For over two years now, Mike Way has been delighting audiences on the local circuit with his “relaxed yet focused delivery style and intensely structured writing”. All I know is that this guy is the one with the jokes. He’s serious about his craft, working painstakingly on getting his delivery just right. That is what you can expect from Mike. He’s not going up there to waste your time. He is there to share his love of comedy with you.
Plus, the guy is too amicable not to like. Seriously, I dare you to not like this guy once you've see him.
But, it’s ultimately his hard work and dedication that shines through. He is currently an audience favorite at the Bethesda Hyatt and is a regular M.C. at the DC Improv. He has opened for such acts as Daniel Tosh, The Sklar Brothers, Jeff Caldwell & Frank Caliendo. He was also crowned The Grand Champ at the DC Improv 2007 Showcase Finals, which was broadcast on XM.
Mike is a perfect example of how you don’t have to be an asshole in this town to get noticed. Come out to one of his performances and give him some love. Lord knows, he has has given plenty back already.
Tonight, you can catch him at the Topaz Hotel @ 8pm.
Saturday Night see him at The Riot at the Hyatt in Bethesda @8pm.
DCC4N: Where did you first perform?
Mike: Soho Tea & Coffee house, December 19, 2005. My brother was the only person I invited to see that set, I was so convinced it was going to be terrible. After the show, the only thing to say was "well, the first one's out of the way..."
[Hit the jump for more of Mike’s interview!]
When did you realize that you wanted to do comedy?
Really starting taking to comedy somewhere between high school and college. Often used my humor to break the ice on the first day of school, enjoyed it especially because some of the things I would observe in my daily life would really depress me, making jokes about it allowed me to get stuff off my chest while making people laugh, seemed like a win-win. The older I got, the more it seemed like
something I should seriously try to do.
Who were some of your earliest influences?
Loved Damon Wayans, Cosby and Sinbad as a kid, really enjoyed "In Living Color" and whatever clips of Def Comedy Jam I could see without getting caught by my folks. Sinbad has a lot of critics but he was cool to me as a kid because I could watch him with my family, I think laughing with my parents at stuff like that still ranks as some of my favorite bonding experiences and that stayed with me into adulthood. I personally enjoy being adult and risque onstage but try to skirt as close to the line as I can while still seeming somewhat fit for mass consumption (though the line does get blurred from time to time). In my teens, got hip to Richard Pryor and Eddie Murphy, and later on comics like Ellen Degeneres, Bill Burr and Tommy Davidson. Chris Rock and Jerry Seinfeld had a huge effect on how I approach standup, would probably cite them as my two most significant influences.
What about them captivated you?
I love the structure and polish of Seinfeld's work, how it's so well put together it seems effortless. He can talk about just about anything he wants, whether the theme be mundane, adult, culturally sensitive or even just plain mean-spirited and find a way to make it seem innocent, interesting and palatable to the maximum number of people possible. Chris Rock, aside from just being a tight tight writer and brilliantly observant, goes for the throat more fearlessly than anyone I know of except maybe Patrice Oneal and Bill Burr. He takes no prisoners with his material and makes you the audience an unwitting accomplish to his comedic reign of terror. There have been times when I've been watching him and even while I was laughing my ass off I was literally sweating because what he was saying was hitting so close to home; wasn't quite comfortable laughing at it or being seen laughing at it. In that feeling of powerlessness came freedom, freedom in the truth, and that stuck with me from the first time I saw "Bring the Pain" on.
What was your first paid gig?
Did 20 minutes at the Bethesda Hyatt June 3, 2006, for like $50 or $75. I promise this is the one time Curt is not putting me up to plugging him, but I really do owe Curt Shackleford for that opportunity, was my first time getting to put that much material together in front of that many people, set was an absolute blast, confirmed in my mind that comedy was what I want to do with myself long-term.
Do you prefer to write on or off stage?
Never had the confidence to work out a joke onstage, especially in the beginning I never felt like I had a reason to be in front of people taking up their time if I didn't have a punchline for them, the guilt and fear would be written across my face whenever I tried. Tend to write stuff on post-it notes, index cards and in my notebook, and then go onstage to test the idea and work out timing and delivery
Do you enjoy the process of writing?
I love love love writing but feel like I have very little control over my best stuff. The ideas come when they come, sometimes I'll get a dozen or so solid ideas in a day or 2 or I might have nothing new for 3 weeks or more. Feel like my most successful ideas just come as inspiration, almost like I'm taking dictation, so the discipline for me is being patient enough to wait for the idea and whenever it comes I have to stop what I'm doing and write as much as is in my head until it's all on paper. There is a rush you get when you feel that flow, when there's so much idea you wonder how your hand can possibly keep up, that's definitely my favorite part of writing
What about performing live do you enjoy?
When you hit the end of a line that you think is funny and the laughter's there to confirm it. It's like being one with everybody in the room. That is as close to invincible as I think a non-athlete can feel. Every time I take a chance and get a laugh, it's like someone just gave me a trophy, on any given night the laughs mean more to me than the money
Do you ever want to convey a message?
That we can all laugh together and have a good time. That almost everything we would hold dear is silly in one way or another so why not laugh about it and stay sane? That we're all human and dynamic, we all come standard equipped with countless vulnerabilities and stupid idiosyncracies, but as long as we have the courage to face up to our vulnerabilities and foibles, they will never get the better of us.
What's hacky to you?
Unimaginative execution. I'm not sure I believe any premise or theme is innately hacky, I don't have a problem with people talking about airline food, relationships, bodily functions or differences between races, but the more familiar a topic you choose to write or speak about, the more creative you have to be with how you frame and/or present your ideas. When people don't rise to the occasion and opt to instead do something we've all seen and heard dozens of times before, that's hacky and I feel like comedy loses in those situations, in a way we all lose.
Where do you plan on moving next?
At this time, I kinda resent the idea of New York, LA or any other city tacitly presuming to be the gatekeeper to my dreams. Those cities are fine, but I love this city, this is my home; have decided that for the time being, I'm staying here and am gonna build my own launchpad to infinity and beyond.
How do you feel about the comedy scene in DC?
I love the DC Comedy Scene. People are creative, smart writers and everyone's perspectives are diverse. There are a solid 2 dozen comics, maybe more who I would bet on to go the distance in standup and to me that's a lot considering how small DC is and how few rooms we have to work with.
What would you change?
More interest on the part of DC residents who make for great audiences but seem largely unaware of how much cheap quality entertainment is here for the taking. More rooms to work out in, more work opportunities, more access to agents, more media.