Comic William Lee Martin says the Fine Tex-Mex Comedy Tour that he and fellow comedian Alex Reymundo have put together operates much like Tex-Mex cuisine: People like the result even if — or maybe because — culinary lines were blurred in the process.
For Martin and Reymundo, both established headliners, what’s funny is the interaction and overlap between their stand-up acts. Martin, also known as Cowboy Bill, is a fifth-generation Texan well-versed in cowboy and blue-collar culture. Reymundo, one of the Original Latin Kings of Comedy, was born in Acapulco, Mexico, but raised in Fort Worth, and his comedy comes from that cultural mix.
At a time where cultural and political differences between Americans seem to be widening, Martin is finding audiences drawn to comedy where those differences are pointed out and observed with a common laughter.
The two long-time friends bring their Fine Tex-Mex Comedy Tour to the Waco Hippodrome on Saturday night, a venue that Martin has played twice over the last year.
Their show’s structure is simplicity itself. A coin flip before the show determines who goes first. Each comic does a set about 40 minutes long, then the two combine for an encore that sometimes runs far longer than their solo sets.
What makes it work are their commonalities, Martin said. The two Texas comics have been friends for more than 20 years, dating back to an Arlington comedy club where the two worked early in their careers.
“We drank more than we worked together,” joked Reymundo, in a phone interview from Las Vegas, Nevada.
Their humor is observational and their style relational. “Both of us are storytellers,” noted Martin, speaking by phone from Miami, Florida, during a stop on a recent Carnival Cruise Line cruise. “And, you know, we get along. Our differences make it fun.”
Reymundo agreed. “We’re telling stories together, the way you do radio with someone good.”
Do the two comics draw lines in advance on what they can and can’t say?
“I never try to put boundaries up or regulate what I say,” Reymundo explained. “Bill is a little cleaner, less on the edge than I am.”
Both being experienced professionals, though, they know how to read their audiences and shape their material for their listeners. “By my tenth word, I’ve totally disarmed them,” said Reymundo.
The Fine Tex-Mex Comedy Tour, which has some 23 dates booked this year, catches both comedians in their stride. Reymundo, who lives with his family in Kentucky, has two one-hour specials on Showtime and Comedy Central, “Hick-Spanic,” which won a 2008 American Latin Media Arts Award and “Red-Nexican.”
Martin’s “Let The Laughter Roll” special on CMT has topped 1.7 million views and the Fort Worth-based comic finds his success with comedy cruises on Carnival Cruise Lines not only has put him in front of a considerable number of people, but has polished and strengthened his routines.
On a typical cruise gig, Martin performs five shows — two family-friendly, three for grown-ups — and prides himself on making each a different show.
At his last Waco Hippodrome show in April, Martin performed as Cowboy Bill with fellow comic Chad Prather as the Cowboy Kings Of Comedy. The two have since separated. “Chad was going in a more political direction,” Martin explained. “I’m really not political. I just couldn’t do it, but he’s good at it.”
Martin also is returning to his given name, William Lee, rather than the Cowboy Bill nickname of his childhood, to keep audiences from pigeonholing him in a cowboy comedy box.
Audiences have responded positively to the Fine Tex-Mex Comedy Tour with strong ticket sales, particularly for VIP tickets, and Reymundo makes a point of noting that the Hippodrome will be selling his Number Juan tequila that night.
Martin said that while he and Reymundo might have different fan bases, they’ve come together where laughter softens any sharp edges of differences.
“Comedy is still the last place where freedom of speech is still freedom of speech,” he said.