Monday, May 31, 2010

Stu McCallister

The outspoken and entertaining Stu McCallister hates writing bios; although he has no problems talking about himself, the act of writing bios bores him to tears and after a few sentences he just starts making things up. He is the MC of Grand Rapid's long-running open mic at Dr. Grins, and has been a fixture in the Michigan comedy scene for years. He works tirelessly to dispel the popular myth of the surly comic by volunteering at Crash's Landing cat shelter, and by generally being a nice guy to comics who don't act like jackasses in the clubs. He's a runner, and a social worker, and...oh, the hell with this. You can visit his MySpace page. There you'll find some awesome pictures of Stu doing what he loves: standing in front of a microphone, posing with other comics, and drinking. You can also put his name into the search box on YouTube and find videos of him introducing other comics.

Who/what inspired you to do what you do?
By this I believe you mean to tell jokes? I am not sure if I was ever INSPIRED to tell jokes. If anything I just enjoy sharing jokes and being creative. I was unhappy with my job at the time and I saw an ad to take a comedy class so I hopped on it not really knowing what I was getting into.

How long has your career lasted?
In all honesty my career has been just about 5 years. A neophyte in the comedy world. I’ve been told by numerous people that it takes a good 7 years before you really find your voice on stage. So essentially the last 5 years I am not sure who was telling jokes but he sure looked a lot like me.

Where have you traveled with your talents, what's your next destination? If you could choose your next destination?
Sadly my comedic talents haven’t taken me too far. I have been a regional comic as this was a part time job of sorts. I have been to Iowa, Minnesota, and Kentucky… (Are you getting jealous?!) I’m attempting to make this a regular full time gig and will hopefully go to more and varied places as a result. New York would be the ultimate goal.

Where is your favorite spot to perform and why?
Well, I have been the house MC of the club (Dr. Grins) in Grand Rapids, MI for most of the 5 years so I would have to say that. It has been regular stage time every week and I have been able to perform with some really great names.

Who is your favorite obscure artist/comic/performer to work with? Famous?
That is an interesting question as I would say most of the comics I have performed with have been great. Some should be better known than they are. Some of my favorites are Tom Cotter, Pat Godwin, Pat Dixon, Tom Rhodes, Mike Kosta, Alonzo Bodden… I have been able to be onstage with some pretty famous people as well- Chelsey Handler, Greg Proops, Rob Schneider.

Tell me some perks of being a comic. What are some peeves?
Well, my situation is a little different than most comics being the house MC of the club. I get recognized as the “face” of the club and people will stop me at the grocery store or other public places. It can be kind of strange as I am just a guy who tells jokes. I liken the fame to that of the weekend weatherman. I have that kind of fame. Have there been any perks? I get asked to do some local news interviews on a fairly regular basis and I get to do a twice weekly radio segment too. My pet peeves are the comment cards that clubs have out. I understand the need for the cards as the club wants to get info on who is walking in. The club wants mailing lists to send people info about who is coming to the club. Great! But there also are sections to rate and comment on the comics. You can hear the most inane things on these cards. During the same show I was rated as one of the best comics they have seen and someone else said I should never get onstage again. Sigh…

What's it like being 'on the road'?
Road work is coming on more and more. I have been fortunate enough that I have been able to travel and work with people I know. This can make the travel easier. Being able to share driving duties, someone to talk with, and someone to keep you awake….the road can be hard as you may not often know who you are working with or anyone else at the destination or club. Guys can quickly become hermits or try and be more social. I am choosing to be more social and see things that the new town has to offer. On a side not I would like to tell new guys that hitting the road is the only way to get better. There is a certain amount of sacrifice needed to be made. I have traveled over 6 hours one way for a 6 minute slot to then just drive home. In the end it got me some paid gigs but it was a tough decision to make.

Does being a comic heighten or hinder your chances of having a meaningful relationship?
That is a hard question to answer. However on the whole I would say it makes having a relationship more difficult. You work weekends (when most people have off), you are up late at night (when a lot of people are sleeping), and you are in different towns most weekends (not many other jobs have you moving around so much). Currently I am not in a relationship and I don’t have kids so it makes things easier for me to be gone. Thankfully I have a roommate to watch the house and my pets when I am gone.

Ever had a heckler? If so, how did you handle it?
Oh, sure I have had a heckler. I would say that anyone who has been on stage before more than 10 times has had a heckler. Hecklers come in various forms. There are the most thought of guys who are just yelling that you suck or other various insults. There are the ones where people laugh at strange points or just have a very unusual laugh. This just makes for distractions. There are also the ones where people are talking loudly at their table to no one in particular. Often these are bachelorette parties or people out for a birthday. It’s as if the show is just background music like a jazz trio. Comedy in a club is not comedy on TV. You need to pay attention. There are other people around you. I tell people that they should think they are at a play or at least a movie. Sure, laugh out loud and have a good time but please remember it is not about you! Ok, so how have I handled things with a heckler? Depends on what is going on. The main goal is to just get the person to be quiet. You can hammer them but then you risk having the crowd turning on you and you become the bad guy. You always want the heckler to be the bad guy. I often use the crowd to get the person to shut up. I can remind them that the show is not about them. Sometimes if you just give them some attention they will shut up. Sadly this can encourage them to talk more. Thankfully good clubs police the room themselves and tell people to be quiet.

Ever been on TV? Radio? Describe one or both.
I have been on TV numerous times. It has been mostly interview stuff for the local FOX affiliate. My own comedy act has been on local cable as well (Jealous?) It is all a work in progress. I am on the radio twice a week on 105.3 HOT-FM with Todd Chance (doing a plug there). I do my “Talk Stu” where I rant about this or that. It has been a good challenge for me in writing as it is different than writing standup. I obviously have to watch what I say for the radio audience (however I have to say I wouldn’t call myself a dirty comic in the first place). But I have been able to put my stage bits into some radio talk and I have taken radio acts and used them on the stage. I like radio a lot and would like to do it more…

Are you consistent with your material or do you like to change it constantly, what are the ingredients?
I have found that my material has changed in what it is and how I deal with it. As a house MC I am in the same room almost every week. I HAVE to change material a lot as there are many people who come on a weekly or monthly basis. These people drive my desire to write more. And as I mentioned previously you find your voice after 7 years. I’m still trying to find it.

Where do you see yourself in five years from now?
5 years from now I would like to be a touring comic on a full time basis. Really I just want to be enjoying life. Some people would say that the two are not compatible… :D

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