It’s a balmy night in October and the line in front of Modesto’s State Theater is growing longer by the minute.
And what a line it is.
Roughly 50 people from the door stands a youngish man – his thick moustache makes it hard to gauge how old he actually is – wearing a full-on cowboy suit that seems like it would be more at place in a Nashville honky-tonk than a Downtown Modesto street. But it’s obvious that he doesn’t care as he straightens his bolo tie and checks the fold on his hat as he inches closer to the door.
Three or four people ahead of him stands a girl wearing black fishnet leggings that is on her third cigarette in the last 10 minutes – Parliament Lights – and can’t stop talking about an upcoming concert that she’s going to.
And then there’s Manteca comic Chris Teicheira. His trademark confidence is slightly shaken as he knows that this time around, at the Modesto Area Music Awards, he’ll be doing a brief set in front of a theater of musicians that hate their chronically funny counterparts. The restless masses just want to get on to the music, and could care less about the comedy category.
But he doesn’t show it. He laughs. He smiles. And he talks about how he quit drinking a week ago so the liquid courage that tends to flow as freely as water at events like the one he’s currently at is now a dry riverbed.
For about 15 minutes. After arriving and checking the lineup list, Teicheira reappears with a cocktail in his hand a wry smile on his face – a Holden Caulfield look. His set is already predermined and planned out, so now it’s more of a matter of execution than anything else. He’s going to spend eight minutes skewering his colleagues and fellow best comedy nominees, and isn’t holding anything back.
Little does he know that the guy that he blasts the hardest will walk away with the award. Despite all of the late nights traversing open mic nights across Northern California and the countless hours that Teicheira has spent in the basement of his rural Manteca home building a podcast that has given local comics a voice, the guy who paints his face with upside down crosses and shouts rants into a webcam ends up with an award signifying that he’s the best in the area.
Those are the breaks.
Funny but real
and pretending to care
There’s no doubt that Chris Teicheira is funny.
His set about meth addicts in the Central Valley is, somewhat unfortunately, universal and something that works just as well for him in a place like Merced as it does in Modesto or Manteca. Apparently copper wire theft and an abundance of bicycle riders at 3 a.m. is something that everybody in the mighty San Joaquin bowl can relate to.
It’s his self-effacing nature, however, that resonates with the people that listen to the podcast that he started with friend and fellow comic Anthony Krayenhagen (Anthony K or Ant to those who know him really, really well) at the table of the South Manteca home that they share.
Every Monday night the two of them end up down in the basement that they cleared out specifically as a podcasting center and talk about everything from local stories to crazy things that happened to them over the course of the week.
And when your entire life revolves around comedy, things can get pretty crazy. Just five minute spent with Teicheira will leave you in awe with some of things that he can recount with pinpoint accuracy, and even leave the uninitiated questioning whether he’s exaggerating for effect.
Take, for example, a recent exchange he had with a woman that has been rabidly pursuing him. After telling her that he wasn’t home, she showed up at a party at his house and rather than dealing with what he knew would be a dramatic situation he snuck out of his bedroom window and ended up hiding out in the orchard across the street for more than an hour – just texting friends like it was a normal occurrence.
He’ll tell you about his time on a Manteca break dancing crew, and how he can still gyro and hand-spin. He’ll tell you about his time as a bartender in Modesto or throw out snippets about his life down in Los Angeles or Las Vegas when he ventured away from Manteca. He’ll tell you, in great detail, about how he’s been known to hide his Jeep in the orchard behind his house to make it look like he’s not home so that lady callers don’t bother stopping by.
It’s the fact that he’s willing to tell you those things that makes the podcast something that people are catching on to, and something that enhances his comedy.
Granted, it’s not for everybody. Teicheira will also tell you that some of the things that he says onstage and on the podcast makes his Mother cringe – it’s not family friendly – and it occasionally draws the wrath of certain individuals.
But isn’t that what art is supposed to do?
A sense of civic pride
Johnny Cash sings about how he’s been “everywhere” and you’re expected to believe that he’s done everything.
Teicheira has been everywhere too. But unlike the Man in Black, he doesn’t brag about it during his public time on stage. You don’t necessarily have to pry information out of him about his illustrious days in some of the party capitals of the West, but it isn’t information that he freely offers up to strangers either.
So when he’s standing on stage at The State Theater doing his bit, talking about how comic and friend Tom Bickle looks like a registered sex offender (and in the photo displayed, he does) the disinterest from the musicians in the crowd seems both palpable and misplaced.
The Rainbow Bar and Grill – known as “The Rainbow Room” – on The Sunset Strip has long been a favorite haunt for both comedians and rock stars. John Belushi ate his last meal there. Crude comedian Sam Kinison was a regular. And the list of famous rock stars is endless and includes visionaries like John Lennon, Elton John, Keith Moon, Ringo Starr and Elvis Presley.
If they could coexist – thrive actually – in the entertainment Mecca, why can’t they get along in Modesto? The answer to this question doesn’t bother Teicheira or the entourage of other comics that came out to support those that were nominated. They really don’t seem to care.
But the disdain that people seem to have for their respective hometowns does bother him. He’ll be the first to tell you that he can’t understand the crushing sense that people have to get away. He loves Manteca, and whether he truly has aspirations to be Manteca’s Mayor – it’s thrown around quite extensively on the podcast – is proof of that.
It almost seems like Teicheira feels a need to use his comedy connections to bring quality entertainment to the people – his people.
Next month the Pretending to Care crew will host their second Christmas variety show at the MRPS Hall, bringing it back to Manteca after holding it last year at The Fat Cat in Modesto. Krayenhagen killed. So did show contributor Kevin Albritton, despite being so nervous he was nearly shaking before walking out on stage. Sierra High alum and “The Voice” semi-finalist Lindsey Pavao performed.
By all accounts, the show was a rousing success. But Teicheira wants to bring it home. There were more Manteca people at the show last year than from any other community, including a crew that arrived in a party bus. So holding it where the fans are, in his eyes, is the right move.
It’ll be three weeks removed from his stint and one of the emcees at the Manteca/Lathrop Boys and Girls Club’s annual Telethon – an event he remembers growing up watching as a kid, and catching on television even when he lived in Modesto thanks to the way that then-provider Continental Cablevision had their lineup structured.
Teicheira is appearing Monday from 5 to 9 p.m. on Comcast Channel 97. And he’s also put together an auction item for the telethon with a private comedy show going to the highest bidder in order to help raise funds to provide programs for the club’s 1,500 youth.
He isn’t nervous. He was at first, when he agreed to do it – offsetting it by joking that he was going to wear tails and a top hat. And he still doesn’t know what he’s going to pull out of his closet for the event.
At the end of the day, however, he’s home. And that’s all that a comic can truly ask for.