Comedian James P. Connolly enjoys the roller coaster of stand-up | ParkRecord.com

Comedian James P. Connolly enjoys the roller coaster of stand-up

Stand-up comedian and former Marine James P. Connolly takes a realistic approach to his profession.

"Comedy is a narcissistic pursuit, and you have to make certain compromises and adjustments to have people your life," he said. "So I make an effort to blend in with the civilian world and maintain my comedian insanity card. Sometimes I mess things up and bring the insane guy home, but for the most part I'm pretty good."

Connolly and fellow comedian Ann Karam will perform their brand of stand-up comedy at 8 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 3, and Saturday Aug. 4, at the Egyptian Theatre, 328 Main St.

Connolly looks forward to visiting Park City during the summer, which will be a new experience.

"I've only performed in Park City during the winter, so I'm not sure what the local Park City people do during warm days," he said. "It will be interesting to see them in their indigenous summer environment."

One thing Connolly remembers of his last visit was receiving the city's customary first-offense parking ticket, which is a simple warning and carries no fine.

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"I was using a rental car and wasn't familiar with the local laws," he said. "I parked the car on the street, and instead of a ticket, the police wrote out a notice that basically said, 'This one's on us.'"

That was one of the nicest things anyone had ever done for Connolly, he said.

"I mean, you park in front of your own home in L.A., the ticket is basically a $75 imprint of the middle finger from the local police department," he said, laughing.

Connolly's introduction to stand-up came when he and his brother would try to sneak a listen to their mother's comedy albums and tune in to radio comedy icon Dr. Demento play parody songs on his late-night syndicated show.

"While I liked it and loved making people laugh, I never dreamed that I would actually become a stand-up comedian," Connolly confessed. "I wasn't raised in a world where that was a job option that would satisfy my parents. You know — doctor, lawyer and randomly employed stand-up comedian weren't on the same plate."

Connolly's first experience at writing comedy came when he was serving in the Marine Corps during the Persian Gulf War.

"I was in (Operation) Desert Storm and worked for a colonel who wanted to have a dinner to roast the new officers who were attached to our unit," Connolly said. "I was as smart aleck-y as I could be and still be a Marine, and he had heard me joke around."

The superior officer asked Connolly to write some jokes.

"When a colonel makes a request, it's really a direct order," he said.

Connolly wrote a batch of jokes in 48 hours and gave them to the colonel.

"I turned the jokes in, knowing he would be saying these things to people who were really my superiors and not his," he said.

An hour before the dinner, the colonel sent a major to bring Connolly to his office.

"I figured my jokes had crossed the line, because I really went for the jugular," the comedian said. "When I got to his office, he asked me for some delivery tips. He wanted to know how to tell the jokes."

That night the colonel, who was known as a talented public speaker, made everyone laugh.

"That's when I thought, if I didn't die out there during the conflict, I was going to go home and give comedy a shot myself," Connolly said.

The comedian takes the idea of "once a Marine, always a Marine" seriously, and after nearly 30 years after Desert Storm, he still performs for and raises money for the military.

"I do enjoy charity work if I have the time," he said. "It's a pleasure to give back."

This past July Fourth, Connolly performed for U.S. troops stationed in Iraq.

"You know, I was deployed over there for 14 months, so I know that it's like," he said. "It was still fun going over there as a comedian, though.".

While Connolly has been making people laugh for nearly three decades, he remembers what it was like to start out.

"Like with any profession, it took me forever to get comfortable," he said. "Some comedians are very fortunate because they access themselves early in their careers. I had a time finding myself."

These days, Connolly said he usually kills it on stage, but there are times when things go south.

"It amuses me that I can make 500 people laugh and then five seconds later make those same 500 people agree that I'm not funny," he said.

However, an off night doesn't discourage Connolly.

"That used to terrify me, but not anymore," he said. "I enjoy writing jokes now because everything to me is a possibility."

When coming up with material, Connolly usually examines some of his experiences.

"My brain will look at it and go, 'Why would someone do that?' Or, 'Who thought about that?'" He said. "I've also gotten in the habit of jotting notes down and (I) look at them once a week to see if anything makes me smile. If I find something, I'll take it to the stage and run my mouth and see where it goes."

Connolly usually works with clean comedy, because he wants to reach as many people as he can.

"That said, if something that isn't clean is done in a way that is really funny, I can look at the comic and think they are the most vile and sickest person in the world, but laugh at the joke," he said. "Of course, I'll feel horrible about laughing, but, you know, funny trumps everything."

In addition to his live performances, Connolly has appeared on TV programs like "The Jerry Lewis Labor Day Telethon," the "Bob and Tom Show," "Next Big Star," "Comics Unleashed" and "America's Got Talent."

He has also appeared in films, including Temple Brown's "Boxing's Been Good to Me," Susan Kraker and Pi Ware's "The Act" and John Bizarre's "Holding Lucid."

"These are all just different forms of the same muscle," he said. "Sometimes it's an easy transition and sometimes you're shocked to find you're good at it, and other times you're shocked that you're not as good as you thought you'd be. You have to give every part of comedy its respect and that requires a lot of work."

James P. Connolly and Ann Karam will perform their brand of stand-up comedy at 8 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, Aug. 3 and 4, at the Egyptian Theatre, 328 Main St. The performancesare for ages 18 and older. Friday tickets range from $25-$25, and Saturday tickets are $19-$29. Tickets can be purchased by visiting http://www.parkcityshows.com.