By Ryan Meehan
With his dry, dark humor and deadpan delivery, Casey Stoddard makes it hard for audiences not to laugh. He started stand up at 19 and after overcoming the initial stage fright, Casey has won the Funniest Person in Grand Rapids Competition in 2011, was named Last Laker Standing at Grand Valley State’s Comedy Competition in 2012 and was voted Crowd Favorite at Snubfest in Chicago in 2012. He has also opened for Amy Schumer, worked with Auggie Smith and has performed at Laugh Fest in Grand Rapids. You can see Casey perform live with his eyes closed at various clubs and venues around Michigan and the Midwest. And if that weren’t enough, he’s our guest today in 5 Questions.
FOH: What was your first experience doing standup comedy like? At what point did you know that you wanted to get more involved and do comedy regularly?
CS: My first experience doing standup was unlike anything I had ever done. Off stage I’m pretty quiet and I don’t like having the focus being on me, so I had to psych myself up quite a bit. I was supposed to do three minutes, but I think I ended up doing two minutes at the most. After it was over and I was able to process the whole thing, I knew I wanted to keep doing it, but I had a hard time getting over my stage fright and I think I ended up only getting on stage twice my first year of doing comedy. I knew if I wanted to do comedy, I had to keep getting up and the only way to get better and more comfortable in front of an audience is to keep performing, so I slowly started to get on stage more often. I wish I would’ve gotten over my stage fright sooner, but it’s just part of the process.
FOH: I’ve talked to a couple of different Michigan comedians in this segment before, and you seem to have a pretty interesting group of people doing standup there right now…What is the Michigan comedy scene like at the moment? Who is your favorite comic from that region and what it is about them that you like so much?
CS: I think Michigan has a pretty good comedy scene. There are some really good clubs where guys can get stage time and see talented comedians week in and week out. My only complaint would be it’s hard to find stage time in West Michigan. The places I can do time are great, but I’m lucky if I can get up two or three times a week. Ideally, I would like to get up six or seven times a week, but resources are limited. As far as my favorite comic, it would be hard to list just one, so I’m going to list a few comedians from the Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo area: Joe Stahura, Gerrit Elzinga, Stu McCallister, Adam Degi, Russell Carins, Alec Robbins, Andrew Van Houton and Mike Burd. There are a lot of others I’m forgetting, but the guys I mentioned are all creative and aren’t afraid to try something different.
FOH: Let’s discuss your act for a moment…Which topics do you prefer to talk about on stage? Are there any topics that you try to stay away from, and if so why do you avoid them?
CS: I wouldn’t say I really have a topic of preference because my style is more one-liner, set up punchline, next joke. I have multiple jokes about the same topics, but I don’t really set out to riff on a handful of topics. There isn’t a lot of cohesion in my act, it’s pretty scattered and I change topics often, but I would say if there is a theme to my act, it would be my jokes tend to be a little darker or edgier, but I like to think beneath it all, there’s still a level of absurdity to my jokes. I wouldn’t say there are subjects I shy away from. If I have a joke that I think people might be offended by I always talk it out and I figure out what the joke is saying and to me, what it boils down to is: does the comedy outweigh the tragedy? If it does, I’ll tell it. If it doesn’t, I’ll try to rework it and if I can’t get it to a point that I like, I’ll scrap it and just share it with my friends who know it’s just a joke and we’ll laugh and admit we are all terrible people. But I’ve been booed because of some of my jokes, but it didn’t really deter me from what I’m doing. Obviously I disagree with the booing and the groaning, but I would rather take a risk and try something that people might not agree with, rather than playing it safe and talking about subjects people have heard a million times. I think as long as the joke isn’t malicious in its intent and it’s clever, it has to be clever, otherwise it’ll come off as lazy and mean-spirited, then the joke is fine to tell. There will always be subjects and trigger words that people will be offended by, so I try not to let that hinder what I want to do. If the joke is clever and funny, I’ll tell it.
FOH: I see you have been a guest on Stu’s podcast…Which do you think podcasting does a better job of: Promoting comedy shows, or doing comedy on the podcast itself? What is your overall take on podcasting?
CS: I do enjoy listening to podcasts. I prefer a podcast where the comedian just talks about his or her life, career and how he or she got involved with comedy. I don’t like when the host feeds the comedian a setup to one of his or her jokes and the podcast becomes that person’s set. I’d rather hear about the comedian personally and get to know what that person is like off stage.
FOH: What’s the best experience you’ve had doing standup so far? The worst? What made the best so special and the worst so horrible?
CS: A good experience for me is any time I can do something stupid, that I think is funny, but I’m unsure if the crowd will like it and the crowd does end up liking it, for example: telling the same joke over and over, pretending that I hurt my back and making a girl in the front row give me her chair so I can sit down and insist that she stands the duration of my set, having me and two other comics tell a joke that has a different setup, but the same punchline or making a giant Swastika out of mic stands. When I can do stuff like that, that’s when I have the most fun. As far as memorable experiences, I would say getting to do a showcase at The Improv in Chicago was pretty great. I remember walking in and seeing pictures of comedic legends on the wall with The Improv logo in the background and I said out loud to no one, “I don’t belong here.” The worst experiences are any time I bomb in front of my mom. Bombing sucks as it is, but it’s worse when you have people there you know and you have to talk to them afterwards. One of my worst experiences was in Bowling Green and it was a few days before Thanksgiving, so it was a small crowd and I just died for 30 minutes. It was so bad that when I tried to do crowd work, no one would talk to me. I felt like they not only hated my comedy, but they hated me as a person. I’m still waiting to be asked back, but I think I blew it with that booker, unfortunately.
FOH: You’re a pretty big user of Twitter, and you put a lot of good one-liners out where anybody can see. Do you ever worry about having material stolen because of that? What’s you take on social networking and how if affects comedy?
CS: I do worry about that a little bit, which is probably irrational because I only have 100 or so followers. But to be completely honest, the jokes I post on Twitter are generally not very good. I’m not putting my best material on there, a lot of the time it’s either jokes I think of while I’m on the site or jokes that involve a lot of wordplay, so it’ll work better when it’s read versus hearing the joke. For me, Twitter is a place I can post jokes I’ll never use on stage. I think there are both good and bad aspects of using social outlets for comedy. The good is it gives you exposure and it helps get your name out there, to a certain extent. The bad is what you mentioned, people stealing jokes and passing them off as their own. I see it every day, someone on Facebook will take a joke from Twitter, Tumblr, etc. and post it as their status without giving the person who wrote the joke credit. I have to resist calling the person out because I don’t like conflict, but I think it would be best if the person just got AIDS and died. I don’t think calling the person out would do much, but the person getting AIDS would make me happy.
FOH: What’s next for Casey Stoddard in the twelve months to follow? Any big plans?
CS: I’m going to keep getting up as much as possible. I hope I can go to some places I haven’t performed at before. Basically, I’m just going to keep working at my goal of making this my career. If things go according to plan, which they won’t, I’d like to be out of Michigan by next August and hopefully living in Minneapolis or Chicago or another city with a bigger scene.
Casey on Twitter: @casey_stoddard
Casey on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/#!/casey.stoddard.7
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