I’m weird. I’ve always known I’ve seen the world a little differently than most people and my idea of what’s funny isn’t the same as everyone else. At the same time, I’ve always been a writer. It’s the one thing I’ve consistently worked on since I wrote my first little book about a fox with three wishes, back in 1987. I was 5. The one thing I felt drawn to, as a writer, was never stories. It was always characters and how they fit into the world.
Growing up, I spent a lot of time with my buddy, Andrew, making fun little videos with weird characters that didn’t make sense, like Jason Sadarski: FBI PhD CIA NAACP. While in our short film, it was never fully explained, in my head, Jason was addicted to initialisms after his name, so he kept joining organizations to add to his resume. There was also Infomercial Boy, who would interrupt a talk show we were filming to sell useless items. They were flat, silly, but I loved them.
This love of weird characters eventually made its way into the real world as I grew older. I would hang out with friends as Jake Justice, an all-American, blue collar guy who would throw a fit if something he was buying was made out of the USA. There was also Yost, who was Lithuanian. It was a weird social experiment to see if I could say horrible things to someone without retaliation because I had an accent.
Back in 2002, I started working with a new comedian, Jessica Richeson, on my stand up comedy set. We bounced ideas off of each other and wrote jokes together, all while sitting at a local restaurant, drinking coffee and smoking endless amounts of cigarettes. It was my first venture into stand up comedy, something I wanted to do since I was a kid because I had a knack for making people laugh during conversations.
I had a notebook full of jokes I thought were brilliant, but never actually got on stage to tell them. We’ll get back to that notebook later. It wasn’t until 2005 when I mentioned to a bandmate that I wanted to try standup that I actually got on stage. I still had that notebook, but decided to do something different. I had a series of YouTube videos I made about a guy named Edward Smathers, a really shitty comedian with an annoying laugh. So, my first time on stage as a comedian was not as me. If you want to see how it went, there’s a video of his first performance and his 10th performance packed into one. It’s weird…
I moved from Chicago to the far west burbs in 2007 and started doing comedy as myself a lot. I was never fully confident, but my crowd work and ad libbing was always top notch. I was never great, but I could easily do a kind of solid 15. I probably still could, if I gave a shit. I easily have 45 minutes of solid jokes, but as of last year, I stopped doing shows as me. I still open mic as myself, but I turn down shows. I don’t understand comedy anymore. I don’t know how to write as me because nothing I do is worth telling to an audience. My views on the world aren’t comical. However, my views on the comedy scene seem to please, whether comedians know I’m holding up a mirror to them or not.
I’ve become a shitty joke writer and mainly because I’m so rusty, but I’m fine with that. I’ve really spent the last year devoting my time doing character work and people seem to love it. It took a long time to get used to the fact that my character work is infinitely better than my actual joke writing. I’ve accepted it and decided to let everyone know about where these characters originated from and who they are if you’ve never seen the before.
My dad used to put together entertainers for software conventions. He’d watch VHS tape after VHS tape of comedians with their “best” material. I saw a lot of guys I didn’t find funny. At the time, I was in my late teens and noticed certain things about one guy (there were never any women): he broke character to say something depressing. In the middle of a set, the guy would say something like “While it’s great to be here, there’s a lot of people out there with cancer ad we need to help them.” He got pseudo-motivational speaker on me. It was brilliant, in a sense. In early 2005, I was extremely bored at my apartment and remembered this guy, so I put a twist on him: he has a terrible catch-phrase, a terrible laugh, and likes pranks. I filmed this video and put it on the net.
A month later, a friend’s band asked me to open for them, and I took it on stage. I actually did a ton of shows for them. The first clip is my first time ever on stage.
After a while, I started to shape Smathers more. He became a motivational speaker and he was terrible at that as well. However, after 4 years of working on this character, I got sick of him and killed him off at a comedy show. We even had a memorial video for him. This year, I performed as him for the first time in 5 years and worked the frustrated motivational speak angle. He will always be an evolving and annoying character.
Man from the Future
Man for the Future is a myth to many. I remember becoming insanely frustrated with someone I was talking to because they believed in psychics and tarot cards. They did a reading for me and tried to cold read me, after knowing me for 20 minutes. They failed. I took that frustration and in 2008, made it into the character Man From the Future, a 100 year old man from some unknown time period. His deal was that he prayed to Lord Gaia and comes back in time to warn people about things that have already happened, like 9/11, Columbine, etc. He then talked to people in the audience and told them how they would die. Towards the end of my stint with that character, he started writing songs that all turned out to be Destiny’s Child songs. He then declared those “time hussies” came into the future and stole the idea from him. There is only one video of him. A commercial I made for a sketch show I was once in.
