Moody McCarthy and Bil Dwyer, who will bring their observations to the Egyptian Theatre stage on Friday and Saturday, Jan. 4 and Jan. 5, had their own reasons for making people laugh.
While Moody believed he was funny, Dwyer wanted a job in the entertainment world. The comedians talked with The Park Record in separate interviews a few days ago about their careers.
Moody McCarthy said his interest in comedy started with the late Johnny Carson.
"Growing up I watched 'The Tonight Show' and that was one of my favorite shows," McCarthy said during a phone call from New York. "When the comic came out, I though it was the funniest thing I ever saw."
McCarthy memorized the jokes and would tell them to his friends, but never thought about doing an actual stand-up routine until he was 25.
"I started with an open mic and had the same aspirations as other comics," he said. "I thought that maybe I could go someplace with comedy."
His first try went pretty well and he got a lot of response.
"I figured I had the hang of it, but for three months straight after that, I couldn't get one dependable laugh," McCarthy said. "That's when I learned my first lesson in the art of comedy: You do it because you think you're funny and then a couple of years in, you realize you're not that funny."
Luckily, there were many opportunities to practice the craft, he said.
"Slowly, I was able build up to being as funny as I first thought I was," he said.
Throughout the nearly two decades of making people laugh, McCarthy learned to love the challenge of gathering new material.
"I like working with a strong premise or figuring out a take on something that hasn't been said before," he explained. "I also like old-fashioned word play or misdirection. So, in a nutshell, you could say I like poking at a hard-hitting concept or just delivering a clever knock-knock joke."
The first place he goes for material is his personal life.
"However, I think the stuff I tell on stage is six months behind the actual events," McCarthy said with a laugh. "I mean, something will happen in my life and I will work on a joke about it, and once it's ready for the stage, a half a year has gone by."
Other times, McCarthy will begin creating a joke about something he thinks is funny, but the delivery will get lost in translation.
"Sometimes it just doesn't work out," he said. "For example, I'm a huge sports fan and I love golf. I know I like it more than the average person does, and it's hard to do a joke about it, because there are people who don't golf and don't care about what I'm saying."
In writing a joke, McCarthy has been known to take artistic license on minor details.
"I'll talk about my father and say he's farsighted, but in reality it's my mother who's farsighted, but I use my father because in some cases it works better."
While McCarthy isn't as brash as other comics in the field, he does like the different types of delivery.
"I like the ones who are pretty edgy and I like those people who are sort of the observers," he said. "I fall into the latter category."
Still, being a comedian has opened McCarthy's eyes to people's misconceptions about his livelihood.
"The major one is that people think comedians are always on and are working whatever room they're in," he said. "I hear, 'You're a comic, so tell us a joke' all the time. I don't mind telling someone a joke, but once in a while someone will come up to me and say, 'You should perform here' and I'll say, 'Um, we're in a Starbucks with 30 people checking emails. They won't be as enthusiastic as you would think they would be about hearing jokes about my wife.'
"There are comics who will drop everything and perform on the spot, but I think most comedians are quieter than people think," McCarthy said.
A few months ago, McCarthy was able to work a room that he had on his list ever since he started making people laugh.
"I did 'The Late Show with David Letterman,' which was my ultimate goal," he said. "What made it better was the fact that I was happy with the set. So, if I get to write my own gravestone, I'll make sure it says I was good on Letterman."
With that accomplishment under his belt, McCarthy is always looking to the future.
"I would like to do some international travel Australia, New Zealand," he said. "I'd like to do Letterman again, because that would validate my first time. Even if I don't do well the second time, I can always say that I did great the first.
"Oh, and I want to do Park City, Utah, because I haven't been to Utah before," McCarthy said. "If I can ski and tell jokes and come out ahead, then that's the ultimate for me."
For more information, visit www.moodymccarthy.com
Bil Dwyer, , who has appeared on "The Larry Sanders Show" and "Ally McBeal," said he wanted a job in the entertainment business, and thought being a disc jockey was this ticket to fame.
"I went to school to be a disc jockey, not realizing you didn't need a degree to be a disc jockey," Dwyer said during a phone call from Los Angeles, Calif. "All you had to do to was hang out at a radio station and when someone got sick, you lolly-pipped your way into it all."
Once he became a disc jockey, Dwyer knew it wasn't for him.
"I would say something on the air, but wouldn't hear any reaction," he said with a laugh. "I kept saying to myself, 'This isn't working for me. I'm more needy than this. I need people.'"
So, the future funnyman moved to California to be a tour guide at Universal Studios.
"I thought that would propel me into my show-business career, and I was correct, in a weird sort of way," he said. "I went from tour guide to various sales jobs to somewhat of a career in show business as a stand-up comedian."
Even before he moved to California, Dwyer dabbled in stand up.
"My first time performing stand up was at a 'Catch a Rising Star' competition in college, and I came in third," he remembered. "The first-place finisher was Joey Gutierrez, who went on to write for 'Seinfeld' and create the sitcom 'Still Standing.' Second place went to Peggy Kusinski, who eventually became the sports anchor for NBC in Chicago. So, I can say that the three of us are doing pretty well these days."
When Dwyer was a kid he loved the stand-up work of Steve Martin.
"I also liked David Letterman as a comic," he said. "In fact, I remember seeing him on 'The Tonight Show.' That was the only time I saw him in that capacity and thought, 'Oh, man. This guy is it.'
"I thought David was the greatest at that time," Dwyer said. " I was way above the curve with that one it was just me and Johnny Carson."
When the stand-up opportunity circled around again, Dwyer decided to take a more academic approach to cultivating his jokes.
"Some people will tell you that I stole my entire act from a guy in Maryland and that's why I don't play Maryland," he said. "But the truth is, that when making a joke, I look for something, like a grand theme and break it down."
One of the themes Dwyer uses is the holidays.
"There is always something to draw from, because people are so touchy around the holidays," he said. "I mean, I'll go up to someone and say, 'Happy Holidays' and they come back with 'Oh, my father died last Christmas.'
"It's like 'How was I suppose to know that?'" he said. "So, I'll say, 'Oh, well, this one will be happier' or 'All of a sudden that sweater you're wearing doesn't look so bad, now, does it?'"
When reflecting on his profession, Dwyer doesn't like to think about the challenges.
"If I thought about them, I would go out of my head worse than I already am," Dwyer said "If I think about what I can or can't do or what I should or shouldn't be doing, it would make me crazy. So, I look at everything in the sense of what is open and available to me and what is working and how the good things are going."
That's the secret of stand up, he said.
"You always have to make things work," he said. "If a joke doesn't go over one night, you make it work the next night, and that, to me, is ridiculously thrilling."
For more information about Bil Dwyer, visit www.therangeshow.com.
The Egyptian Theatre will present stand-up comedians Bil Dwyer and Moody McCarthy on Friday, Jan. 4, and Saturday, Jan. 5, at 8 p.m. Tickets range from $15 to $30 and are available at www.parkcityshows.com.