The Fernando Show – A Retrospective on Taking Bold Risks and Failing Big


Combining my loves for all things Fernando in one spectacular roll of the dice: this is the Fernando Show!

The Fernando Show Aftermath: Coco’s, 12:26 am, 22 March 2015, Garden Grove, CA

The Coco’s $12.99 Prime Rib rejuvenates my exhausted psychic state. Cherry Pepsi, drenched in ice, delivered in a plastic tumbler, gives me a jolt of caffeine and sugar to alleviate my throbbing headache. Prior to the tender broiled steak, I felt like I got punched in the face with a baseball made of ice. Or like a sack of door knobs wielded by Jimbo Jones from The Simpsons.  My right eye pulsates like the bass line from “Obsession” by Animotion

After writing, acting, and directing my first one man show essentially, my physical constitution is spent. I vaulted myself outside of my comfort zone and pushed beyond barriers I did not know I possessed. I’ve always been one to take risks on stage, whether warranted or foolish. The Fernando Show was a little bit of both. Fuck it: if you’re not jumping off cliffs occasionally to see where you’ll land, then you’re not testing yourself as a performer.

Too often, especially with young improvisers or experienced players on a hot streak or comfortable with their routine, a bold risk is the last thing they want to do. And who can blame them – why risk your hot streak or undefeated record for a short term risk that may or may not have a long term benefit? A bold risk entails potential catastrophic loss; or it can lead to a massive gain. Regardless, you’re exposing yourself to possible pain, humiliation, and failure. The wrath of a poorly executed risk can traumatize you into never taking one ever again. However, I’ve never been one to dwell in the comfort of the status quo for too long; I take risks because I’m afraid of becoming stagnant and boring in the long run. It’s all about the long-term payoffs.

Special Shout-Out to Liam O’Mahony –  Liam’s participation made this show happen. As my Andy Richter, his constant stage presence prevented dead air. His guitar playing transitioned the segments, and his support meant a lot during a time when I was not sure where this project was going. Its artistic brothers like Liam that make stuff like the Fernando Show possible. Thanks bro.


Thanks for your help, Liam; there would be no The Fernando Show without your help and support

Lets’ Break it Down: The Starlight Theater, 09:40 pm, 21 March 2015, Costa Mesa, CA

09:40 pm: The Monologue – my jokes skewed towards Dennis Miller and Norm MacDonald tendencies. Out of 14 jokes, seven were about international politics, one about fracking, three about pop culture, one about public policy/city planning, and one mega-awesome joke about the Eagles. Suffice to say, I like jokes about politics. Maybe I can include a richer variety in the future, or maybe I can apply to the Daily Show as an international affairs correspondent? I forgot one joke, stuttered through others, but I did get some consistent laughs throughout this segment.

09:46 pm: The Astrologer Sketch – emulating my childhood Univision astrologer, Walter Mercado, I donned the altar ego of Benjamin Mercado Rodriguez Rodriguez Andersen Smichdt Chavez. Pre-Show Information: my original actor came down with a wicked flu 24 hours before the show, so I had to don the persona of Benjamin Mercado because I had no choice; it was too late to scrap the sketch and replace it with something else. I brewed the first of many coffee pots, and began to memorize. This by far was the longest and most challenging piece – I went through all 12 Zodiac signs, each with a rich and detailed horoscope. This was a more amazing feat than I had anticipated, and despite some this-shit-is-really-long moments, it was a triumph in remembering all the horoscopes; a lot of Pisces, Scorpios, and Aquariuses were in the house.

09:55 pm: Macho Man’s Hamlet, featuring “Top Notch” Frankie Segura – I combined my love for pro-wrestling and Hamlet in this sketch, an absurdest piece that got more steam out if its bizarre premise than it’s actual delivery. Some help from my friend Frankie Segura as Ophellia, committed the marriage of these two ideas to its conceptual fulfillment.


The Four Faces of Savage

Although I looked great as the Macho Man Randy Savage, the execution of the sketch could have been better; juggling Hamlet’s “To be or not to be” soliloquy with Macho Man’s mannerisms and cadence was more difficult than I expected. In the future, with some solid memorization of the lines and a firm grasp over my impression (one that does not destroy my voice), this could be a killer piece. Much love and kindness to my bro Frankie Top-Notch for helping me out with the sketch.

