Stand-up comedy returns to the Egyptian Theatre
Being a stand-up comedian is a challenge.
Those who find the balance within the writing, the delivery and timing, could arguably be called artists. And anyone who steps into the profession walks a fine line between success and failure each night.
Some who choose to present clean shows find the challenges more extreme, while others take it in stride.
On Aug. 3 and 4, two family-friendly artists, Mark Matusof and Rick Pulido, will bring stand-up back to the Egyptian Theatre. Park City’s own Kathleen McCann will emcee the show.
The two spoke with The Park Record in separate interviews last week and discussed their jobs and choices to keep profanity and other crude elements out of their performances.
"I have a reputation of being a clean comic," Matusof said during a telephone interview from Washington, D.C. "While I do appreciate comics of all genres and styles, I made a conscious business decision early on to be less abrasive, because I wanted to book more shows at different places. I wasn’t that good at the other type of comedy anyways."
Once the decision was made, Matusof found writing clean bits wasn’t much different than writing "blue" ones.
"The joke itself is what’s difficult to write," he explained. "It needs to be something the audience doesn’t expect. The rule for me is if I write a joke that people in the audience could have written themselves, then it’s not worth doing."
Matusof uses his life as a reference.
"My own material is stuff that I know and enjoy speaking about," he said. "They can be anything from what my family did when I was little, or I can draw from some of the stuff they are doing now.
Matusof, who is known for his appearances on "Night Shift," CNBC’s America’s Talking Network, XM Satellite Radio and the nationally syndicated "Bob and Tom" radio show, didn’t enter the job market as a comedian.
"I actually have a degree in engineering and was an engineer for 10 years before I took that radical left turn and started doing stand up," he said. "I don’t know if I wanted to do it for a living back then, but it was something that I did just for fun."
Matusof took the stage during a few open-mic nights in the D.C. area, and, at some point, started getting some paid gigs.
"It snowballed until I was holding down two full-time jobs," he said.
The comedy actually came easy for Matusof, who remembered making his classmates laugh.
"I got in trouble a lot with the teachers because of that, but it was something that I did," he said.
When he started paying attention to stand-up professionals, Matusof realized he liked smart comedy, including the work of the Smothers Brothers and Robert Klein.
"I’ve always been drawn to clever comedy and I try to do the same thing," he said. "I don’t think I’m really brilliant, but I like to think I’m being intelligent without being intellectual."
A few years ago, Matusof introduced a musical element into his performances.
"I’ve been playing the mandolin since I was a kid and it was something I wanted to see if I could bring to my act," he said. "I really can’t sing, but it’s been a nice little addition."
Rick Pulido’s creativity
"I believe comedians can say or do whatever they want," said Rick Pulido during his phone call from Sacramento, Calif. "They should have no limits, but I personally think that good comics know how to edit themselves and perform for all sorts of audiences."
Pulido, himself, writes clean jokes for two reasons.
"First off, I want my mother to be able come to any show that I perform," he said. "Second, I find it a challenge to write clean material."
Pulido is a man who likes to push himself creatively. Not only does he do stand up, but he is a visual artist, writer and woodworker as well.
"When I was young, I had a list of three jobs that I wanted to do," he said. "My first choice was to be an artist. My second was to be a clown without make up. Clowns made me laugh but the make up was kind of spooky. And I wanted to be a veterinarian because I love animals."
When all was said and done, Pulido became an artist.
"I did that, because I didn’t know about the opportunities to become a comedian, even though I liked to make my family laugh," he said. "I recall being a child and entertaining my family. I come from a Hispanic background and our gatherings would be very large. After dinner, everyone would sit around the perimeter of the living room and I would take center stage and do all these kooky things."
The more people laughed, the more they encouraged Pulido.
"In third grade, I discovered an audience that wasn’t my family," he said.
Pulido, who failed first grade because he couldn’t speak English, used a lot of misnomers with the language to make his peers laugh.
"Instead of saying ‘substitute teacher,’ I would say ‘prostitute teacher’ and get huge response," he said.
Pulido, who has appeared on A&E, PBS, CBS, Comedy Central, HBO and TLC and is a former writer for "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno," began noticing patterns in comedy.
"It’s an equation," he said. "It’s tragedy plus time. You see an old lady slip on a banana peel and then find out later that she’s OK, the situation becomes funny."
Still, not everyone can be a good comedian, Pulido said.
"There is the age-old question, ‘Is a comedian born or is a comedian made?’" he said. "I think nowadays there are formulas and techniques that can make anyone a comedian if they choose to be.
"It’s not like dancing, because all a comedian has to do is talk," Pulido explained "I have never met a person who could not make someone laugh, but there are very few out there that do it with talent."
When Pulido took the plunge and began making people laugh professionally, he learned there are two parts to his job.
"The first is the art the writing, the aesthetic, performing and timing," he said. "The second part is the business of comedy, which includes getting work, the contracts, making sure I plan the trips and show up to the gigs and getting paid.
"The art is the best part," he said.
Stand-up comedians Mark Matusof and Rick Pulido will perform at the Egyptian Theatre, 328 Main St., on Friday and Saturday, Aug. 3 and 4, at 8 p.m. Kathleen McCann will emcee the night. Tickets are $15 in advance and $18 at the door. For tickets or more information, visit http://www.parkcityshows.com .
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