by Ryan Meehan
After moving around the Midwest during his early years, Michael Palascak (Pal-a-sack) ended up in Wabash, Indiana– “The First Electrically Lighted City in the World.” He spent his formative years there, and then, after college, moved to Chicago to pursue a career in comedy and living at home with his parents. In the last five years, Michael debuted on Conan, The Late Show with David Letterman, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson. He also performed at The TBS LOL Lounge in the Just For Laughs Comedy Festival in Chicago. He also has performed at Caesar’s Palace in The Comedy Festival in Las Vegas and was the winner of HBO’s Lucky 21 Stand-up Contest. He won the Chicago region of Comedy Central’s Open Mic Fight and went on to make his Comedy Central debut on Live at Gotham Season 3. Last year, he was selected as one of 12 comedians in America and internationally to debut his half hour special on the inaugural season of Comedy Central’s The Half Hour. Desiring to perform all forms of comedy, Michael took sketch and improv classes at The Second City in Chicago, iO, and Annoyance. In Chicago, Michael debuted his one-person sketch show–Pursuing Happiness: A bunch of scenes about people that moved out of their parents’ house, got a real job and got married. Performed by a guy who didn’t. Michael connects to the youthful innocence in everyone as he relates his stories onstage. From becoming an uncle to going down water slides, Michael’s stories allow everyone to laugh a lot and he’s also my guest today in 7 questions.
RM: What was the first comedic performance you saw on television when you were younger that really made you aware of the art form? How long thereafter did you have the thought that this was something you might want to try doing?
MP: I saw a ventriloquist on TV when I was 6, and it was the most excited and entertained I had ever been. As a kid my dad used to say that stand-up was the hardest job in the world until you got the audience rolling and that’s when I thought of it as a job.
RM: What was the first joke that you told which really won an audience over; and what was so great about how you felt in that moment that made you want to get up and do comedy again?
MP: I had a joke about a Michael Jordan poster in my bedroom and it made people laugh. The first time people laughed at something I wrote made me feel amazing–similar to the feeling of when I first saw stand-up but better.
RM: How were you able to take some of the things that you learned about improv and sketch at Second City and apply it to the world of stand-up comedy? Would you recommend one of those classes to anyone trying to break through in the world of stand-up comedy today, even though they don’t specifically teach what you do on stage?
MP: I think the world of improv and sketch taught me the importance to committing to an idea–saying yes to your own ideas and seeing it all the way through. Also, one of my teachers Susan Messing taught me the importance of having fun and making a game out of saying things and that’s something that’s definitely compatible with stand-up. If the person wants to act, do improv, as well as stand-up then definitely take the classes, but if you’re solely focused on stand-up, I would work on that for a while and then pepper in some classes throughout your career. I’ve really benefited from doing all the improv classes at once in the beginning so that might be good, too.
RM: What’s the biggest difference between doing a one-man show and performing stand-up? Given that both of them require you being on stage alone, which one would you say is more of a pressure cooker and why?
MP: In a stand-up show the expectation is that you’ll tell jokes and people will laugh so that’s more of a pressure cooker. In a one person show you determine the expectations. You can tell stories, do sketches, monologues, music, eat cereal–whatever you want.
RM: Your new album is called “Job Opening”…What is your favorite bit on that program? Where did you record that disc; and why did you choose that specific venue for the taping?
MP: I love all my jokes equally. They’re like my children. I wish the very best for all of them in all their careers, but I really like Free Bird. I recorded it in Cincinnati, Ohio at Go Bananas Comedy Club. It’s a great club and also the company that produced my album already had a setup available for recording.
RM: If you had to list three elements which make for a great comedy environment, what would that list look like; and how would you arrange those elements with regards to order of importance?
MP: 1. A lot of people sitting really close together and really close to the stage.
- The room is not really hot. Cold is best.
- The performer is lit really well but the rest of the room is pitch black.
RM: Which portion of the joke writing process would you say that you struggle with the most and why? Conversely, which aspect of the joke writing process would you say is your specialty? Why do you think you tend to excel at that particular aspect of the craft?
MP: I struggle most with feeling guilty about not having time to write rather than just sitting down and doing it when I have time. When it comes to jokes, my specialty is my willingness to go up onstage and try them out.
RM: What’s up next for you in the remainder of 2015 and beyond? Anything big in the works that we should know about?
MP: Touring, touring, touring!
Official Website: http://www.michaelpalascak.com/
Purchase “Job Opening” on iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/job-opening/id906103302
Michael on Facebook: http://facebook.com/michaelpalascak
Michael on Twitter: http://twitter.com/michaelpalascak
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