Tampa graduate makes it big as comedian, returns to headline at Side Splitters tonight

Plant High School graduate Robby Slowik talks Jon Stewart and the Bucs' defense.

click to enlarge Tampa's Robby Slowik returns from New York to perform at Side Splitters this weekend, including a headlining show on Saturday. - Robby Slowik
Robby Slowik
Tampa's Robby Slowik returns from New York to perform at Side Splitters this weekend, including a headlining show on Saturday.

A decade ago you could see Robby Slowik at Side Splitters in Tampa, waiting at the open mic for a chance to share his jokes (with whoever was listening) for five minutes. You can still find him there this weekend, but things are a little different. He's in town featuring for Tom Shillue, and headlining the early Saturday show. The guy who graduated from Plant High School has since moved to New York, making television appearances and working with some of the best comedians.

Slowik talked to us recently about working with Jon Stewart, appearing on Conan and a foolproof fix for the Buccaneers' defense. 

Bob Slowik was a defensive coach for about 20 years in the NFL, including a defensive assistant role on the 1992 Super Bowl champion Dallas Cowboys. Since you're in town and he's not, tell us how you'd fix the Buccaneers' defensive woes. 

I hate Bob Slowik. I'm sure he's a good guy, but he's been messing with my Google results for too long. That said, I'd fix the Bucs' defense by finding a way to clone our late '90s/early 2000s defense and get them on the field.

Around 10 years ago you were hitting the Side Splitters open mic trying to get a few minutes of stage time in the bar area. Now you're headlining shows in their main room this week. How are you different now than the guy who was trying to get a good spot on the open mic list? How has your comedy changed? 

Wow, it really has been 10 years. I'd say my comedy goes deeper now as I've developed an ability to take on bigger topics and find more within them. But like the guy who was doing open mics 10 years ago, I still love getting on stage and telling jokes to strangers. I loved it when I was being made to buy a drink to do it, and I love it even more now that I'm grossly underpaid to do it. 

With so much talent in a place like New York, a comedian has to really hustle to stand out. Walk us through a typical week for a comedian grinding it out. 

Standing out in NY is tough! Not only are some of the world's greatest comics popping in doing sets (Seinfeld, Chappelle, Rock), there are a hundred comics on their way to being legends you've never heard of, followed by another 2000 comics just around all the time. And new ones are moving to town every week.

A typical week is doing shows six nights a week, and on good nights multiple shows in a night. It's a lot of walking in 10 minutes before your set, doing your spot, and walking right out the door to the next spot. 

You were a writer on a Jon Stewart project that didn't make it to air. Can you tell us about what we missed? What was it like to work with Stewart and the other talented people in a writer's room? 

 The show was going to be animated and a lot more absurd than I think people would have guessed. Ultimately, the whole project hinged on a rapid animation technology that simply wasn't fast enough to accomplish our goal. After a year of trying, Jon pulled the plug. That year of my life was a dream come true. I had been a fan of Jon's for most of my life, so to get to work with him daily was amazing. Thankfully, he also turned out to be a great guy. You never really know (until you meet them).

Seriously, the Bucs are 32nd out of 32 teams in terms of points against. We need some defensive advice. Give us something. Please.

Derrick Brooks, Ronde Barber, Warren Sapp, John Lynch, Simeon Rice, Dexter Jackson and some type of magic science to bring them all back. IT WILL WORK!

Earlier this year you were on Conan. What surprised you about the experience? What are some things the television audience would never know because they're not actually there? 

Conan was one of those bizarre things where you dream of something your whole life, and then the six minutes happens, and then it's abruptly over. The set is at the end of the show so you're in a green room for like three hours (they make you get there two hours before taping), and then you do your set and that's it. A weird experience is calling your girlfriend hours later and asking her how to get make-up off your face while you're alone in a hotel in Burbank.

Oh, also the mic is basically a prop. You have a lav mic on (small mic with a clip for hands-free speaking) and they ask if you want a regular mic. They prefer you don't use it because it blocks your face. I chose to use it because I'm always holding a mic so I have no idea what to do with my hands without one, and I didn't want TV to be the first place I find out. 

Robby Slowik | Side Splitters, 12938 N. Dale Mabry Highway, Tampa | $10-$12 (discounted to just $5 with promo code TAMPA). Buy Side Splitters comedy tickets for Robby Slowik on Saturday. Never miss a comedy show — subscribe to Creative Loafing's weekly Do This newsletter to learn about all the best events in Tampa Bay

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