On Monday May 18, judges at Cap City Comedy Club crowned a brand new king of comedy, proclaiming Cody Hustak the “Funniest Person in Austin” for 2014. Beating out more than 200 contestants during the month-long contest, it’s time that the people got to formally meet their sovereign leader of laughs.
Like many of familiar faces in Austin comedy, Hustak is a transplant from out of state who needed kick start his comedy career. “I started in Omaha, Nebraska about seven years ago,” Hustak tells CultureMap, “In fact Ryan Cownie, my roommate who happened to get second place in the FPIA contest, is also from Nebraska and joined me in my move to Austin.”
It shouldn’t surprise anyone to learn that Omaha didn’t offer much in the way of a robust comedy scene. “Nebraska is kind of depressing in that regard,” says Hustak, “because there was only like two open mics a week.” But that was enough to get him hooked on stand-up comedy.
“I was always a class clown growing up. I went to the University of Nebraska, but I didn’t do well because I didn’t have exactly the best class attendance. But I fell in love with those open mics, and that’s how I got my start.”
After committing to the idea of comedy as his future, Hustak knew he had to make a big move. “I wasn’t making much progress in those first three years, so I decided to move to a city with a bigger comedy scene. I considered Austin from the start, but I also looked at Minneapolis and Chicago.”
To make the big decision, he turned to social media. “I got on Myspace, which tells you how long ago this was, looked up the top comedians in each city and just asked them for their take.” One of the first comedians he heard back from was none other than Brendon Walsh, winner of the FPIA contest in 2004, who sold Hustak and Cownie on the idea of Austin and bringing their talents down south.
Hustak found himself in Austin in time to join the 2010 FPIA contest, and has been performing in it every year since. “I got third place last year, and I kept joking that if I didn’t finally win it this year, I wouldn't do it [in 2015]. Of course I still would have tried again, because it’s such a great opportunity to perform in front of talent scouts for Comedy Central and to possibly perform at the Just for Laughs Festival in Montreal.”
He adds that it was a relief to finally win the contest, especially among the close-knit community of talented Austin comedians. “Since Ryan and I moved here, we always felt like we were part of the gang. I see more people moving to New York and Los Angeles, but they’re always replaced by a new crop of talented people.”
Like his fellow comedians moving to bigger cities to take their shot at comedy superstardom, Hustak says he may have to do the same. “I realize that I might have to move eventually if I want to further pursue this career myself. But it’s going to be really hard to do.”