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One-upsmanship abounds for two local comics releasing albums

Joshua Boydston January 18th, 2011

With a comedy market as small as Oklahoma City, you can bet there will be a little friendly competition between the area’s standup comics. Two of them — BradChad Porter and Leah Kayajanian — are in the midst of their very own.

“It’s really important that I sell at least one more copy of my album than Leah,” Porter said. “That’s all I really care about. I’d consider myself a complete failure and probably kill myself.

I’m just sayin.’”

“I’m going to sell at least 100 more than you,” Kayajanian said.

“Hell, I might end up buying 30 copies myself just to keep my total at one more than yours,” Porter replied.

These two are bickering because they are the first two comics to release albums through fellow comedian James Nghiem’s OKC-based comedy label, Robot Saves City. Porter’s “Yelling at Giants” came out in July; Kayajanian’s “Megatron Story 3000 … Can I Call It That” followed.

It’s something that neither of them would have dreamed of even just four years ago, back when being a local comedian was a lot like being a rapper in rural Nebraska: There weren’t exactly that many opportunities to perform.

“There were people who would organized their own shows at bars and such,” Porter said, “but I don’t think anybody really had a vision to create something that would stay.”

“I don’t even know that we had that much foresight,” Nghiem said. “Some of the things we started just sort of stuck.”

The trio helped build the foundations of an Oklahoma comedy scene with upward of 40 others, establishing weekly performances at Othello’s in Norman and The 51st Street Speakeasy, as well as branching out into uncommon comedy venues with showcases at The Conservatory and Opolis.

There’s now a comedy showcase at the Norman Music Festival, and over the summer, local comedians — including Nghiem and Kayajanian — were able to open for big-name touring acts like Todd Barry, Doug Benson and Paul F. Tompkins, exposing them to people who didn’t even know Oklahoma City had comics of its own.

Even with all the progress, making a living as a comedian here is virtually impossible; many make the jump to bigger markets.

“I have a lot of roots here, but I don’t know that I’ll be able to stay here,” Porter said. “I’m still here because we wanted to build a comedy scene, but there will be a point where there will be nothing left that we can do.”

That’s where Robot Saves City comes in. It is able to keep OKC’s comedy core together as they spread farther apart.

“We (can) still work together,” Nghiem said. “And actually, the farther we get, the better the label is able to grow.”

Porter is appreciative of the effort. “Every comedian on the road has the piece-of-shit CD they burned 15 minutes before the show and throw in a jewel case,” Porter said. “This is something we were all going to do eventually, so it’s great to be able to do it together.”

Nghiem said Robot Saves City will release several more albums in 2011, including compilations and a release of his own. He’s pleased what the label has accomplished so far in resurrecting local comedy from the dead.

“Every step has been building towards something bigger and better,” he said. “Everyone keeps branching out and creating a more complete scene.”

For more information, visit robotsavescity.com.

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