Saturday Night Live newcomer Devon Walker wears his Texas roots with pride

The comedian is back in Austin for the Moontower Just For Laughs comedy festival.

By Laura RiceApril 21, 2023 1:40 pm, ,

The Texas capital city has something of a reputation as a festival town — music festivals, film festivals, but more recently, comedy as well.

The Moontower Just For Laughs comedy festival has actually been around for over a decade now. It brings in some big names to the Lone Star State, including Seth Meyers, Leslie Jones, Samantha Bee and many others.

But it’s a homecoming for some, including Devon Walker, who is one of the newest cast members on “Saturday Night Live.” Devon Walker actually grew up in the Austin area and he joined the Standard to talk about his career and what he’s looking forward to at the festival. Listen to the interview above or read the transcript below.

Devon Walker. Courtesy of Moontower Just For Laughs comedy festival

This transcript has been edited lightly for clarity:

Texas Standard: We’ve watched you on the TV quite a bit. It’s been a couple of months since that clip from SNL’s “Weekend Update,” so I feel like I got to ask you what Michael Che did: How are you liking New York? 

Devon Walker: I mean, you know, I have a complicated relationship with New York, but I’m very grateful for it. You know, like you said, I mean, I grew up in Texas – I grew up in Pflugerville. And so New York is kind of a constant reminder of, like, I know that life could be so much easier because I grew up in Texas – I know that life could be so much more laid back. And New York is, like, it truly never stops. So that’s definitely been an adjustment. I’ve been there for, shoot, almost five years now. But yeah, it’s been a big transition. 

So do you see your cast members sort of still thinking of you as the Texan or not so much anymore?

I think they think of me as a Texan, but only because I insist on being thought of that way. You know what I’m saying? Like, it’s really interesting because I grew up here in Texas, obviously, and there’s a big Texas pride that like I didn’t necessarily feel. I think I always used to kind of be like, ‘why is everybody going up about Texas all the time?’ And truly, the moment that I left, being from Texas became my whole personality. And I bought a little chain with a little Texas pendant on it. I really insist on letting people know that… any time anything about Texas comes up, I make a point to be like ‘He’s from Texas. Oh, that actually started in Texas. Oh, that guy’s, he’s actually from Dallas.’ So it’s become you know, I kind of have insisted on becoming known that way. 

Why do you think that is? 

It’s that cliche thing where it’s like you don’t know what you got ‘till it’s gone. You know, like, I didn’t realize just how much I appreciated H-E-B until I didn’t have access to any. And now I might miss H-E-B more than my family, I’m going to be honest about that. Just that level of produce at those prices like you can’t… Also H-E-B, if you’re listening, let’s work together, all right. I worked at H-E-B for like five years. 


Between high school and college. I worked at one in like North Austin, like right outside of Pflugerville off of 1825. And then when I went to college at Texas State, I worked at the one in Kyle. So I’m really knowledgeable about the program. I went to the cashier training program… Like, I’m tapped in. 

Yeah well now that you got some months on SNL under your belt, what’s it like to be part of that crew

It’s really cool. You know, it feels like you made it to the league. Like, if I was a baseball player, like, I’m in the big leagues now. You know, like, it really feels like you work so hard and so much of the work in comedy is thankless. I’ve done probably thousands of shows for no money or for drink tickets. So it gets to the point where, like, I’m supporting myself off of comedy and like, you’re also in this institution that’s kind of unmatched, you know, in American history. Like it’s a blessing. It’s an honor, truly.

You know, I was thinking about how difficult it is, though, if you’re trying to develop a career. So you think of great comedy cities… you think of Boston, perhaps. New York certainly is a great breeding ground for comics, L.A. … But not so much Pflugerville, right? So where did you sort of hone your craft? Do you think it was harder for you in a sense because Texas doesn’t have that sort of reputation? 

I started comedy here in Austin when I was in grad school, and I think it was a perfect place to start comedy because there, at the time, I mean, now it’s a much larger scene, but when I started in like 2014, 2015, it was a fairly small scene and so everybody knew everybody. And it doesn’t take a lot of time to gain your footing in a scene like this. So, like, this is where I learned the fundamentals. It’s where I learned what my voice was going to be. But then, you know, kind of on the flipside of that, there was no industry here. And so, like, there was no way to really turn comedy as a hobby into a profession. And so kind of in 2017, some people from Comedy Central actually saw me. They saw me on “The Funniest Person in Austin” competition that they have every year. And they selected me to be on their list of, you know, “these are comics to watch,” and that’s a really tough thing to have happen here. Like, it’s rare for somebody to get a national credit like that here. And so once that happened, I was like, “okay, well, that’s probably the coolest thing that can happen from like the Austin scene. That’s like the biggest opportunity I could get. I got to, you know, I kind of have to leave.” And that was kind of the deal here, is that like after a certain amount of time, you kind of needed to spread your wings and like move to New York or L.A. to seek those larger opportunities. So that’s kind of why I ended up leaving.

I wonder, though, if there might be a sort of groundswell of comics who are sort of seeing this as a place where comedy could grow. I mean, where this could be a bigger part of what Texas is known for. Do you think that’s possible or is that just wishful thinking?

I mean, I would love that. I mean, I think we’re already starting to see it, I mean, Andrew Dismukes, who’s also on “Saturday Night Live,” he and I started together. I met Andrew at the first open mic that I ever did. And so I’ve known him since he was 18 or 19-years-old. There’s a guy named Martin Urbano, who’s also on the festival, who started here in Austin. There’s a girl named Vanessa Gonzalez who’s down here who’s like, so funny, who’s doing stuff. There’s a lot of us. There’s a good deal of us that I feel like were here around the time that I started that are now going out and making strides. So like, I think we’re starting to see it more so than ever. And I think that reputation might be about to change. 

Devin, while you’re on the line, I got to ask this — what’s with all the comparisons to Pete Davidson? Do you get that?

Do I understand it? You know, here’s what I’ll say. I’ve never seen it. I’ve never seen it. I’ve never understood it. But I will say there’s like enough people who have said it at this point that I can’t fight it anymore. You know what I’m saying? It’s come up, I’m talking about like people who don’t even know that it’s part of the conversation have met me and been like, ‘You know, you look like Pete, right?’ And it’s just something that I’ve just had to embrace. I never would have thought it in a million years. But it’s so widely believed at this point that, you know, I guess that’s just part of my journey. I don’t think anybody’s ever looked like that guy before. I think he’s got a pretty unique look. But, you know, I guess one person does, and that person is me. 

Well, a lot of people seem to like the way he looks, as you know, so… 

Yeah. Clearly.

You know, before we let you go, is there a difference in the way that you approach your audience or how audiences perceive you in Texas as opposed to, say, New York? 

I mean, I think generally, I think jokes that work, work everywhere. I think there were certain jokes about, you know, kind of like local or regional experiences that maybe don’t translate as well. Like I might try to do the joke that I did on “Weekend Update” about New Yorkers’ perception of Texas. But I don’t know. I sometimes I think people in Texas aren’t really thinking about the way that New Yorkers perceive them. And sometimes like I used to do a joke about the gentrification of the East side of Austin, and that went over really well. And then I tried to bring it to New York, and as it turns out, they didn’t care about the changing landscape of my hometown. So, you know, I think generally the, you know, jokes translate, but sometimes when you’re trying to talk about stuff that’s specific to an area, it doesn’t quite carry over.

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