be a fun hobby that transcended into career.
The initial concept behind the Riot is that we would book nationally touring headlining comedians and team them with a variety act, where the name comes from, we put “The Riot” in variety. Our first show was scheduled for March 16, 2020 which ultimately became doomsday in Houston for live entertainment as we entered lockdowns for the pandemic and our show was suspended indefinitely. We did not give up however, we knew that if we could safely come back as early as possible, we would have a competitive advantage in the market as not only one of the only comedy events happening but events happening in the city, period. On June 25, 2020 we had our first show. We operated under the the Texas mandated 25% occupancy, masks required, social distanced, Plexiglass at the bar, sanitizer everywhere, and ran those shows as safely as possible for the performers, the audience, and the staff at Rudyards.
Shows were selling out as the pandemic restrictions loosened to 50% capacity, we added shows. In January, 2021 the pandemic restrictions were completely lifted to 100% capacity we added more shows and the crowds kept coming. We began adding shows from our normal Friday and Saturdays to Thursdays and later Sundays. We entered 2022 with running over 30 shows at Rudyards every month!
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
As we scale our business we have found that consistency is the most important factor to our success. We focus on delivering the best audience experience at every show. We do all the small things to make sure the environment is right for people to relax, enjoy some drinks, food, time with friends, and most importantly some laughter at all our shows. This starts with our staff. We all take the extra time to get to know our guests by name, greeting them with a smile at the door, helping them get to the best seats available while we explain the room, the show, and everything else they need to feel comfortable. Consistency is also found in our branding and marketing, our promotions, how we run our show, booking the funniest and most professional comedians. We have so many people come back to our shows and their friends because they know exactly what to expect, they know they’re cared for, and that they’re going to get a great show.
We book a lot of top comedic talent with comedians from New York and Los Angeles that have been on television such as the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, Comedy Central, HBO, NBC, and on the big screen. What a lot of people don’t realize is that Houston local talent is very funny, and the shows are incredibly fun. The mega names in comedy dominates the consumers minds from the hour specials on Netflix to selling out arenas and big theaters. The art form is the same but the experience and the medium mater. Getting seats the to the sellout arena show for your favorite comedian is one experience but getting to an intimate comedy club atmosphere is a completely different experience that is often overshadowed by the comedy mainstream. What you’ll find with local up-and-coming aspiring comedians that hone their craft working for years, doing mics and local showcases every single night of the week. Hard working local talent may do as many as 20-25 spots each week so make no doubt about it they have the chops to make you laugh. Plus you never know you might have the opportunity to catch the next star, before they became famous!
Our local comedy shows often have fun themes to our shows that are fun and interactive. Some of our locally produced themed shows at the Riot worth checking out are “You Look Like” Roast Contest, “Live LAUGH Love” relationship show, “Off the Dome” Improv standup variety show, “American AF” Comedy contest, “Unbelievable Stories”, “The Couch” part standup part funny therapy session, “The Gay Agenda” Queer Variety Show, and more.
As I think about where our business is heading, I like to zoom out and think about where Houston comedy is going. I want to be known as one of the key influencers in getting Houston known for being the third coast of comedy after Los Angeles and New York. Additionally, I want to have comedy be known as THE thing in town for entertainment by Houstonians and our visitors alike. I stand on the shoulders of those before me in a city rich with history in the world of comedy from the iconic clubs of the past like Laff Stop and the Comedy Workshop that became know nationally as some of the best clubs in the country. The same Houston comedy scene where comedy legends like Bill Hicks and Sam Kenison got their early beginnings. We’ve seen more contemporary comedy stars like Mo Amer and Ali Saddiq with roots in Houston comedy. Houston has no shortage of comedy talent with plenty of up-and-coming acts working hard to emerge as the next Houston star. Houston has no shortage of people passing 7 million population in Houston metro and millions of visitors each year for business, conventions, events and tourism all who say they like standup comedy (I know because as part of our I have personally poled thousands of people through social media and have yet to have someone respond otherwise. I’m excited to be one of the leaders Houston comedy with the business acum, industry connections, marketing, leadership, and most importantly passion to put comedy in the forefront of Houston entertainment.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Of Course, The Riot Comedy Show.
I have to shout out Life Time Fitness Greenway because during the day I am also a group fitness instructor, come take one of my cycle classes! It’s also a beautiful gym with all the immunities including resort style pool and professional work space..
I don’t drink but I will say we have some great breweries in town that have fun events like Buffalo Bayou, Saint Arnold’s, and Karbach,
Memorial Park and Buffalo Bayou Park are great spaces to get some fresh air..
Great golf courses year round, my favorites are Wildcat, a links course and Tour 18, a replica course of PGA tour favorite holes.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
My early inspiration in comedy came from the greats like Eddie Murphy with his special “Delirious” or anything by George Carlin, Chris Rock, of course Jerry Seinfeld. NBC had a show called “Last Comic Standing” which demonstrated to me that it didn’t have to be these big super stars anyone could try comedy. Toastmasters for giving me the foundational skills of public speaking and the confidence to try standup in the first place. The important people have been those in my immediate circle. My wife for giving me the space I needed to explore the crazy passion of mine. Letting me be out nearly every night of the week practicing standup comedy and now being out of the house running shows every Thursday – Sunday making our social life a little more challenging and difficult for her having to get our two boys to bed each night by herself . Also my co-producer Drew Jordan and my assistant General Manager Zach Lyons who day in and day out are then doing what it takes to make the productions successful. The staff and management at Rudyards for being great partners, all of the local comedians that perform, especially our show runners.
Instagram: @theriothtx @thebriangendron
Twitter: @theriothtx @thebriangendron
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/theriothtx, facebook.com/thebriangendron
Drew Jordan @drewjordancreative