Stand-up comedian uses own experiences to make people laugh |

Stand-up comedian uses own experiences to make people laugh

Scott Iwasaki
Phil Perrier started his stand-up career 28 years ago, and has written monologs for Jay Leno, David Letterman and Arsenio Hall. Perrier will perform with fellow stand-up artist Rick DÕElia at the Egyptian Theatre this weekend. (Courtesy of Phil Perrier)

Stand-up comedian Phil Perrier said he at least believes he will perform at the Egyptian Theatre on April Fool’s Day weekend.

"I think I’ll be there," he said with a laugh during a Park Record telephone interview from his home in Van Nuys, California. "I’m schedule to be there and I bought a plane ticket, so that’s the plan, as much as I know."

The other comic on the bill is Rick D’Elia.

"He’s a great guy," Perrier said. "We did a corporate show together in Reno. He has an ongoing show at a casino and he’s just a bright, funny and clever comic. And I think people will like him a lot."

Perrier said he loves the feeling he gets when a joke lands with an audience.

"It’s about getting on stage, telling a joke and when almost everybody laughs, you can feel the laughs wash over you," he said. "It’s great to write a joke earlier in the day and then tell it later that night and getting that reaction."

That’s one of the reasons his jokes are mostly about his own experiences.

"Any horrible thing that happens to a comedian is a godsend, whether it is a divorce or death in the family," he said with another laugh. "It’s like, ‘OK. I’ll mourn this for a day and half and then write a good five-minute piece.

"For example, I had a catastrophic spinal injury 10 years ago while surfing," Perrier said. "I still walk with a cane and that’s a good chunk of my act. It’s hard to keep up with what’s going on, so I write about my life as I understand it."

Perrier, who also writes blogs for the Huffington Post and the L.A. Daily News, began writing jokes when he was a teen.

"I wanted to do stand-up but I was too scared, so I wrote them out, instead," Perrier said. "When I turned 21, I realized that I had no outlet for all of these jokes, so in 1985, I started doing stand-up and I have been doing it ever since."

In addition to his stand-up, Perrier wrote jokes for Jay Leno, David Letterman and Arsenio Hall.

"I was a freelancer for Jay Leno and David Letterman for years and was on the staff for the most recent ‘Arsenio Hall Show,’" he said. "When you write for other people, you really need to write in their voice. You have to really listen to them and have those voices in you. As second nature, you need to know what they would say, when they would say it and how they would say it."

Since he spent most of his time writing for other people, Perrier, who cited George Carlin and Richard Pryor as his main comic influences, took a while to find his own voice.

"Early on, I wanted to be like Jay Leno or [Andrew] Dice Clay and I spent years and years trying to find myself," he said. "It’s easier to find other people’s voices than it is for me to find my own voice. However, once you do find your own voice, it gets easier."

As a joke writer, Perrier has set his own boundaries when it comes to material.

"I don’t like jokes made at someone else’s expense who can’t defend themselves," he said. "I don’t like to make fun of people with terminal illnesses and things like that. I wouldn’t even write jokes for others about people who are in those situations. I know there are comics who would do that, but I wouldn’t feel comfortable doing that, let alone tell a joke like that on stage."

Although he had been working the night clubs since the late 1980s, Perrier’s biggest break came with the "Arsenio Hall Show" that ran from 2013 to 2014.

"While I was writing for the show, I had the opportunity to do a stand-up segment and more people saw me in that one set than those who saw me in the nightclubs the past 28 years," he said with a laugh. "That was very sweet and I would love to get another writing job, frankly."

In the meantime, Perrier has a radio show, "Limited Access," that is on All Comedy Radio and he also released a critically acclaimed book, "How to Survive Atlanta in 1996."

In 2000 the comedian became a staff writer for the syndicated Bob and Tom radio show and became a contributing writer for the "Martin Short Show."

He is currently editing a documentary film called "One Nighters," that he shot with another comic last year.

"We did a tour of the Pacific Northwest and performed something like 25 shows in 28 days," Perrier said. "We also talked with other stand-up comics about their road experiences.

"I want to finish that film and get it released," he said. "I would love to get another writing job and get on TV."

The Egyptian Theatre, 328 Main St., will present the stand-up comedians Phil Perrier and Rick D’Elia on Friday, April 1, and Saturday, April 2, at 8 p.m. Tickets range from $19 to $29 and can be purchased by calling 435-649-9371 or visiting