I only went on stage as this guy once, and never will again. Sly Steve was a precursor to Teddy Beers, except he was a horrible misogynist. He ran a restaurant called Timmy O’s (based off of NIU’s Tommy O’s in name alone) which hated women. I never liked the character, but we did make a bunch of awful commercials for his restaurant. The commercial below is easily my favorite of the ones we filmed.
I mentioned Yost before and decided to see if I could do it on stage. That’s the whole story. I did it once.
Here’s the video of the experience. The set starts at 4:30
I HATE asshole comedians. I hate cocky comedians. I hate dudes who think they know everything about comedy. Joey Savior is everything I hate about standup comedy, except he’s a magician. A couple years ago, I had become frustrated with a few people in the comedy scene who felt they were the cock of the walk. They were disrespectful and dicks. On stage, they were the exact opposite. I thought that going up as a character who reflected how some comedians acted off stage would be a ton of fun, but it didn’t have an angle. My friend’s mom was having a garage sale and I saw there was a magic kit. I think I just stole it. Sorry? I read the pamphlet to get a basic understanding of the tricks, but I never practiced. When I went on stage, I came up with long, convoluted stories about each trick, like it was from ancient Egypt or it had a gypsy curse on it to try and distract people from the fact that I had no clue what I was doing. It was, up until recently, the audience’s favorite character.
This was round three of trying to work on a blue collar comedian. There was no real reason for doing it though. Teddy Beers is a quintessential 80s obersavational comedian. The thing about Teddy Beers that most people don’t know is that a bunch of us write his jokes. Jack Backer, Joe Motisi, Jordan Holmes, and I all write his material right before I go up. I created this character at a time where I wasn’t having fun doing standup comedy. This was an outlet for me to try and fall in love with the art again. Here’s a video of me going up for my second time as Teddy.
Mal: The Limo Driver
This is actually a long story. One time, on the Internet, I got into an argument with an older gentleman who had been doing comedy for a long time. I knew this because he liked to tell everyone so and that made him more important than anyone else. Our conversation got heated as this gentleman told everyone that young comedians (I’m 30 and considered young? I’ll take it!) need to pay their dues because no one showed up to a charity event he was hosting, which I later found even he didn’t go to. My argument was that he can’t be mad at us for people not showing up because he was promoting it. We don’t fail. He fails, as a promoter. This is a dude who tells everyone that you need to network everywhere you go, no matter how inappropriate. Anyway, during that time, on my Facebook profile, a few college professors and I had one of our jobs listed as a “Driver” at “Sexy Limo Company” because limo drivers make more than teachers. Said angry comedian saw this and told me, while misspelling my name, “What do you know? You’re a limo driver, Mal. They can never be funny.”
So, this dude who stands above everyone else like some sort of shitty local god, who spends his days travelling from town to town doing gigs wants to rip on someone else’s job? I never told the guy what I actually did for a living because this isn’t a dick waving contest for me. So, instead, I went to prove him wrong by creating as limo driver/comedian named Mal. So far, I’ve only done a set as him once. I put on a driver’s outfit… a suit and I do 5 minutes of my best shitty Dennis Miller impression. I say something that happened to me during the day and add on a very vague historical reference. Occasionally, I add the word “babe” to it. I was actually working on storylines for this character where he starts working for a Rick Moranis level star and gets really cocky, but then loses it all and becomes homeless. Now that I’ve written that down, it’s officially scrapped.
Frankie Lotsolaughs: the Comedian
This is one of my personal favorites. Frankie Lotsolaughs is more a comedian for comedians that anything else. He has all the markings of someone in the scene you’d hate to deal with: a fake last name that has something to do with comedy, he added “the comedian” after his name, and his first name ends with an “e” sound. Here’s the thing about Frankie: every time he goes up is his very first time. He reads from a sheet of paper, word for word, he mumbles, he doesn’t leave open silence for the audience to laugh, and he gags during his own set. Remember that journal I wrote in 2002 with all my first jokes in them? That’s what I read on stage. It’s truly awful.
One day, I woke up with the dumbest idea in my head: What if I had a comedian with a super-long intro? What if he was given 5 minutes of time at an open mic but 4 minutes and 50 seconds of it was this insane, over-produced intro played through a iPod? The idea evolved from there because I’d be just standing there for 5 minutes and that’s not too funny, so I thought about mainstream pop artists and who they perform live. They usually lip sync. So I decided to do exactly that. I wanted to lip sync a whole comedy set. But anyone could do that and while it may be funny, it needs to have something else. I decided to make him an insult comedian and have his whole set be crowd work. What resulted is 5 minutes of just weird shit. However, the crowd loves it and it’s a character I will continue to work on because it’s one of my favorite ideas I’ve ever come up with.
Characters I started working on that have yet to go on stage:
I wanted to create a comedian who only told math jokes. That’s pretty much it. I still have’t worked on it.
Legit was supposed to be every older comedian who thinks he knows better than anyone else. I did write jokes for him, but they all went to Teddy Beers.
That’s it. Bye