Stewart Huff said career is based on mistakes
Comedian will share his perceptions with Park City
Stand-up comedian Stewart Huff has learned some important lessons during his 20 years in the business of making people laugh.
His biggest lesson: perspective.
“I grew up in a small town in Kentucky and I literally believed that I was in the dumb part of the country,” Huff said during an interview with The Park Record. “I thought as soon as I got out of there that I would be around Greek philosophers and would talk about deep issues in New England.”
After performing in all 50 states, Huff found he was wrong.
“I now know Kentucky isn’t the dumb part of the country,” he said. “There are a lot of smart people in Kentucky and a lot of dumb people in New England.”
Huff will perform Friday and Saturday, May 5 and 6, with fellow comedian Greg Warren at the Egyptian Theatre, and he’s looking forward to sharing his experiences, perspectives and stories about the people he’s met.
“I’ve met so many different types of people in my career,” he said. “I’ve met racist lesbians, and the amount of Republicans I’ve met who are on food stamps is mind boggling.
“I’ve met progressives who passionately enforce free speech, but have a list of words they don’t want people to say, and there are also people I disagreed with politically who have gone above and beyond to help me.”
One of those people was a ranch owner in Montana.
“My car broke down and I didn’t have any money or credit, but this man and his brother fixed my car,” Huff said. “So, I worked it off on his farm for three weeks.”
Each night Huff and the ranch owner would argue about politics.
“But at the end of the three weeks, I shook his hand and knew that it was only through his generosity that I was able to drive to my next show,” Huff said.
Although Huff was a finalist in the 2006 Boston Comedy Festival and was the 2016 Critics Choice of the Best Comedy at the Orlando Fringe Festival, he didn’t get into comedy because he thought he was funny.
“I was always a fan of comedy and I would listen to Woody Allen and George Carlin in high school, but I never thought I could do it,” he said. “What I really wanted to be was a writer. I wanted to write fiction.”
One night on a whim, Huff got on stage during an open mic session.
“I basically went on stage to tell one of my stories that I had written,” he said. “I thought it was a funny story, but the audience basically thought it was not.”
After that, Huff was hooked.
“I don’t know what it was, but everything in my body — my stomach, the goosebumps — told me never to do that again,” he said with a laugh. “But my brain asked when we could do it again. There was something oddly addictive to it.”
Looking back, Huff figured out why he wanted to get back on stage.
“I think it was the puzzle of it all,” he said. “I failed so miserably and wanted to know why. Twenty years later, I’m still curious.”
Huff’s career has taken some interesting twists and turns.
“I was one of the worst comedians you ever saw for the first couple of years,” he said. “It wasn’t because I was a dirty comic. I just didn’t know what I was doing.
“I was a short-story writer and would do eight-minute long rambling pieces that were just weird.”
Huff spent nearly five years after his first try at comedy learning how to write jokes, and now, he’s interested in creating shows that feature a running theme.
“That fascinates me,” he said. “I like discovering something and digging into it while trying to figure out how to relate how I feel about it to a group of strangers, who come in to drink some beers and eat come cheese dips.”
Huff’s own experiences has given him an acute perception of life that he is able to draw on for insight.
“My career has been all about mistakes,” he said. “I agree with my dad. I did everything wrong to get to where I am. I dropped out of college to do it and basically everything I did to do comedy was a mistake. But, objectively, mistakes can be very interesting.”
For instance, Huff made the mistake of giving away most of his possessions and living in his car for six months.
He also lived in the woods for eight months.
“[During that time] I also learned it was illegal to live in a storage unit,” he said. “It seems crazy that my couch could live there, but I couldn’t.”
Stand-up comedians Stewart Huff and Greg Warren will perform at 8 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, May 5-6, at the Egyptian Theatre, 328 Main St. Friday tickets range from $15 to $25. Saturday tickets run from $19 to $29. Tickets can be purchased by visiting http://www.parkcityshows.com.
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Park City Film’s in-person screenings will include a string of Academy Award-nominated films.