This is the beginning of my thirty-sixth year. Wow!
NM: Where do you like to perform?
ET: I have always enjoyed comedy clubs since that’s where I learned the art of comedy and became comfortable on the stage. I also enjoy performing in orphanages and community centers in third world countries for families who would never have the opportunity to enjoy a professional show. Those are the most rewarding. That said, my favorite place to perform is before a group that really wants to have fun. I’ve worked in some poverty stricken communities where joy and laughter don’t come easily. When I’ve taken the stage and performed my act, the smiles and laughter are beyond comparison. That never gets old.
NM: Do you have a pre-show ritual?
ET: I like to sit quietly, watch the audience fill the seats while I listen to meditative music. I studied mindfulness and meditative relaxation and it has been helpful in making my shows better. I like the quiet concern just prior to the controlled chaos of taking the stage and working toward that first big laugh.
NM: What got you into performing magic?
ET: From a very young age I enjoyed magic and magicians. When the comedy “boom” began in the early 1980s I was fortunate to be in the right place at the right time with the fearlessness of youth in my corner. I walked up on stage at an amateur contest at a new comedy club and won the first contest. The prize was emceeing the professional shows that weekend. I fell in love and became addicted. I’ve never looked back.
NM: Being a magician, do you feel like you are part of the stand-up community or not really part of the scene as a whole? Do you even care?
ET: I do feel like I am part of the stand-up community. More of my friends and influences are comedians, not magicians. I would much rather laugh than be amazed but fortunately, we can experience both.
NM: Tell me a performance story that you wish you could forget.
ET: I was completely unprepared for doing a show for a different audience than I had experienced. I was hired to perform at an after-hours club on Halloween, 1983. up to that time I had performed for a comedy club and corporate shows. This was a VERY drunk, VERY wild crowd, more of a mob, all dressed in wild costumes and quite different from any of my own experiences. As I took the stage I learned there were hookers, gangs, weapons, and drugs not just in the crowd of over 400 people but on the stage with me. The show started at 3:30 in the morning and by3:45am I was being escorted to my car by police and allowed to leave. The downside was I didn’t get paid. The upside is that I’m alive to tell the story. I learned that not every show is a great opportunity and not every audience is the perfect crowd for every style and genre.
NM: What are you laughing about right now?
ET: I have been on a writing tear of late. I write ideas and phrases and words that may have the potential to become good bits over time. When I have forty or fifty of them I begin to work them into conversations with my writing partners. Those conversations almost always lead to at least one good line and usually an hour of hard laughs. I’m fortunate that I have great friends in comedy.
On the home front, my wife and I have three adult children and each of them has a spouse and two children. While they have all watched and enjoyed (read that as “tolerated”) my performances over the years, only one of them has shown any interest in performing magic and comedy. My four-year-old grandson is learning comedy. He does a horrible Steve Martin impression complete with exaggerated gestures as he exclaims,
“Wellexxxxccccuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuse… meeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!” His latest joke is “What do you get when you cross a dog and a frog? A dog that can lick himself from across the room!” His big closer is “What do you call a three humped camel? PREGNANT!” That cracks me up! He will be hitting stages soon since I think he’ll be asked to leave many schools over the next few years. Ha haha!
NM: With which of the 7 Deadly Sins does your personal brand most align?
ET: I’ve never personally had a big attraction to wrath but the way Americans acted during the last election cycle has made wrath look commonplace. I’ve worked hard to avoid any interaction with wrath. Envy is a big one for me. There are times when I watch a comedian and hear him or she says something that strikes me as just brilliantly hilarious and I am frustrated with myself for not creating that perspective and joke on my own. I admire that quality in others so I guess that is envy since I wish I were better equipped to create more of those style jokes and statements of funny.
I strive to leave sin of any kind out of my act. I work moderately clean in clubs and squeaky clean in my many corporate and church shows. The best advice I ever heard from a comedian was that working clean is funny everywhere and that’s what pays the bills and gets you invited to more venues. I took that to heart and while I have crossed the line from time to time, I have been invited to perform around the world and across the USA because of my clean show and commitment to charities. I’ve raised tens of thousands of dollars to help groups feed and help families and children in some of the poorest parts of Africa, Latin America, and The Caribbean because my show is fun and suitable for any audience from nuns and bikers to corporate banquets and mission workers in Peru, Cuba, and Africa.