Carlos Morrison: Not that Kind of Nerd

March 26, 2023

Photo Credit

Zachariah Williams


Valerie Lopez


Valerie Lopez


Remem­ber the big finale scene in Flash­dance where the judges aren’t real­ly pay­ing atten­tion at first and then sud­den­ly BOOM…they’re on the edge of their seats, tap­ping their feet? This is the audi­ence (and judges) reac­tion I imagine/​remember when I watch Car­los Morrison’s 2019 Fun­ni­est Per­son in Austin final­ist set. He was a mem­o­rable WHERE DID THIS GUY COME FROM?!’ stand­out that year. 

Dur­ing our con­ver­sa­tion with Mor­ri­son it’s fas­ci­nat­ing to dis­cov­er that what might come off as hilar­i­ous dead-pan neu­rot­ic stage fright is actu­al­ly ground­ed in his true fear of pub­lic speak­ing. It’s the same fear that brought him to com­e­dy in the first place when he took an improv class to over­come his glos­so­pho­bia. It’s what he opened his mem­o­rable 2019 FPIA finals set with. It’s easy to think that it’s a put on, but Mor­rison’s sweet awk­ward­ness con­vinces you read­i­ly that there is a def­i­nite fear and gen­uine dis­com­fort with being on stage.

Rewind to a young teenage Mor­ri­son and you’d find a fair­ly typ­i­cal com­ic back­ground — binge lis­ten­ing to com­e­dy. With the added bonus of Mor­ri­son being raised in Austin, his favorite thing to do was lis­ten­ing to a local all com­e­dy clip sta­tion where he could hear com­e­dy as often as he could. He even got to a point where he could­n’t lis­ten to enough com­e­dy and began jour­nal­ing his thoughts. While con­fess­ing that he was a nerd, he was quick to point out that he was­n’t the kind of nerd we were think­ing of. He was a mis­chie­vous nerd (which comes through in his com­e­dy style). As he began think­ing about per­form­ing com­e­dy and the inspi­ra­tion he got from watch­ing spe­cials by Maria Bam­ford, Sarah Sil­ver­man, Zach Gal­i­fi­anakis, and Pat­ton Oswalt, he start­ed get­ting excit­ed about the idea of comics hang­ing out and, you know, doing shows togeth­er. and mak­ing lit­tle sketch­es. That was kind of excit­ing to me the idea of being in a van with a bunch of comedians.”

The idea of comics hanging out and, you know, doing shows together. and making little sketches. That was kind of exciting to me the idea of being in a van with a bunch of comedians.
Carlos Morrison

Mor­ri­son is a tall, impos­ing fig­ure, we think he’d be bet­ter served by hang­ing out with comics in a tour bus or pri­vate jet, but such is the naïveté of a young com­ic. That was evi­dent in Mor­rison’s first attempts at per­form­ing com­e­dy. Once he decid­ed to take all those jour­nal­ing thoughts to a stage, he thought the only way to per­form was to per­form at a club. In 2018, that meant per­form­ing at Cap City Com­e­dy Club, so he kept sub­mit­ting and sub­mit­ting and sub­mit­ting his name to be on the leg­endary Sun­day night Cap City Open Mic. And he kept not being added. Those in the know know that to land on the Cap City Open Mic, you have to gen­er­al­ly be known as active­ly work­ing on your sets at oth­er open mics pep­pered around the city. In 2018, the open mic offer­ings were more lim­it­ed than they are now. Until final­ly in Fall of 2018, he land­ed a spot at the Cap City Open Mic and Mor­ri­son admits, it went pret­ty well, except for the last joke.”

As he talked to oth­er comics, he learned about the Austin com­e­dy scene and how it worked. He began per­form­ing more earnest­ly to get over that fear of speak­ing in pub­lic. It was­n’t long before he met pre­vi­ous guest Zain Hus­sain and the two struck up a friend­ship and col­lab­o­ra­tions togeth­er that allowed each of their strengths to shine. The two began pro­duc­ing shows togeth­er, includ­ing one mod­eled after the near-leg­endary Taos Co-op Sat­ur­day night show (which for a spell was host­ed exclu­sive­ly by comics named Andrew). The 21st Street Coop show was titled This is a Cult and would have con­tin­ued had it not been for the glob­al inter­rup­tion that is Covid. 

