Some people choose to do comedy. Others feel like they were born to do it. For Pauly Casillas, it might be a little of both.
"Well, I've always been fat, so I had to be funny," Casillas says. "I'm a fat comedian, but I'm not a fat comedian. I mean, I don't just make the fat jokes that everyone expects."
Rather than pigeonhole himself into one style of comedy, the 32-year-old Tucson native sees his act as more of an observational comedy show that he can adjust to fit what he thinks the crowd will want to hear.
"It's just shit I think is stupid. I say what people were thinking. I'm always looking for new material, but you have to find what's funny to everyone, not just you. I try not to be offensive intentionally, but I just use what I see," Casillas says. "I try to be relatable as much as I can, so I'll read the audience and say stuff based on that. Like I have the drunken stories, but I also have the jokes about having a kid and being married, the whole spectrum. Sometimes you surprise yourself and make people laugh that you didn't think would laugh, that's the best part."
For Casillas, the toughest part about performing is the fact that he misses some important moments in his 3-year-old daughter's life.
"It's cool to me to be on stage, but it's hard sometimes when I'm gone for a weekend and she'll grow while I'm gone. It might not be something big, just a new word or something like that, but it feels like a lot when I miss it," Casillas says.
Keeping that in mind, Casillas knows that comedy has brought him some opportunities that he never thought he'd get.
"I'm from the south side of Tucson, so it was hard to see me going anywhere. I'd never been on a plane before I started doing comedy," Casillas says. "I did New Year's Eve in Albany at the Palace Theatre and there were like 1,700 people there, all dressed up in this fancy theater. I turned to the manager before I went on stage and said 'You know I'll be making dick and fart jokes, right?'"
At this point in his career, Casillas has opened for some of the biggest names in comedy at just about every metro Phoenix comedy club, but he still maintains his day job of managing an auto body shop in a suburb just outside of Tucson. He believes it helps him work on his interactions with people whom he wouldn't otherwise have conversations with.
"It's great because it's all old people, so they just hit their cars on shit all day. I've always been good with old ladies. They see the tattoos at first, but then they can't resist how charming I am," Casillas says. "It's good for relating to people you wouldn't otherwise relate to, like for shows like [the opening weekend at House of Comedy]. I never thought I'd be in a room with a bunch of millionaires."
Casillas has been performing stand-up comedy for a few years now, but his life hasn't always been all laughs and fart jokes. The comedian credits his troubled upbringing for being his inspiration to get into comedy in the first place.
"I grew up in your standard dysfunctional family setting. Domestic violence was a big part of my teenage life. I'd see my mom and stepdad beat each other up almost every night and then have to go to school the next day," Casillas says. "Humor was my coping mechanism. Knowing that I had to go back home to my parents violently fighting made me make every minute I was away a good time. I was always acting out in class and being a smartass. There's where the humor comes from. It would be a dozen years later I would decide to be a comedian."
In his early 20s, Casillas found himself in a bad situation where he realized he needed to change his lifestyle.
"In 2004, I caught a case. I was charged for assault and went to trial facing 8 to 10 years in prison, but got off, luckily, with probation." Casillas says. "The years following, I didn't change much. I was still out running the streets and partying. I got sick of that. The whole partying four or five nights a week thing took its toll on me. I got this huge second chance and, so far at that point, I wasn't doing shit with it.
"I met my wife in 2010 and decided that this was my chance to calm my life down and show my lawyer that his work wasn't all for naught," Casillas says. "I got my wife pregnant and I got an office job where I was stuck in front of a computer, and that's when I started doing jokes on Twitter. That caught fire, and I turned that momentum into what you see today."
Casillas didn't expect to become a comedian when he first joined Twitter, but his jokes translated so well to the medium that he caught on with some of Twitter's biggest comedy names.
"It started as a place to put my dick jokes, but then when I wanted to do comedy, I knew I needed help," Casillas says. "I asked people like Rob Delaney how to turn my Twitter jokes into jokes on stage, and he told me to take a bunch of tweets about one thing and use that as a bit. I used to just use my Twitter jokes on stage, but it's hard to make a five minute bit off of one tweet."
Even now, as one of Arizona's top local comedians and a veteran host at the Valley's comedy clubs, Casillas still believes that being funny on Twitter is way easier than doing stand-up.
"There are a lot of people who call themselves 'Twitter comedians' and I didn't want to do that," Casillas says. "There's a huge difference, because you can just delete a stupid joke if it bombs on Twitter, whereas on stage you have to stand up there and bounce back from it yourself."
On Twitter, Casillas can have some control over how he's perceived by the people who read his Tweets, but it's not like that in person. Casillas believes that when people see him walk on stage, they think they know what they're getting, but they're often mistaken.
"People see me on stage and think 'Oh, he's a fat comedian,' but they leave thinking 'He's fat, but he's just like us!'" Casillas said. "As I said before, I don't go for the fat jokes. I go with the smart one-liners to see how the crowd reacts. Then the next thing they see? The flawless hair and the smile, right off the bat."