Tyler Sonnichsen, is a native New Englander who moved to DC after college, in mid-2005. He soon began the Saturday comedy showcase at the Laughing Lizard Lounge, that has been running since then (minus a three-month hiatus this year). But it's back again and the DC comics are rejoicing, as it's been a favorite spot to perform for many for a while now. He's performed all over the area, including the Baltimore Comedy Factory (with Nick DiPaolo), the DC Improv, Jokes On Us in Laurel, headlined the 955 club in Richmond, was featured in a pair of comedy showcases in Connecticut, performed at Standup NY with Jim Norton and Gary Gulman, various shows at the University of Maryland.
He also hosts and produces a weekly radio show with Jake Young, Herbie Gill, Tim Miller, and whoever else decides to show up every summer on WGTB (www.georgetownradio.com) and hopefully this summer on WMUC in Maryland (www.wmucradio.com).
Last weekend Tyler performed at the Baltimore Comedy Factory this weekend with Tony Woods and Mike Aronin.
Other upcoming appearances include:
The Laughing Lizard show on the 24th, and the Arlington Drafthouse Comedy Challenge on May 28th.
DCC4N'S INTERVIEW WITH TYLER:
Where did you first perform?
Aside from scattered show appearances in high school, I was one of the founding members of a sketch comedy troupe at Syracuse called Penguins without Pants. Most of us acknowledged that 95% of college comedy was terrible, so we tried to transcend it, with a decent level of success I suppose. Of course, by the time we started to get genuinely watchable, we graduated. Sketch was a lot of fun, especially the occasional video aspect, but I'm more at home with standup at this point. A few of my friends from Pw/oP wound up in New York, in various improv and sketch outfits, including Cleanest River in America, who were amazing the times I've gotten up there to see them.
[hit the jump for more from Tyler]
When did you realize that you wanted to do comedy?
I've been a wiseass for most of my life, really. I've been 'doing comedy' in one form or another for as long as I can remember. When I was 11 or 12 my cousin Alex and I started making short films and radio sketches. I think he even had one of those Talkboys like Macauley Culkin in Home Alone 2. A bunch of his friends from western Massachusetts and some of mine from CT did, and that led to the formation of TDC Productions in the later 90's. That was the platform we used for just being creative and doing comedy for a while. Growing up with the general ambition to create funny things pretty much ingrained comedy in me.
Who were some of your earliest influences?
I remember reading 'Calvin & Hobbes' and 'Garfield' (before Jim Davis ran out of ideas) when I was a kid and learning how to write simple jokes from that. I remember two episodes of 'Ren & Stimpy' changing my life (for no good reason): the one where they get jobs guarding the Abe Lincoln statue, and the one where Stimpy becomes a cartoonist and makes the most ridiculously bad cartoon imaginable. Of course the Simpsons was big for me by the time it peaked in the mid-90's; the episode where Homer attends Clown College is absolutely brilliant. 'I Love Lucy,' 'In Living Color,' anything muppets, and anything Dan Aykroyd ever did on SNL too.
What about them captivated you?
At the time, whatever made me and my friends laugh hard enough to talk about during class at school the next day I still remember. We still quote those episodes and characters incessantly. In retrospect, those cartoons, shows, and comic strips were pretty envelope-pushing and genuinely good works of art. It looks like kids are wallowing in a wasteland today with the crap they have.
What was your first paid gig?
I don't remember. The first time I may have been paid to do standup was...wait for it...get this..the Hyatt. Seriously, though, that Curt Shackelford makes magic happen.
Do you prefer to write on or off stage?
Writing on stage can be embarassing, since I have this habit of obnoxiously pointing out when I'm writing on stage, but its easy to put your brain to the test when you're under the gun like that. Off stage is great when you're just BSing with friends; tags will come flying, inevitably.
Do you enjoy the process of writing?
Sort of. I tend to do my best writing after bad sets, so I guess that's the silver lining part of writing new material. Sometimes I'll just sit there, pen in hand, notebook open, for a while and get nothing, so the occasional off night is more helpful than I usually anticipate.
What about performing live do you enjoy?
I love how standup comedy is the most simple, stripped down, back to basics form of entertainment there is. The idea that people have essentially been doing this for thousands of years is neat. You have the weight of everyone's eyes on you, and it gives you this unique power while you're on stage. Also, some of the shows are usually a great time in general that you spend weeks looking forward to, particularly the Laughing Lizard shows and the comedy free-for-all that is College Perk's open mic.
Do you ever want to convey a message?
There's no point in being in entertainment if you don't convey a message, even unintentionally. But people will only laugh at stuff they agree with on some level, so you're conveying some form of message anytime a joke hits. It doesn't have to be topical to be political, and the same goes vice versa.
What's hacky to you?
A place next to CVS in the mall. They copy keys for you. Comics who don't challenge their audience or write jokes about what's important to them are also hacky. Actually, so was that joke about the key duplication stand.
Were your parents supportive of you doing comedy?
Yeah, if I were trying to risk everything to "make it" in the 'Jazz Singer' sense (minus the blackface, religious tension, and Neil Diamond remake) they'd probably advise me against it, but I hope to have some sort of positive professional career that isn't necessarily comedy-related. So they think it's a riot. Not my comedy, the idea that I'm actually doing this. But they support it and love watching me perform.
Where do you plan on moving next?
It pains me to think about leaving DC since a) I love this town and the friends I have here, and b) I can't stand the shitheads who clog this city for a couple of years, complain endlessly about it, then take off not having even seen anything outside of Adams-Morgan. That's a pretty large chunk of DC's young professional population, but it's a transient place, like it or not. You just have to make the most of it while you're here.
To actually answer your question rather than be a misanthrope, probably the Bay Area, Austin, New Orleans, or abroad. Not necessarily for comedy but I would still find someway to do it even if I'm somewhere with no real scene.
How do you feel about the comedy scene in DC?
It's been great. I think everyone knows everything and knows nothing at the same time, since it's pretty easy to get trapped in a bubble. It almost spoils you since stage time isn't really THAT painfully hard to get, and you don't have to pay to perform, or sit around for 3 hours watching dreamers who are destined to fail. I like how almost all of us work day jobs so comedy is something we spend all day looking forward to, generally. Also, having to perform in front of the same people day in and day out around open mics pushes you to write and write and constantly improve your jokes, delivery, risks, etc.
What would you change?
The other night, Seaton Smith, Jermaine Fowler, and I were standing outside of Spy Lounge when councilman Jim Graham walked by. We half-joked and asked him to give shout outs to DC comedy to the press, since we can use all the publicity we can get. I'm amazed but not all that shocked, sadly how often I meet someone, tell them about standup in DC and how much talent there is in this town, and get a genuinely surprised response. I understand that standup isn't for everyone, but a lot of people are missing out, which is the biggest disappointment.