Walking through the back door of K+K Billiards on Northeast 79th Street, you notice patrons playing pool on a dozen tables.
Pass into another room and you’ll find a couple of couches and a group of about 30 enthusiastic comedy fans.
Sebastian Mattar, 27, stands in front of the crowd on a Thursday night. He is wearing a backward baseball cap and a plain olive-colored T-shirt with jeans. While others in Miami flaunt their designer bags or Jordan sneakers, Sebastian, who goes by Cbas (pronounced sea-bass), does not entertain that lifestyle. Instead, he entertains others with his lack of lavishness.
“Cbas… can’t buy anything ‘spensive,'” he says. “I’m so broke I couldn’t afford the ex…just got a dog with a bad hip…$3,000 to fix, that is against my name. Leave it up to me to rescue a dog that is three months’ worth of rent.”
In South Florida, comedy has grown quickly. Not long ago, there was only a handful of small-time spots. Now there are bigger and better ones, such as the Miami Improv, located on Northwest 83rd Avenue in Doral, that host headliners like Andrew Schultz and Bob Saget. More and more venues are looking to branch into the comedy scene. For example, Redbar in Brickell offers a comedy night on Mondays that are combined with drink specials.
Mattar, like many in Miami, has a strong sense of family. His father was a large influence in his life, constantly talking about his wild times in the cocaine-fueled Miami of the ’80s. “My dad was a fan of Bill Cosby…he was a fan of comedy,” he says.
Mattar wears his dad’s heart on his sleeve, literally.
His father, Rolando Mattar, died in 2013 from heart complications that had plagued him for decades. Tattooed on the son’s right forearm is a representation of his father’s EKG. “Now, every time I jerk-off,” he says, “I see my dad.”
Mattar has been doing stand-up for five years. He takes advantage of his many interests. On stage, he talks about sports, his fiance, and Miami living.
Like any other skill, comedy has to be practiced. But unlike sports, comedy is best learned in front of a crowd. Mattar, who at one time aspired to be a sports broadcaster, explained that when you are a comedian, you sometimes receive blank stares and grim silence. That is called bombing.
“It’s kind of like baseball,” Mattar explains of telling jokes. “When you get a clean hit, you know what it feels like…same thing with a good set.” He added, “a bomb is like striking out. It’s gonna happen”.
Poor performances help improve Mattar’s act.
“That joke is too wordy,” he’ll decide. Or … “I need to get that joke off quicker. That joke is not fully cooked yet.”
After his recent performance at K+K Billiards, Mattar immediately opened the notes app on his iPhone to review jokes he had wanted to use but was unable to work into the finite time he had on stage.
Sergio Mendez, 31, is another Miami comedian. He was also the person who organized the show at K+K. He let his elation be known at night’s end. “I couldn’t ask for a better show,” he said.
Some comedians take unorthodox paths to the career of making people laugh. Mendez thought he was going to become a professional baseball player, but as he put it, “if it wasn’t for my girlfriend breaking up with me, I wouldn’t have done comedy.”
Mattar began to seriously pursue comedy after he went on a cruise and saw a stand-up show. Afterward, he walked up to the comedian and asked how to get into the business. “Google, open mics Miami,” he responded. That little piece of information helped Mattar to perform two-to-four times a week now.
Mattar has made an estimated $600 from comedy this year. He says, “this is the most I have made off comedy in a year.”
He shares an apartment with his fiance, Adriana Garcia. They have been together for six years and got engaged in August.
Garcia admires Mattar’s perseverance. After a bad show, she says, “he sits down, you see him with his binder [which is where he keeps joke notes], he will pray or talk to God.” She has gone to hundreds of Mattar’s shows and has seen his improvement through the years.
Garcia’s connection to Mattar opened her up to that world. She says about herself before Mattar as “never being somebody that wanted to listen to comedy.”
Mattar has managed to work his relationship with Garcia into his routine. “My fiance is into true crime podcasts, and now she has become a detective…if I don’t answer my cell phone, I’m dead.”
Mattar has a great support system and an abundance of confidence. His routine includes material about his struggles in life, like losing his father or living in a tiny efficiency. Where others may see sadness or hard times, Mattar sees humor.
While on stage he mentions all the surgeries his father has had. “Heart transplant, kidney transplant… he’s got a penis pump.” He then compares this to the famous ’90s Reebok Pumps as he mimics pumping them up on his feet, he says, “I’m ready to ball.” He continues with the bit, “that’s my dad…[he puts his leg on top of a stool, pretends to pump a device near his genitals]… I’m ready to ball.”
Mattar has made more money as he has done more comedy, which is a sign of progress. He recently began negotiating with a venue to see if he could be paid to host a show. “I know the value I can bring to a venue,” he says. “I can bring 30-40 people during their slowest night.” Mattar definitely sees a way to make this a full-time job; it will take dedication and time.