Laughter boomed in the nearly-full room of the Encore as students came to Centertainment Production’s event, Comedy Kickback, featuring Matt Donaher as seen on Conan O’Brien, Joe Riley from Milwaukee and Jerron Baldwin also known as Bubba.
Bubba, senior drama major, stepped on stage to perform stand up for the first time ever and opened the show telling jokes and stories about his experiences at college.
He was honored that people noticed the posters of him around campus and felt loved from the solid group of people who came to support him. Bubba would love to perform stand up again and can see it becoming part of his future.
Bubba welcomed Riley to the stage who told jokes in a narrative, story-type style based on events that happened in his life.
When he is not at his full-time job as a social worker, Riley works out of the Comedy Cafe in Milwaukee where he won his first comedy competition two years ago. He was featured for Nate Craig and sees comedy as something he will do in tandem with another career.
Then, Matt Donaher took the stage to tell jokes. He told short jokes, not about pop culture or trends, but jokes that people will still be able to read and find funny many years from now.
Donaher grew up watching stand-up comedy, but did not think to try it himself until a friend of his decided to pursue stand-up at open mic one night. Donaher is forever thankful to his friend for getting him hooked on stand up.
A great benefit to his performances, Donaher never had to worry about stage fright because he grew up playing in a band. Four years later, he is still pursuing stand up.
After moving to Boston and doing everything he could with comedy there, Donaher traveled to Japan. He then finally decided to live in New York where he was approached by the booker for Conan O’Brien’s show to work on a set.
Fulfilling his long-term goal of wanting to be on television, his appearance on O’Brien’s show advanced his attitude and commitment to stand up.
“I think it’s really important to have a short-term goal because you might not realize how fast you’ll get something and then to have a longer term goal,” Donaher said.
His long-term career goal is to write for a television show, either someone else’s or his own.
When asked how he got to where he is today, Donaher mentioned Eugene Mirman’s philosophy to keep telling jokes until you are telling them on TV.
Although he has many heroes in the comedy world, Donaher claims he has not adapted their style of comedy, but their work ethic and how they approach living life. He often does not listen to stand up because he does not want to take something from someone else.
“I think just by me being me and writing things that I think are funny with my thoughts, they’re gonna be pretty different from anyone else,” Donaher said.
Donaher follows a structured process to stimulate creativity in writing and telling jokes. On as close to daily basis as possible, he writes at least three pages.
The first page of his creative process is to write anything to free up the mind. Using a random word generator, the second page consists of guided jokes based on the random and related words while the third page consists of jokes about anything.
According to Donaher, the work pays off, “If you’re up every night and writing everyday, you’ll be good at stand-up.”
Naturally, it has taken him less time to come up with a set of jokes ready for an audience due to his frequency of writing and getting on stage.
Every joke in his set has work behind it and has been tested with an audience. Even if a joke is made up on the spot, the years of improvisation training is the work put into that joke.
Donaher has seen improvisation classes benefit businesses and recommended everyone take an improvisation class because it can help them become a better listener and speak more directly.
Before stand up, Donaher thought a lot about how he could leave some kind of mark on the world, even if small. He wants his art and work to exist far beyond himself and to benefit many generations to come.
His humor was even showcased in his interview. When asked how he would describe himself in three words, he replied, “bad at describing.” After a few laughs, he seriously replied, “nice human being.”
Donaher said, “That’s what I try to esteem to all the time because that’s my overall long-term goal.”
Donaher currently lives in Los Angeles with hopes of more opportunities for writing. His hopes for the future include having a writing job during the day and doing stand up at night.