Aaron Brooks, Vol 3: The Wizard of Storytelling

December 3, 2023

Photo Credit

An Indoor Lady


Valerie Lopez


Richard Goodwin


My life fell apart, and the world fell apart.”

It sounds like an open­ing line to The Lanalax Cor­po­ra­tion, Aaron Brooks’ (now dear­ly depart­ed) spooky, crazy, choose-your-own-demise pod­cast. Once described as Dun­geons & Drag­ons meets Black Mir­ror”, the 99% impro­vised show (with a 700 episode back cat­a­log) is a mas­ter class in how to (vir­tu­al­ly) kill off a pod­cast guest in every out­ing, yet is sin­ful­ly delight­ful every step along the way. Return­ing to speak with Valerie for the 3rd time (we real­ly should get some jack­ets made like SNL), we learn that Brooks has had his own pre­car­i­ous IRL adven­ture span­ning the inter­ven­ing years since he last vis­it­ed us.

(Note: It’s not the kind of intro you would plan for a Very Spe­cial Birth­day Episode; but when that birth­day is Valerie’s, the more intense and meaty the inter­view, the hap­pi­er she is. So… Hap­py (?) Birth­day, Valerie!)

I grew up telling sto­ries,” Brooks recounts, explain­ing how he would cre­ate entire nar­ra­tives from a sim­ple prompt from friends, like tell us about the time we did that thing’”. The expe­ri­ence stuck with him, and took him from mea­ger begin­nings (per­form­ing in a 2nd floor com­e­dy club above a TGI Fri­days) to build­ing a name over many great years in Austin. If you don’t know Brooks from Lanalax, you’ve no doubt expe­ri­enced his work either via the world-famous Sure Thing or Punch standup show­cas­es, or the com­e­dy album Secrets put out by Sure Thing records. It’s an impres­sive body of work and his­to­ry, and leads us to the most recent (and most try­ing) leg where Brooks took a major chance, leav­ing Austin and head­ing to Los Ange­les in 2019.

I grew up telling stories...I like the narrative, long form
Aaron Brooks

The West Coast held more than one nasty sur­prise in Brooks’s future. He went through an intense breakup, and then had a self-admit­ted men­tal break­down (a glob­al pan­dem­ic did­n’t help things either). Of course, Brooks will attempt a joke on any top­ic, as he notes when shar­ing the diag­no­sis from his ther­a­pist: Cyclothymic?…I don’t even own a bike!” Not all is dark­ness, as Brooks pep­pers in pos­i­tive moments, like los­ing 70 pounds using Inter­mit­tent Fast­ing. (I also prac­tice this, although I’m cur­rent­ly in a mul­ti-year non-fast­ing win­dow.)

While the LA scene is full of oppor­tu­ni­ty, it’s also a vicious rat race, so one’s pur­suit has to be some­thing that real­ly match­es their pas­sion. For Brooks, the stan­dard” options (writ­ing for late night shows, for exam­ple) just didn’t line up to his sen­si­bil­i­ties. I like the nar­ra­tive, long form,” he says, quite the con­trast to the late night style of punch­line tapas. 

Do the things that make you think you’re funny
Aaron Brooks

It may seem odd at this point to keep refer­ring to a dor­mant pod­cast when talk­ing about Brooks, but Lanalax con­tin­ues to serve mul­ti­ple roles for him: his­tor­i­cal assess­ment, align­ment of pas­sions and goals, and that ever-sought-after sense of what do I want to do in this world”? It turns out that 700 episodes of extem­po­ra­ne­ous cre­ativ­i­ty real­ly do show you what you enjoy, and for Brooks it’s nev­er been clear­er that writ­ing is that venue. Do the things that make you think you’re fun­ny,” he advis­es, not­ing that he’s com­pil­ing sto­ry ideas that (to his ears and ours) sound like they’d make a killer Adult Swim series.

Despite the pit­falls and set­backs LA had to offer, Brooks made his return to doing standup in Austin a cel­e­bra­to­ry affair, with a high­ly regard­ed week­end head­lin­ing Velvee­ta Room just before our talk. Pri­or the appear­ance, he’d only been on stage 10 times since depart­ing Austin — none in the past year and a half — but he vault­ed right back on the horse with…we’ll say recov­er­able ease”.

(Brooks almost fell off the stage due to a mis­step, but jokes his ath­let­ic prowess was on dis­play” as he man­aged to descend safe­ly — if not grace­ful­ly — into a chair.)

It’s the kind of per­for­mance after a long break that would have many a vet­er­an com­ic shak­ing in the knees; for Brooks, it just plays to his strengths. When a front-row crowd work oppor­tu­ni­ty pre­sent­ed itself on the Fri­day night of his 3 show head­lin­ing run at The Velvee­ta Room, he piv­ot­ed from a planned set to squeez­ing every­thing pos­si­ble out of the impromp­tu inter­ac­tion. I wasn’t able to make the show, but Brooks swears he’ll post the clip soon, and — as in my own Lanalax episode — I’m cer­tain I’ll be dead by the end of it.

This inter­view could have been – jus­ti­fi­ably — chock full of moan­ing and groan­ing about the dif­fi­cul­ties Brooks has dealt with in the past few years. Instead, we’re gift­ed an Aaron Brooks with a pos­i­tive out­look on the days ahead. He’s writ­ing, plan­ning, and hasn’t lost a bit of the comedic chops that have made him an Austin and Com­e­dy Wham favorite for years. Main­tain­ing that con­stant motion is now — if not before — one of his key tenets.

The worst thing you can do is stay­ing stuck; you’ve got to try,” Brooks insists, and even­tu­al­ly the pen­du­lum will swing back.” It’s sage advice, and a reminder that the wildest swings into the shad­ows will be off­set by equal­ly tri­umphant ones, if you just keep mov­ing until the arc is com­plet­ed.

Unless, of course, you’re sub­ject­ed to the whims of the Lanalax Corporation.

Fol­low Aaron Brooks

Aaron can be seen and heard:

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Aaron Brooks