Talking with ‘@midnight’s First #PointsMe Winner Chris Cubas

agee_cubas_lennonBack in January, Comedy Central’s @midnight launched a new contest called #PointsMe, in which fans and aspriring @midnight contestants took to Twitter, Vine, Instagram, Facebook, and Tumblr to try out for an appearance on the show. “I think in the ideal scenario, we’d like to find someone who hasn’t quite achieved mass exposure,” @midnight co-creator, executive producer, and head writer Alex Blagg told us. “If we could break new talent who just organically come out of social media and we put them on and they do well, that would just be really exciting and fun for us as a way to play off what I consider to be the interactivity we try to weave throughout @midnight.” The show reached that goal during Wednesday night’s episode, which revealed Austin-based standup Chris Cubas as the very first #PointsMe winner. I recently talked with Cubas about what it was like to be on TV for the first time, what he learned from the experience, and what advice he has to offer for the next @midnight fan-turned-#PointsMe winner.

First of all, congratulations!

Oh thank you!

How was the whole experience of being on @midnight?

It was pretty awesome. I think that going in on Tuesday just to watch a show get taped helped me get an idea of the process and how it works. It’s so loose — they encourage you to just really have fun and riff and interact with the other contestants. They really encourage you to just be yourself and have as much fun as you can. So just getting to be funny in that sort of environment was amazing.

It was cool watching you, because you looked like you always belonged there. It was like you, Steve Agee, and Tom Lennon had known each other for years.

[laughs] Yeah, I mean I had met Steve once before and that was the extent of knowing anyone, but they were all so nice. Chris [Hardwick] was so nice and everybody backstage, the whole crew were super supportive. When I was backstage waiting to go on, people were just walking by going “You’re going to be fine!” “You’re going to be fine!” And I was like “Okay I get it! You’re making me nervous! How scared of me are you?” [laughs] I mean, they were totally being genuine — it was really fun. Nobody treated me any different, you know what I mean? Tom and Steve were both just so open to play and joke around and stuff, and they treated me like any other contestant.

You flew in from Austin for the taping. How long have you lived there?

I’ve been in Austin going on seven years. I moved there in ’08.

How long have you been doing standup? Did you do standup before you got into Twitter?

Yeah, I started standup back in New York before I moved to Austin, briefly. It was a small town — there were no clubs or anything so we’d just do DIY shows and bar shows and stuff, and then eventually we started doing little tours and we ended up — this is beginning ’08 — we ended up on the Fun Fun Fun Fest in Austin. Comedy has gotten really big there now, but back then it was mostly small headliners. So when I came down to Austin to do the festival, I just stayed there. [laughs] Like I went home and I was living in Austin within two weeks. I sold everything I had and moved down there on a Greyhound with duffle bags. Even then there was so much comedy in Austin that I was like “Oh, I can get up multiple times a week?” Now it’s crazy — you can get up two or three times a night if you want to hustle. But back then, compared to where I was coming from, it was one of the most amazing places where you could do comedy and it was still affordable, so I just immediately went back down there. And I was kind of a late adopter on Twitter. I didn’t wanna do it at first because I don’t usually do one-liners, so the idea of getting to flex that muscle is different. It’s fun for me.

Between the time you started participating in the #PointsMe contest and the moment you found out you won, did you have any inkling along the way or a moment where you realized “Hey, I might have a good chance of winning this?”

I don’t know how much I’m supposed to give away here, but they don’t just pick a random person based on tweets. There’s a bit of a casting process. They narrowed it down, and then I got an email from a producer who was like “Hey, so you’re in the running for this, so fill out this questionnaire thing.” Then we did a Skype call where we kind of joked around and played a couple games, which narrowed it down even further. So then they were like “Hey, we’ll get back with you one way or another on Monday,” and then it was Wednesday or Thursday and I was like “Okay, there goes that.” But then it happened. There was a moment where I thought I had it, and then I didn’t think I had it again, and then I was very pleasantly surprised when I actually found out.

How collaborative was it, writing-wise? I know @midnight has a writing staff, but did you get to write most of your own jokes?

Oh yeah, those were my jokes. They give you very little actual prep. When I got there, there was a walkthrough and literally it was for me stuff like learning where the camera is, that kind of thing. But the prep you get is very broad, like “So the first thing that happens is the cold open, so we’ll play a game and go 1-2-3 down the line and you don’t have to buzz in” — not really telling you what the joke is, but just letting you know you don’t have to buzz in — “and then the next one is Rapid Refresh — you are gonna buzz in and we’ll do three segments…” There wasn’t anything like “Hey go write these jokes ahead of time.” But being someone who wasn’t a regular contestant, one of the writers, Matt Mira, was sort of hand-holding me throughout the process.

Was there any advice you got from another comic or someone on the show that helped you going into all this? And on the flip side, since you’re the very first #PointsMe winner, is there any advice you can pass on to the next winner?

As far as people giving me advice or being helpful, I know it seems like a cop-out, but literally every person at the show was the most helpful person. [laughs] Like I said, Matt Mira was awesome; he was very hands-on with me and he was the guy there who walked me through the process, so he was very helpful with the technical side and telling me what to expect and that kind of stuff. And this kind of goes to the second part of the question: Every person, before I started the actual taping, was like “The best advice I can give you is just to go have fun.” Everybody said it: “You can’t mess it up. Just go have fun.” And once I actually did it, that’s really the best advice I can give too.

The way I look at it is I’ve been doing comedy for a long time, and this was huge exposure for me. It was an opportunity for me to get my comic sensibilities in this framework so people were able to see me be funny the way I am funny. So that’s the best advice I can give anybody: Just go out there and have fun, because this is one of those shows where if they’re having fun you’re having fun, you know what I mean? It comes across the best if you’re just having fun and joking and riffing and having a good time. The best you can ask from this is for people to see this and say “Oh, this guy is funny! I’m gonna check out his stuff.” If they see you be funny and then they go check out your stuff it should be the same kind of thing — you want them to see who you are. So just go out there and be you. If they’re having you on, it’s because they think you’re funny, so just go and be funny.

Check out more of Cubas’ work on Twitter, his podcast Canceled, and his website.

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