Anoth­er thing inter­rupt­ed was the momen­tum Mor­ri­son was get­ting after land­ing in the 2019 FPIA finals. Hav­ing land­ed in the finals in his first ever attempt at the con­test, once the con­test was over, show book­ers around the city were call­ing on him to per­form on their shows. He liked the atten­tion, but there was still that sense of fear (and the nerd men­tal­i­ty) that made him uneasy.

I’m ambitious in different ways… I want personal growth. That’s what I want from comedy… I want to get better, because it makes me a better person.
Carlos Morrison

Mor­ri­son admits that the glob­al pan­dem­ic reset his per­spec­tive. He real­ized that there are more mean­ing­ful things than com­e­dy”. Which is a stark rev­e­la­tion for any­one read­ing this (pre­sum­ing some lev­el of com­e­dy fan­dom lead­ing you, dear read­er, here) and those who per­form, pro­duce, or oth­er­wise oper­ate in the com­e­dy uni­verse. Hav­ing pro­duced sev­er­al shows, Mor­ri­son laments that some­times the busi­ness side gums up the works and ruins the fun of it.” With a mar­riage on the hori­zon, unlike many 20-some­things he knows, he real­izes that while he loves per­form­ing, hang­ing out with oth­er comics, he also real­izes that hav­ing a fam­i­ly and liv­ing in a nice house can be just as important. 

This reset has­n’t stopped him from pro­duc­ing new shows, by the way. Fre­quent­ly with the yin to his yang and fel­low com­e­dy mas­ter­mind, Zain Hus­sain. The two col­lab­o­rat­ed on a show held in a con­ve­nience store called Busi­ness Hours in 2022 and this spring we’ll see The Bud­dy Sys­tem at The Velvee­ta Room. When we dis­cussed how the part­ner­ship with Hus­sain worked, it was fas­ci­nat­ing to lis­ten to how the extro­vert­ed weird­ness of Hus­sain and the intro­vert­ed nerdi­ness of Mor­ri­son cre­ates a col­lab­o­ra­tion of give and take on ideas to cre­ate a per­fect blend of unique­ness that most any alt-com­e­dy fan can appre­ci­ate. Which is prob­a­bly why Emma Hold­er fre­quent­ly invites the duo to per­form on her What a Char­ac­ter show at Fall­out The­ater. As Mor­rison’s orig­i­nal improv teacher from Hide­out The­ater, Hold­er appre­ci­ates the char­ac­ter-based com­e­dy choic­es that the two bring to her show, which gives them a free­dom to be as sil­ly and weird as they want to be.

While the highs of being a 2019 FPIA final­ist have cer­tain­ly fad­ed a bit, Mor­ri­son has no regrets, He finds that I’m ambi­tious in dif­fer­ent ways… I want per­son­al growth. That’s what I want from com­e­dy… I want to get bet­ter, because it makes me a bet­ter per­son.” Mor­rison’s thought­ful approach demon­strate a matu­ri­ty far beyond his years. To bor­row a fre­quent phrase heard dur­ing his 2019 FPIA and oth­er sets, what’s the worst that could hap­pen”? Is it real­ly all that bad to read­just his com­e­dy goals? Achiev­ing the bal­ance of pur­su­ing com­e­dy while also build­ing a fam­i­ly and home, does­n’t seem like a bad out­come to us. And by all accounts, that may be Mor­rison’s ulti­mate dream. 

Fol­low Car­los Morrison

Car­los can be seen and heard:

  • The Bud­dy Sys­tem — April 7, 2023 10pm — The Velvee­ta Room
  • What a Char­ac­ter host­ed by Emma Hold­er — appears frequently
  • Around Austin
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Carlos Morrison