by Ryan Meehan
Brad Wenzel is most known for his bizarre, one-liner comedy. His youth and unique writing style combined with his dry delivery, set him apart from many up-and-coming comedians. Audience members have told him he sounds like Bill Clinton, Jimmy Stewart, and JFK. Currently based out of Michigan, Brad began doing stand up in the Fall of 2010 after taking Bill Bushart’s comedy class at Mark Ridley’s Comedy Castle. After being successful in a number of local contests, he got his first taste of national success in 2012 when he was selected by Ricky Gervais as a finalist in the Conan Just Sayin’ Contest. In 2013, Brad made his festival debut at Laughfest in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Later that year, he took first place at The Cleveland Comedy Festival. 2014 has been going well for Brad. This year he has performed at the Limestone Comedy Festival, was a finalist in Funny or Die’s Road 2 Oddball Contest, and was one of the New Faces at the prestigious Just For Laughs Festival in Montreal. We are delighted to have him as our guest today in 7 questions.
RM: Which city are you based out of; and what is the comedy scene like in Michigan? How many miles do you put on your car in any given week travelling to shows?
BW: I’m currently based out of Monroe, Michigan. The comedy scene in Michigan is good. It’s made up of a handful of micro-scenes. There’s Detroit, Lansing, Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, and Toledo. There’s a lot of good stage time if you’re willing to drive. During the week, I usually put around 200 miles on my car. Plus, whatever driving I do traveling to paid gigs on the weekend.
RM: What are three general thoughts or beliefs about comedy that you think everyone who does stand-up should have before they get on stage? What is so crucial about practicing each of those methods of thinking?
BW: I don’t know anything about anything, but I would say my three general beliefs about comedy are that writing is what drives your progress, try to be original, and be as self-aware as possible. As long as you’re writing you’re moving forward. You can have all the stage presence in the world, but you still need to be generating material. I have nothing new to say about why originality in stand up is important, which is kind of funny in a subtle way. It’s simply a necessity. Being self-aware is important on and off stage. You should analyze yourself as much as the world around you. That being said, I would like to point out that I’m speaking very seriously about comedy and I regularly tell a fart joke in my act.
RM: You seem to have moved up in the ranks of comedy very quickly, having accomplished all you’ve done in just under four years. Are there times where you feel like this has happened a little too fast for your liking? Do you ever get any grief from any of the guys who’ve been doing this a lot longer than you?
BW: Montreal definitely came years before I thought it would, but other than that I think everything else has unfolded over a reasonable period of time. I want to capitalize on my momentum, which means moving away sooner than originally planned. That’s a little intimidating, but I’m not complaining. I’m grateful because I know I’ve been very lucky. To my knowledge, I haven’t gotten any grief from older comics, only some good-natured ball busting. Most of the comics I know are from the Midwest and we’re pretty supportive of each other.
RM: Do you remember what you were doing when you got a notification that Ricky Gervais had tweeted at you? What was it about your set that you think really got his attention; and eventually caused you to become a finalist in that competition?
BW: I was eating Subway with my girlfriend, Emily. I didn’t have a smartphone at the time, so I just got a text from Twitter that said, “Ricky Gervais is following you.” I think he may have liked that I had a dry sense of humor, but I don’t really know.
RM: What was it about your set during “Best of the Fest” at Yuk Yuk’s that made it the most memorable experience of your time at this year’s Just For Laughs Montreal? I read that you came out of that festival with representation, was that one of the key things that you were looking to gain from that whole trip? How satisfied are you with regards to how much exposure you received as one of the “Fresh Faces”?
BW: Being a young comic from Michigan who got in without representation, throughout the week I had a sense of “Why me? How did I get away with this?” The set at Yuk Yuks went well and I walked off stage feeling like I had a right to be there. As far as getting representation goes, it was something I was actively trying not to get my hopes up for, but at the same time I couldn’t help but hope that it would happen. I was really happy with the exposure; I met a lot of great people. I’m very proud to have Just For Laughs as a credit.
RM: What’s the biggest misconception that people have about stand-up comedy classes? How was Bill’s class different when it comes to the techniques you can actually take to the stage; and what’s the most important thing that you learned from his instruction?
BW: A misconception about comedy classes are that they’re always a scam. I’m sure the majority of them are money grabs, but Bill has good intentions and really does want to teach people how to put together that first five minutes. I remember one of Bill’s techniques was having you go up on stage and do your act for the class, but he would stop you and give pointers as you went. It was similar to how a director communicates with an actor as they’re shooting a scene. The most important thing I learned was getting to the meat of a joke.
RM: Do you think you’ll ever film another episode of “The Brad Wenzel Show”? What is the primary reason that you don’t have a podcast?
BW: You did your research! The Brad Wenzel show was a series of videos I made in high school. Maybe I’ll revamp it and bring it back someday. I don’t have a podcast because I wanted to come up with the right show format before I started doing one. I very recently had an idea for one that I liked, so I might start a podcast in the near future.
RM: When do you know that a joke is really going to be a signature bit for you? Which joke would you say is your signature bit at the moment?
BW: Sometimes I can tell a joke is strong right when I think of it and other times I’m pleasantly surprised the first time I tell it. I don’t think I really have a signature bit. I enjoy doing this thing where I do preplanned crowd work. Whenever someone does an impression of me, they do my etch-a-sketch joke or my band name joke, so maybe those are my signature jokes.
RM: What’s up next for you in the remainder of 2014 and beyond? Anything big in the works that we should know about?
BW: I’m excited to continue working rooms in the Midwest and branching out to new clubs. That podcast I mentioned might be in the works. My manager has mentioned the possibility of a TV appearance in the next year or so, but time will tell. Hopefully, this time next year I’ll be close to moving to New York.
Official Website: http://bradcomedy.com
Brad on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/brad.wenzel1
Brad on Twitter: https://twitter.com/BradWenzel
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