10:01 pm: Interview with “Top Notch” Frankie Segura –  One of the basic tenets of an interview is that the guests sit down when the host asks him to do so. Unfortunately, Frankie’s character was not in the mood to indulge my request to sit down with me. This request became the axis of the interview, and I should have prepped my buddy better. Regardless, it was a good test of dealing with an unruly guest, which I imagine the Biggs like Leno, Fallon, and Conan have to deal with occasionally. He never sat down, but it was fun interviewing my dear friend on stage.


My brother, Frankie ‘Top Notch” Segura

10:06 pm: Slam Poetry with Calvin Fantone – my bud from work, the wonderful slam poet Calvin Fantone, delivered some great slam poetry that hit with the audience. Part of my vision for The Fernando Show was to have a variety show that showcased many different arts in a simple-but-rich tapestry of different art forms interweaving together and complimenting each other. Because of Calvin, I was able to do this. Thanks, dude, for helping out!

10:13 pm: Interview with Calvin Fantone – Although Calvin indulged my request to sit down, he was also difficult to interview. Again: my bad. I should have prepped him/done a mock interview beforehand. Talking to him was like pulling teeth out of a hippopotamus. I thought it would’ve gone easier due to our wonderful work chats, but the dynamics of dialogue change when you’re in front of a live audience and under bright lights. The interview had some laughs, and we got a peek into his inspiration and creative process. Regardless of the awkwardness, it was a lot of fun interviewing my good buddy on stage.

10:18 pm – 10:30 pm: Closing songs with Liam

1) Allison’s Song –  With Liam on guitar, we improvised a ballad strictly for my home-girl Alison. I waxed on the Defenestration of Prague, Russia, and that community college was a trap, but that together, through our mutual support of our respective journeys, we were able to make it out. This was a lot of fun because it was all true, and Alison is really one of my dearest friends around.

2) Working Class Jesus – a love song about a guy who will do what it takes to keep his girl happy. A funny song that was not laughed at very much, but that can always be worked. My improvised secular preaching before the last chorus was what really hit the audience. After rambling about life, I said the following:

“Sometimes you got to jump off a cliff and see where you land.”

And that’s exactly how I felt at that moment. I took a risk, and it was punching me with rewards and punishments in a back-and-forth ebb and flow of concept reinforcing laughter and concept punishing silence. Irrespective of how much show prep takes place before hand, there is still some performance magic you can capture with the spontaneity of the moment.

Final Thoughts


Doing my first one-man show really kicked my ass

The immediate aftermath of the show was odd – I felt proud about pushing myself out of my comfort zone while feeling disappointed with the poor execution of some of the concepts. My head hurt from the lack of food, and I was trying to accept people’s kind words and compliments during the after-show schmooze despite not feeling the same way. My improv brothers gave me a pat on the back and said “Good job.” My front of bravado is only hot air sometimes, and the kind words from my improv bros meant a lot. I thanked the people that came out, thanked my improv bros, cleaned up the theater, and headed to Coco’s to process everything.

While at Coco’s, I processed everything that took place, so I came up with this of positives.

The Positives –

  • I played some different characters (characters are difficult for me)
  • I wrote and delivered a Weekend-Update segment that got some laughs
  • I sang some sangs
  • I put on a variety show – we had some stand-up, sketch, slam poetry, songs, interviews, and some improv
  • I put on my first one man show
  • I tried a new and exciting untested format that no one in my community has tested out, so yeah, I’m like Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin combined.
  • I tested my boundaries and gave a clinic on how TO FAIL BIG

So yeah, I failed big. (I’ll make a list of what I learned from the Fernando Show for another post).But this quote from Conan O’Brien has put things in perspective

“It is our failure to become our perceived ideal that ultimately defines us and makes us unique. It’s not easy, but if you accept your misfortune and handle it right your perceived failure can become a catalyst for profound re-invention.”

I’ll take this comedy Giant’s wisdom to heart and begin the process of furling myself into a comedy caccoon of self-reinvention. I’ll let you guys know how it goes.

Till Next Time,

Your Loving Friend,

Fernando A. Funes




One thought on “The Fernando Show – A Retrospective on Taking Bold Risks and Failing Big

  1. Pingback: The Three Fails – Fail Big, Fail Often, and Fail Early | Fernando's Improv Blog

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