Just off celebrating the 20th anniversary of its existence, the Vans Warped Tour welcomes a new addition to its scene. Comedy. This year will mark the start of a new tradition with the 2015 Vans Warped Tour Comedy Tent and we are psyched to be the official sponsor for its entirety this year. This is the brain child of Warped Tour creator Kevin Lyman and SideOneDummy Records founder Joe Sib, whose SideOneDummy Storytellers Show has been a success on both coasts. I recently had the chance to talk with the festival founder and comedy fan Kevin Lyman about the new endeavor, why the music and comedy worlds are more similar than you think, other attempts at comedy tours and what comedy legend he used to drive around while in college. Here is The Laugh Button Interview with Kevin Lyman.
You have given the greenlight on a comedy tent for this year’s Warped Tour, are you a big fan of comedy?
I’ve been bouncing it around with my partner Joe Sib over at SideOneDummy, who has become a working comedian with his show, and we’d been talking about it. We’ve tried a few things over the years on the Tour. We recently tried the acoustic tent which went over great. Now we have a wide array of acoustic artists out on Warped Tour when it was known primarily as a punk rock tour for so long. We even tried a silent disco, but that didn’t go over well because the kids aren’t on Molly and don’t dance around at night. That didn’t go over so well. I always like to integrate something new. And hanging out with Grant Cotter and Eli Olsberg who’ve been over to the office a few times, I said, “you know what, let’s do it. Let’s pull the trigger. And see what we can do here.”
What makes it exciting is it could very well be these kid’s first ever live comedy experience. So you’ll be breaking some new ground here and shaping their interests going forward in a non-traditional comedy club sort of way.
Yeah, my comedy experience is going to the Ice House with a two drink minimum and 21 and up comedy clubs out here in California. It was always a nice time. I tried to do a tour years ago, I had this idea called “Ha Ha That Rocks.” And it was going to take “rock” comedian type of people and put them on tour, Steel Panther when they were under their old name and other comedians that fit the vibe. I tried it out at a few schools and it went over well. Tried it at The Roxy out in L.A. and it didn’t go well. I then I got caught up in other things. It’s always been in the back of my mind. And I always think we could all use a good laugh. The array of comedians we have are curated for the type of audience we have on The Warped Tour.
Being a fan of comedy, did you find your love of comedy first or music?
Well, I fell in love with music in college. And really that’s when I started going down this path of working at shows in school and we have this great group of people that turned into Paul Tollett who started Coachella, we were all in school together. And I remember when I turned 21, there was the Ice House. We’d take road trips to Pasadena and go see shows. I’d live here in Pasadena and I still go out and see comedy. It’s always been part of me. And I always like to throw a twist into the shows. It’s been everything from human cannonballs to wrestlers. One year we had Freestyle Motocross guys doing back flips. So the comedy thing I think is going to go great. The backup plan is we let parents into the show for free so the parents will come over to the comedy tent for sure, but I think the kids will get it.
It’s crazy to think when you started this thing in 1995. Twenty years have gone by and and you’ve built up this tour to the point where you can try new things year to year. What’s that road been like? What were some of the trials and errors along the way?
It’s that whole thing, like we were talking about with the backflip motocross guys. That first jump team included the legend guys like Carey Hart and Brian Deegan. Then everyone wanted to be on Warped Tour and those guys left to go do X Games, and they sent out some back-up guys and I really saw the danger of it when I saw the first guy who went off the jump almost killed himself. He wasn’t prepared to be out there. I’ve always liked easing into things, so with this comedy tent, it’s going to take the trailblazing comedians who want to give this thing a shot. They are going to have to hook the crowd quick, not like a normal comedy show where you warm up the show. It will be just like the bands, they’ll have to get your attention really quick or they’ll be on to the next thing. It’s going to fun to see this thing evolve. The first week of the tour will be completely different I’m sure to what the comedy experience will be like when we hit the east coast. It will really train these comedians to grab the audience quickly.
Why do you think there is so much cross over between the music and comedy worlds? Why do they fit so well together?
I think it’s diversifying too. As an artist, it’s hard to make a living doing just one thing, being in one band. You’ve got to be doing different things. It’s like a band that has an acoustic version of their show, and now they can play in different venues and different settings. Now you are finding musicians with stories and some of those experiences in their life that can turn that into a great comedy routine. You want to be on stage, you want to do this for your life. It’s better than working as a pizza delivery person. It’s a drive to want to perform. Once you’re on stage, it’s really hard to get off stage.
How did it feel when you were first acknowledged in the Rock ‘N Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland?
It was really fun. We had a great event there. It was an awesome opportunity to bring my world into that place. You know, Haley Williams clothes she wore on stage are in there, Jay Bentley’s pajamas from Bad Religion were in that first display. We had such a great time with Bouncing Souls, Pennywise, Bad Religion and Paramore playing in the lobby that night. I got goosebumps, it was goosebumps. In this world, you’re only as good as what they said about you 10 minutes ago on Twitter. I’m still hustling to stay relevant. And to keep the Warped Tour ticket price reasonable. It’s still the cheapest out there. I mean, I’m here working on Memorial Day.
What’s your favorite memory from those early experiences in college with comedy?
Well, I used to drive Sam Kinison around southern California to his shows. Oh my god, with Carl LaBove and this guy Larry Richter would drive one and I’d drive the other. We bring them from school to school. We would move these guys around and you would realize those comedian guys were riding right on the edge of everything. I used to drive Hunter S. Thompson around as well.
The Vans Warped Tour kicks of the first of 41 stops on June 19 in Pomona, CA with The Laugh Button along for the entire ride. This will be your destination for all updates, interviews, and content from the road.