When stand-up comedian Danny Villalpando performs at the Egyptian Theatre this weekend, audience members may see him staring at them from somewhere in the house before he goes on.
"I do have one weird quirk," Villalpando said during an interview with The Park Record in a phone call from his home in Los Angeles, California. "I like to look at audiences before I hit the stage. I like to size them up and figure out what I'm going to talk to them about."
That's all the prep time Villalpando needs, because he has quite a few jokes in his repertoire, which is something he has built since he started out more than 20 years ago.
"Early on I would talk about the things I knew and experienced — family and situations that would happen to me," he said. "As I grew as a performer, I started talking about ideas that were in my head. I would research these ideas for my jokes and began talking about the things that I found interesting."
Villalpando got into stand-up comedy after seeing it on TV.
"When I was young, I didn't know that much about it, when I saw it, I thought to myself that's what I kind of do around my friends," he said. "I was always the funny one and my career slowly developed based on that.
"I didn't have anyone that led me in that direction. I just did it naturally," Villalpando confessed. "I was kind of the guy who was a smart aleck and saying funny things. It wasn't a calling that needed to be done. It was just something I did."
The comedian has appeared on NBC's "Friday Night," "The Latino Laugh Festival" and Comedy Central.
Still, comedy wasn't the only profession that interested Villalpando.
"I first started getting the idea of becoming an entertainer, and I tossed around the idea of becoming an actor," he said. "I went to acting and commercial workshops, because I wanted to do something theatrical. Comedy grew from that."
A few of his acting roles include a bartender on NBC's "Meet My Folks," and he most recently completed an independent film with Second City called "Time Share."
Villalpando honed his acting skills by attending and graduating from Second City's conservatory program out of Los Angeles.
"That was a year-and-a-half improv program," he said. "I was also in a couple of improv groups before I started to audition for roles.
"Auditioning is like improv, because they give you a situation and say, 'Go,' and you basically do it," Villalpando said. "So that's how I started the acting stuff."
But stand-up is where Villalpando lives and he has made people laugh in Greece, Greenland, Honduras, Italy, Japan, Panama and Singapore.
He also has entertained military troops in Afghanistan and Iraq.
"The military tours are the biggest highlights of what I do," Villalpando said. "Those are one of those things where you want to do your part in supporting the troops, especially those who are stationed in the hard and war-torn areas.
When he performs in those areas, Villalpando sees how tough the men and women have it,
"So it's like you bring a little piece of home to them and it means so much," he said. "They thank me all day long, and I have to keep telling them that it's not about me. They're the ones who are doing the selless act. I'm just there for a brief time to cheer them up if I can. That sticks with you for a long time and, in at least a small way, changes people."
One thing Villalpando has learned in his two-decade career is that he has to continually hustle to get work.
"There is a lot of competition out there and you have to be on the ball," he said. "That can be challenging. Like every performer, you go through times when you feel lazy and not very creative. That's when you have to sit down and come up with new ideas. That's important. If I don't have new ideas, then I'm not real happy. I just want to keep getting better, and self-motivation can be tough sometimes."
He also had to get used to all the traveling.
"The hardest part is traveling with people who don't know how to travel," he said with a laugh. "There are some people who don't know how to do that. They think they're on vacation every day all week and the shows starts to suffer and all that. So it's like, 'Buddy, this is my job. Get out of my way.'"
Another thing Villalpando has learned is that the public generally sees comedians in a strange light.
"One big one is that we're funny 24 hours a day for seven days a week," he said. "When people find out you're a comedian, they act differently around you and think you're going to be on all the time.
Villalpando knows some comedians who are like that.
"They are on all the time and you can't turn them off, but I think they're more mentally ill than anything else," he said, laughing. "I, on the other hand, tend to be more on the reserved or shy side. I mean, I think funny, but I'm most funny when I'm comfortable."
Joining Villalpando on the Egyptian stage will be Emily Galati, who was a semi-finalist on NBC's "Last Comic Standing."
Galati, who performs regularly at the Zaines Comedy Club in Chicago, Illinois, was chosen to represent Chicago in the "Best of the Midwest" competition at Gilda's LaughFest. She has also been a semi-finalist in NBC's "Stand Up for Diversity" and finalist in the Bob and Tom Comedy Contest.
The Egyptian Theatre will present stand-up comedians Danny Villalpando and Emily Galati on Friday, June 6, and Saturday, June 7, at 8 p.m. In 2013, Tickets range from $19 to $32 and are available by visiting www.parkcityshows.com .