When I began my adventure in comedy, I had the advantage of knowing a working comic. Not only was Jeff a comic who I looked up to, but he was extremely friendly and willing to answer the numerous questions I had about the industry. When I decided to start interviewing comics for my blog, I knew Jeff would be a person I wanted to speak with. He has helped me so much, I feel as if it is almost unfair for other young comics not to have a chance to speak with him. It is for this reason I chose to have Jeff as my first guest.
Jeff is a working comic from Indiana, and the host of the wildly popular Sticky Candy podcast. Jeff has been doing comedy for nearly 11 years and started his career in Indianapolis at Crackers Comedy Club. Jeff has worked shows all over the United States with some of the best comics around. For more information on Jeff you can visit his website [http://jeffbodart.com/]. Jeff is a comic that I greatly admire, his act is one that anybody can relate to, I was honored to interview him for this blog, and happy that I can share the experience with you.
How long have you been doing standup?
The first time I stepped foot on stage was Feb. 19, 2001. Almost 11 years.
When and why did you decide to stand on stage in front of complete strangers and attempt to make them laugh?
I was always a goofy kid and enjoyed making people laugh. I used to try to remember Johnny Carson’s jokes and do them in art class. Then as I got closer to Jr. High, I started watching VH1 Stand up spotlight, Comic Strip Live, A&E’s comedy on the Road, Star Search and I think there was something on Friday nights on NBC late night. I loved watching Carson especially the nights he had comics. So I was watching anything and everything with stand up comedy. I was completely (and still am) drawn to comedy. But I didn’t consciously put it together that I could do comedy until I got into college. I found a book at the public library called, Careers in Comedy and then I saw my first live comedy show when I was in college and it was a great experience. After that, I wanted to see if I could actually write a joke, so I started writing. I wrote for about a year, just writing. Then finally in 2001, after I had been about of college for a couple of years, and after a friend of mine [got] tired of hearing me talk about doing comedy, I called around to find an open mic night at a comedy club. I found one at Crackers Comedy Club. After that first time on stage, I was hooked. There was no turning back, I absolutely knew that my life was changed forever.
Do your past life experiences feed into your passion for stand-up?
Yeah, certainly. Every good and bad experience feeds comedy. Absolutely everything. You write what you know. You mine your brain for comedy gold. Every feeling of inadequacy, insecurity, guilty feeling, happy thought, etc.. everything feeds comedy.
Did you understand the amount of time having success would take?
Success can be measured in many ways. Starting out, you have your list of goals. Usually it says, “I want to have 15 solid minutes” and “I’d like to start getting paid gigs at this point” then you just add to the list after you check one off. So if you are able to check something off your list every 6 months, it doesn’t feel like it’s taking very long at all. You will always feel like you’re moving forward if you keep checking off those goals. As far as what my goals are now, I do understand but the thing is, you just never know. You never know if that guy you worked a one-nighter with 3 months ago might know somebody important and your name might come up, which sets off of another chain of events that eventually enables you to reach another goal. I guess you know but then again, you don’t. Just be ready when the big ones come your way.
How long after you began stand-up did you get paid work?
I actually got my first paid gig 6 months or so after I started doing comedy. I think I was pretty lucky. Another comic who booked shows saw me at an open mic and asked someone else about me. He booked me at a bar in southern Indiana. He wanted me to do like 10 or 15 minutes and I think I probably had 8 minutes of actual material. But I didn’t want to turn it down. It was exciting.
How long now have you been a full time comic?
I really started to get a lot of work in 2004 but I wasn’t a full time comic until about 3 or so years ago.
What factors influenced your decision to make the jump to full time?
That’s tough to explain. After a long moment of reflection I decided that no one was going to do this for me. I was going to have to work harder than I ever have if I wanted to make this happen for myself. I just decided that I would have to commit myself to it or it wouldn’t happen.
Why standup? What brings you back week after week and motivates you to put in the time (writing, performing, driving)?
It’s my career. That’s my motivation. I’m so thankful to not have to get up everyday at 6:00 am to go to work. If I ever get lazy, I remind myself of that. I remind myself to email and call all the bookers and club owners every month. If my schedule gets a little too slim, I dig in and call more bookers or I look into putting on shows. I research comedy festivals. I work on my website and networking outlets. The motivation comes from wanting and needing a full calendar. If you fill up the calendar, work on the next year.
Being new to comedy, I’m curious about the Indy Comedy Scene, how is it now, and is this different from when you started?
The Indy comedy scene has always had a couple of cliques but I think it’s always been pretty supportive. I actually think it’s a little more supportive now. Almost all the comics I came up through the ranks with when I started, I’m still friends with today. And I’ve only made more friends over the years.
How can someone new to comedy help build the scene?
I think you can only help build the scene if you’re nice to everyone. Also, starting an open mic somewhere and creating more opportunities for stage time for your fellow comics grows the scene.
What advice would you share with someone just entering comedy?
If anyone reading this decides to enter into comedy, I would tell them to find as much stage time as possible. Just get on stage. Write. Write. Write. Perform. Perform. Perform. Don’t worry about getting the big deal after your first time on stage. Just get on stage.
What should new and/or young comics not do?
Don’t copy another style just because that’s what you love. Be your own person. Find what best fits you. And absolutely NEVER steal material. Don’t steal material and don’t be a dick to everyone.
Who are your favorite comics right now?
Brian Regan, Kyle Kinane, Tommy Johnagin, Dan Cummins, Greg Behrendt, Chad Daniels, Ryan Dalton, Ryan Hamilton, Mike Merryfield, Matt Holt, Jeff Oskay & Brent Terhune
What was the best moment you had onstage, or throughout your career?
Honestly, I’ve had some great times. I guess one of the top moments of my career was this year. Greg Behrendt specifically asking clubs to book me to open for him.
What is the worst?
One time years ago at Crackers comedy club in broadripple, I was mcing a show and I was having a pretty good set and I started hearing someone mocking me from the crowd. I let it go a couple of times but after the third time, I started to get a little agitated and I lashed out at the voice in the back of the room. After I got off stage I was told that it was the mentally challenged son of an older couple in the crowd… and he was sincerely laughing, not mocking. Yeah.. I’m a dick.
You recently went to LA, how was that experience and what took you out there?
I actually wanted to go to L.A. to see Greg Behrendt and Dave Anthony perform in a show called, Starfish Circus II. It wasn’t definite that I was going but then I was asked by a friend of mine if I wanted to perform in a show in L.A. that same week. So I decided that I should go and see what it’s like for a week. It was a good experience. I saw as much as I could of L.A. and the comedy scene. I know I’ll have to move out there eventually so it was good to just throw myself into it and see what happens.
For those of you interested in seeing Jeff on stage, check him out on November 20th at the Sinking Ship in Indianapolis.