Stand-up comedy returns to the Egyptian
Comedy can be used for different reasons. It can put people to ease. It can sell cars, and it can open up a new way of thinking.
Two stand-up comedians — Lou Angelwolf and Chris Strait — will show how they use their skills when they perform at the Egyptian Theatre on March 1 and March. 2.
Both talked with The Park Record in separate interviews to discuss their comedy goals and ideas.
Angelwolf has loved comedy since he was 13, when he discovered George Carlin, Richard Pryor and Cheech & Chong albums while growing up on the west coast of Florida. But he didn’t start doing his own show until he was salesman.
He made people laugh as he sold shoes at Sears and he found ways to incorporate little jokes when he worked at a Pontiac dealership.
"I would keep a handful of notes of buzzwords or jokes and as I talked with customers, I would reach in my pocket and remember a joke," Angelwolf said during a phone call from Austin, Texas. "I found that if I could make someone laugh during a conversation, they were a lot easier to deal with when it came time to negotiate on the car. It was like a secret weapon and it kept people at ease."
Angelwolf didn’t make public performing official until he was a bouncer at a comedy club in Florida.
"There was a guy named Ron Bennington, who now hosts a show on Sirus XM radio show, who booked the rooms and emcees for the club," Angelwolf said. "He showed me how to find jokes, and one night the emcee he booked couldn’t make it."
Bennington asked Angelwolf to host the show.
"I was on for seven minutes and had some crazy, nonsequitur odd stuff, but I did great," Angelwolf said. "Then three months into it, something happened and I started bombing left and right and couldn’t buy a laugh. I stayed after it for a while, and did some soul searching."
During the down time, a friend called Angelwolf.
"He asked if he knew anyone who could emcee an oil-wrestling competition they were having at a strip bar his girlfriend worked at," Angelwolf said. "So, I went down with a pocketful of street jokes and knew the last thing a guy wanted to see at a strip joint would be me."
But when he got on stage, Angelwolf said he "knocked it out of the park."
"At the end of the night, I got $250," he said. "So I kept working there and that’s really where I cut my chops and learned to deal with hecklers."
A few months later, legitimate comedy opportunities came calling and have continued until today.
"It was nice to get out of the adult-entertainment world," he said. "There were things that I was not comfortable with."
Unlike many other comics, Angelwolf developed his style without the use of visual gimmicks.
"I don’t have a hook," he said. "I don’t play guitar or banjo, but every once in a while I will bring in some poetry. Some of it’s funny, but in truth, all poets are always dying to spill their words somewhere. And I have a captive audience."
The jokes Angelwolf tells emerge from his own observations, but have a twist at the end.
"I found that people laugh very hard when logic is skewed, so I do a lot of that," he said.
Laughter, said Angelwolf, is an instant release of stress and it’s rewarding to be the one making people laugh.
"When you see the heads bobbing up and down and hear someone smacking a table, it’s amazing," he said. "I mean there is nothing like knowing you were the one driving that energy."
During his career, Angelwolf has worked with his heroes, Tommy Chong and Rodney Dangerfield.
"I would ask Larry the Cable Guy to open for me and I used to pay him $75 a show," Angelwolf said. "He was always a nice guy and had a great wit, but of course, these days he is making $60,000 at year and doesn’t need me."
How did a guy with the last name Strait get into comedy?
Like Angelwolf, he was entranced by the craft of older stand-up masters such as Richard Pryor and Andrew Dice Clay.
"They were the coolest guys in the room," Strait said during a phone call from Los Angeles, Calif. "They weren’t athletes, musicians and scholars. They weren’t the type of people that did things I couldn’t do. They were just funny."
After hearing these guys, Strait thought comedy would be a great way to stop feeling so awkward, but he didn’t actually start performing until he was 24.
"I just never got around to it," he said with a laugh. "But once I started, I knew I should have been doing it all that time."
29, Strait was headlining clubs and had a solid career. And he did it without the help of a high-profile agent.
In fact, the comedian, who can now be seen on TRU-TV’s "World’s Dumbest" series, still doesn’t use an agent.
And that does propose some challenges. The biggest is to keep getting noticed.
"It’s a job, like any other job, but you are one in a pool of many others and you have to do your best to stand out, especially when you’re a white, tall, right-handed, brown-eyed male like me," Strait said with a self-deprecating laugh. "There is nothing about me that stands out, so I have to work harder at it."
Strait’s jokes may surprise some people because they are not what they expected from such a "plain-looking" guy.
"I am different because I don’t look like a party demon, but I do have some counterculture viewpoints," he said. "My goal is to bring an alternative viewpoint to a mainstream audience."
The biggest challenge for Strait is writing a joke.
"I think of the funniest stuff in the shower or when I’m driving, so it’s always at the most inconvenient time for me to write them down or record something," he said. "I’m a lo-tech guy. I don’t have an iPhone and I pretty much write things down with a pen, so the challenge is finding a place to write it down."
However, once he gets an idea, he finds himself on a roll.
"My best lines start as one liners and develop into stories," he said. "So the process is a little backwards for me."
Still, as with other comics, the payoff for Strait is the laughs.
"A lot of jobs can be challenging and the only reward is the check, but with comedy, it’s not that you get paid to do it, but that you go up on stage and make people laugh," he said.
And Strait has made people laugh all around the world, including at some military bases.
"I haven’t played in Iraq and Afghanistan, but I have played some gigs for the ones in Okinawa and Germany, who aren’t in the war zone," he said. "But many of the people I have performed for either have just gotten back from those dangerous areas or are getting ready to go."
He said performing for the military isn’t much different than performing for an audience in the United States.
"It’s like doing a show for a bunch of drunken college kids back home, except they are more well behaved because they have military training," Strait said. "But essentially, every military base is like a small United States wherever I go."
The Egyptian Theatre, 328 Main St., will present the stand-up routines of Chris Strait and Lou Angelwolf on Friday and Saturday, March 1 and March 2, at 8 p.m. Kathleen McCann will emcee the night. Tickets range from $15 to $30 and are available at http://www.parkcityshows.com .
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The recognition left Jewish Family Service Executive Director Ellen Silver speechless, which she joked “doesn’t happen very often.”