Interview: Standup comedian Bengt Washburn

Categories: Comedy
Kenneth Locke
"I couldn't talk," says comedian Bengt Washburn. "That's what it was like. That's what I tell people at my shows about living in Germany for three and a half years. It's hard learning a language when you're middle-aged." While the comedy business takes some comedians like Tom Rhodes, Rich Hall, and Dave Fulton to Europe, it was Washburn's wife's job with the U.S. military that found them in Germany. As such, Washburn couldn't do many gigs.

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Standup Sarah Tiana is at Rick Bronson's House of Comedy this week

Categories: Comedy
It took a while for Sarah Tiana to settle on standup comedy as a career choice. "When I went to college I was going to go into journalism, because we had CNN in Atlanta," she explains. "So I went to the University of Georgia in Athens, and majored in journalism."

Working at the Six Flags Over Georgia amusement park back in Atlanta meant no social life in Athens, so she eventually transferred to Georgia State. She continued majoring in journalism, until she came to a realization. "I was like, 'Gosh this is so boring.' I didn't know you had to write the news. I thought someone wrote it for you and you just read it. I can read off the teleprompter. That sounded like a fun job."

Also this week:
Tim Slagle at Acme Comedy Co. (interview)

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Tim Slagle on finding his birth parents, DNA, and the key to staying young

Categories: Comedy
The apple doesn't fall far from the tree after all. At least, that's what Tim Slagle discovered a few years back. The Detroit native has deep roots in the Minneapolis comedy scene, which serendipitously led him back to his family tree.

"I was adopted," he explains from his home in Chicago. "It's a very interesting story. [Acme Comedy Co. owner] Louis Lee's wife -- no more -- had this hobby. She had a half-brother she knew about, but didn't know where he was, so she looked him up. It was such a positive experience that she decided it was going to be her mission in life to reunite families."

When she found out Slagle was adopted, she approached him with the idea of finding his birth parents, but he resisted at first. "She wouldn't leave me alone," he laughs. "She just kept at it, and finally I relented. I'm so glad I did. I really owe her. She found my birth mom in about two months."

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Standup benefit for Brandon Reynoso boasts great lineup

Categories: Comedy
Brandon Reynoso (right) hangs with a friend after the incident
"Whenever a Minneapolis comic gets thrown down some stairs and breaks their arm, I always make time to do a benefit show for them," says local comedian Tommy Ryman. "This is the third show I'm doing, so I think there might be a problem."

Ryman, best known nationally for his recent appearances on Last Comic Standing, is just one of the many high-profile local comics in this weekend's benefit show for comedian Brandon Reynoso. In July, Reynoso was assaulted on his 30th birthday by a fellow comic who had blacked out after a long night of drinking. The altercation landed Reynoso at the bottom of a flight of stairs, with two shattered bones in his wrist and around $20,000 in medical bills.

"I can already see a lot of puns. I've been doing standup for years but I finally got my 'big break,'" Reynoso jokes.

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Interview: Standup Pete George

Categories: Comedy
It should be no surprise that Pete George, "the Rock Star of Comedy," started out in rock bands back in the 1980s. He played for several years in a popular Cleveland act called Separate Checks. "We were alternative before alternative was mainstream," he explains. Inspired by the comedians he saw on HBO, however, he found himself drawn to standup comedy. Mixing the two seemed like the obvious solution to the artistic crossroads at which he found himself, and that mix continues to this day.

Now that he's living out in Los Angeles, he has also dabbled in acting. "I had a few auditions last week," he says. "I read for Days of Our Lives. They wanted a dorky, introverted computer geek who was going on a date, so I kind of dressed the part. I walked into the audition room, and the casting director started explaining this dorky character. It was unintentional, but I was wearing these old-style dorky pants, and when I turned around the front of them popped open. I told the casting director, 'That wasn't on purpose.' She was like, 'Yeah, right.'"

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Last Comic Standing recap: Finale

Categories: Comedy
NBC/Ben Cohen
It's had its highs and lows, but there's one thing that can't be denied about this season of Last Comic Standing: It's been a celebration of standup comedy.

Last night's finale upheld that standard, with multiple sets from each of the three finalists, along with the online Comic Comeback winner, and judges Roseanne and Russell Peters.

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Standup Jessimae Peluso: "My dream is coming true, but my life is crumbling around me"

Categories: Comedy
Though she's a hilarious standup comedian, Jessimae Peluso's life, as of late, makes her sound like she should be a country and western singer. "Really," she agrees. Newly arrived in southern California, she's had a run of bad luck. "My car got totaled the week I got here, and then the vet told me that one of my dogs is basically dying," she says. 

Like a good comic, though, she can still laugh about it. "My dream is coming true, but my life is crumbling around me."

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JL Cauvin on being labeled a 'hater,' Louis CK, life in standup

Categories: Comedy
JL Cauvin has a pragmatic approach to comedy. Perhaps it's because he moonlights as a lawyer. "Basically, if you're at the top in comedy it's never been better," he explains. "There are so many ways to cash in and promote yourself and make money." It's a good time to get into standup as well. "If you're at the bottom, you can jump start with a lot of stage time and you have a lot of interesting avenues. But if you're in the middle -- and I consider myself to be in the upper middle -- it's still the middle until you break through to the upper tier."

"The real issue I think now is that even if you're good, if you're not hooked up with a manager or have some sort of a comedy mentor to bring you around and build you up, the money's just not there," he states. "You have to put in the full-time effort to get anywhere, but there are a lot people doing that and not making full-time money. Even good comics have to supplement their income outside of comedy, which makes it frustrating."

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Last Comic Standing recap: Title round

Categories: Comedy, TV
NBC/Ben Cohen

After 11 weeks, 97 other comedians, numerous challenges, and Twin Cities love, Last Comic Standing has it's final three.

Next week, Rod Man, Nikki Carr, and Lachlan Patterson will compete in the two-hour season finale, with the winner taking home $250,000 and an NBC development deal.

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Interview: Standup comedian Chris Distefano

Categories: Comedy
Many successful entertainers will tell you they had no back-up plan. Comedian Chris Distefano isn't one of them. In fact, his previous career has actually helped him land more show-business gigs. He started out wanting to be a psychologist, but just before receiving his bachelor's degree in that field, he started having second thoughts.

"I thought, 'I know I want to do comedy one day, but I'm going to have to get a job first to support myself. Let me see about going to physical therapy school, because I like working with athletes,'" he says. He later discovered a passion for working with kids, particularly those with mental and physical challenges. "I liked that kind of work the best. I did that for a year, then transitioned into comedy."

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