Author: Pat LaVone

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Minnesota’s reputation as a source for amazing comedy talent is well earned. Dozens of incredible comedians, comedic actors, writers and directors got their start, or developed their skills, on or behind the stages of clubs and theaters in the Twin Cities. Creative talents like Joel Hodgson, Scott Hansen, Mitch Hedberg, Lizz Winstead, Pat Proft, Al Franken, Jackie Kashian, Dudley Riggs, Chad Daniels and others got their start or honed their skills here. There’s a fair amount of hometown pride with many of these performers – and rightly so. However, in the opinion of many, one comedian stands above the rest…

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In 1960, Bob Newhart, one of the all-time great stand-up comedians, achieved a feat unmatched by any other comedian. Newhart’s album, “The Button-Down Mind of Bob Newhart,” was the first comedy album to break into Billboard’s Top 200 list. In the same year, he released “The Button-Down Mind Strikes Back,” which reached No. 1 – the first comedy album to achieve this. In 1961, Newhart won three Grammy awards: Album of the Year and Best Comedy Performance – Spoken Word for “The Button-Down Mind of Bob Newhart” and Best New Artist of the Year. The first wave 1960 was a…

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Children can bring you both unsurpassed joy and difficult challenges. That’s been a pretty common experience among parents for tens of thousands of years. Being a standup comedian who is also a parent is a more modern twist and brings its own unique set of joys and challenges. Time on the road – or just down the street – away from your child, can be a struggle. Like any traveling professional, being “gone” becomes part of the family routine but often leads to some serious introspection. Making time for family events, sports and school activities while working the comedy circuit…

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Comedians often learn the hard way that a brilliant joke in their heads doesn’t always land well with audiences. Writing and brainstorming new premises and ideas is part of the fun for comedians but also a challenging creative process. You never know how an audience will respond to a new bit until you try it on stage. For comedians who frequently feature or headline at comedy clubs, corporate shows, and theaters, one challenge is “turning over” material periodically. Although they may have a fantastic 45-minute set that they can perform for months or even years, comedians eventually face the expectation…

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There is a very rich history of stand-up comedians performing in challenging environments. While comedy clubs and theaters are familiar settings for stand-up shows, comedians often receive requests to perform in a variety of venues, including bars, cafes, coffee shops, basements, garages, and more. One of the most challenging environments for standup is an outdoor gig. During the height of the pandemic, a number of touring comedians did outdoor shows, including shows at drive-in theaters, in order to meet COVID-19 distancing requirements. Some made it work; others struggled. While some comedians successfully navigated these new circumstances, others encountered difficulties. Snap,…

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The Twin Cities is well known as a hotbed for comedy. With so many comedy clubs, one-nighters, brewery shows, open mics, alt-comedy spots and theaters, it’s no mystery that many working comedians call Minnesota home. Nationally, the Twin Cities is recognized as a great source of talent. But the Twin Cities is not the only place for comedy in Minnesota. In fact, there are small but vibrant comedy scenes at many spots outside the metro, including Duluth and Rochester. Two other communities, Mankato and St. Cloud, have experienced significant growth in recent years. St. Cloud soars In St. Cloud, comedian…

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“People’s greatest fear is public speaking. Death is number two. This means to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you’d rather be in the casket than doing the eulogy.” Jerry Seinfeld There are many famous comedians who’ve been doing stand-up comedy for years who admit they still occasionally get nervous before a show. So – imagine you’re a nervous, new performer, still unsure if you are any good. You’re about to do a show and deal with all the nerves that can come with that. There’s a room full of strangers, bright lights and big expectations. Now,…

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In 1989, the soon-to-be-hit-comedy TV show, “Mystery Science Theater 3000,” the brainchild of Minnesota comedian Joel Hodgson and television producer Jim Mallon, and further developed by fellow comedians Trace Beaulieu and head writer Mike Nelson, had just taken a big step forward. In addition to being the signature program for a new cable TV enterprise, The Comedy Channel (later to be known as Comedy Central), the show moved into a new location in Eden Prairie, Minnesota. Along with the writers already on board, a young talent named Mary Jo Pehl was hired to meet the show’s new and growing creative…

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Back in the 1980s, we called them “open stages.” These days they are referred to as “open mics,” as in “open microphones.” Or, for comedy insiders, they are sometimes just referred to as “mics.” It’s where the vast majority of stand-up comedians first cut their teeth and develop their acts. As the name implies, it’s usually just a microphone on a mic stand on a stage where anybody can get up and try out three to five minutes of material – stories, jokes, one-liners – to see if anybody else thinks they’re funny. For most open mics in Minnesota, you…

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Most people who are stand-up comedians, comedy writers or comedic actors have their own “aha” moment where they realize that comedy is a career you can pursue. Before that, though, they often fall in love with a stand-up comedian, actor, group or show that is so funny it makes an indelible impression on them that forms the foundation of their love for humor or comedic performance. My first three In this article, I am going to ask comics from different generations who the performer, group or show is that made that first impression on them. I’ve got dozens of favorites…

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