Being funny is no joke. If you want to make it in comedy, it takes a daunting amount of time, effort, dedication, and sacrifice, not to mention seriously tough skin. Sometimes people will laugh at an off-the-cuff remark you thought was stupid. Other times, the joke you crafted over days at multiple small open mics bombs when it gets to general audiences. It has been said that it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert at anything, but the average open mic only allows three minutes of material per comedian.
Madison has produced its fair share of funny people: the Farley Clan, the staff behind The Onion (and their numerous humorous properties), and Kevin Bozeman just to name a few. Perhaps soon Ill be able to place rising star Geoffrey Asmus among those names. Let me give you the skinny on this already very skinny man and discuss how success has brought him new challenges and perspectives.
Geoff has been doing stand-up for almost half a decade and took home the prestigious top prize as 2015s Madisons Funniest Comic from The Comedy Club on State. Since then, he has been performing around the Midwest and abroad. He also moved his home base to Chicago to conquer a new market before moving to one of the coasts. He hasnt decided which one yet, but hopes to visit both and decide this year.
Moving to Chicago, a city with about 11 times more people than Madison, has brought a series of changes to Geoffs approach to comedy. Making changes to an act isnt easy, but Geoff says, The big difference with living in Chicago is that, while there is way more stage time, most of it is mediocre at best, so you have to lower your expectations. If you get three chuckles at an open mic, you are probably the next coming of Rodney Dangerfield. While comedians have to lower expectations from their audience, the audience expects stronger material in this increasingly competitive market. Geoff was more prepared than your average comedian. His time in Madison molded and shaped him in beneficial ways.
The ability to do comedy so freely in Madison was like a dream to Geoff. The Madison scene taught me to have confidence in myself because the audiences are so great that they sometimes make you feel like a king even if you had a mediocre set. Another benefit comes with having a bit of an ego. In Geoffs experience, It helps when you go elsewhere because then when you fail you have good memories to look back at and go, Well they liked me, so [forget] these people.
Speaking of going somewhere new, Geoff was featured as an unrepresented New Face of Comedy in August 2016 at Torontos international comedy industry festival, Just For Laughs. A particularly huge milestone. One of the reviewers said she wished the crowd was larger so that everyone would have seen Geoffs eccentric and unique act. Geoff, himself, says that looking hot, being good at socializing, and making content more accessible to the audience are crucial to success.
An antagonistic reviewer took umbrage with a joke Geoff prepared vis–vis his claim of deep, intricate knowledge of Canadian prime ministers. John Diefenbaker, a prime minister from the 1960s, was called out from this critic after prompting by Geoff. Geoff joked that Diefenbaker was a white male with all the confidence in the world. Unimpressed, the reviewer stated she had won by playing into Geoffs high-concept humor. Geoff described the experience as discouraging, and is sure hell use it as the basis for a joke some day.
When adjusting to a new, bigger market, Geoff says, Comedy becomes serious and much less fun, which is slightly upsetting to hear from the people who support themselves by making us laugh. Comedy is hard work. He describes his approach to writing jokes as a shotgun because I am completely unable to tell if a joke will do well, so I spend a lot of open mics saying five minutes of utter garbage that most people would be able to tell should never have been performed. I asked Geoff how much content he has produced over the years. In all totality, Ive probably written six or seven hours of material. This is impressive if you consider the length of the average mic. Always humble, Geoff jests, only 30 seconds is worthwhile.
Geoff uses Reddit, a social media news aggregate site, to post Stand-Up Shots. Every post can collect upvotes, which means another user likes the content that was posted. Over three years, Geoff has amassed just under 300,000 upvotes. Personally, Geoff isnt impressed. [Reddit is full of] high schoolers who think the friend zone exists. He gets messages containing insults pertaining to orientation, so he isnt really sure how to feel about the votes. I think the general audience of Reddit is, or at least can be, better than that. Trying to do comedy online is a vicious game. Its better in person.
Geoff has branched out into other forms of media. Hes had comedic pieces published on CollegeHumor, SplitSider, and Thought Catalog among others. Mean Squad, a sketch comedy group consisting of fellow former Madison-based comedians David Freeburg, Ian Erickson, Toler Wolfe, Gena Gephart, Aaron Klinger, and Geoff, currently produces a fresh video on YouTube and Facebook every Monday.
Even when Geoff starts playing major clubs and stages across the world, his Madison roots will be with him forever. Geoff loves The Big Deuce open mic every Wednesday at the Comedy Club on State, which he also says is the best comedy club in the country. The Wednesdays I performed at the open mic will always be my favorite memories of comedy due to the openness and reception from the crowd, the ample stage time, the consistency, and the fact that we could try anything and still have the crowd play along and love it regardless.
Keep track of Geoffreys busy touring schedule and published works at his only legacy: whitecomedian.com , or follow him on Twitter @FilthySon.
Josh Heath is a Madison-born-and-raised writer. He loves comedy so much that he rarely performs any of his own, leaving it to the pros instead. Read his film work at cutprintfilm.com or his Comedy Picks in Isthmus.