I don’t know if you know, but we talked with Rodney Norman this week on It’s Always Funny in Salt Lake City. Dare I say it was an honor and privilege to be able to ask some questions, laugh a little and learn a few things.
Rodney parlays his sage advice about standup comedy, he uses big words, talks about annoying animals and why the local comedy scene needs more Scottish influence.
You really should check it out because you will learn things, things that only can be read. You can see him at Wiseguys Ogden this weekend, there you can learn things that can only be seen and heard.
Describe yourself in 10 words or less?
Omnivorous – eating both animal and plant foods.
Carbon Based – carbon based
Ostentatious – characterized by or given to pretentious
or conspicuous show in an attempt to impress others.
Impertinent – intrusive or presumptuous, as persons or their actions;
insolently rude; uncivil
Eleemosynary – of or pertaining to alms, charity, or
charitable donations; charitable.
Jocose – given to or characterized by joking; jesting; humorous; playful.
Capricious – subject to, led by, or indicative of a sudden, odd notion
or unpredictable change; erratic.
Endomorph – a mineral enclosed within another mineral.
Gelastic -Pertaining to laughter; used in laughing.
Astute – of keen penetration or discernment; sagacious.
What is more annoying? Being told a joke by someone and having them say you should use it onstage or being hit by a semi truck? Why?
Of course the velocity of the truck has some factor in the matter but When someone comes to me after a show and tells me a joke it is the best thing ever, I can’t imagine where I would be as a comedian without the fantastic suggestions of audience members telling me their favorite street jokes or even better when they tell me about the crazy things that their uncle does at family reunions I can only say thank you when they share those little “you had to be there moments” and even better when they give me permission to use in in my “skits” So in answer to the question it’s a toss up.
If you could punch one animal (it can be in captivity or in the wild) square in the face, which one would it be and why?
Llama unquestionably a Llama they always have that look like they know something that you don’t and that when you are away they mock and ridicule you . What farm animal is the most smug? Ostrich For a bird that can’t fly they are pretty high and mighty about themselves.
When I was a kid living in Yerington Nevada at the age of 6 I watched Johnny Carson every night with my mom and dad, Well, I would hide in the hall behind the couch so they wouldn’t send me to bed. I loved listening to the monologue I loved the idea of making people laugh. I would set up my own talk show set and practice telling jokes to the wall. I remember my first joke “ The other day I pulled into a gas station and I laughed and laughed cause I was only 6. Ok it wasn’t a great start to my career but it is when it started. My first public performance was a lip sync presentation of Crocodile Man by Elton John, My Brothers and sister along with my cousins would put on shows for my mom My Aunt Ruby, Uncle Devon and my Grandma and Grandpa McPhie at my grandparents home in Provo. That’s where I fell in love with the attention you can get from being on stage. Being a middle child it made more sense to me than anything. I was involved with acting at Timpview and Springville High Schools, Snow College and UVSC. I finally made the jumped into stand up in 1998. I had a business doing handy man jobs for property management companies. A guy who was helping me almost cut my finger off , as I sat in the emergency room in Kansas City MO I thought about what I really wanted to do with my life and that was be a comedian. So the next day I gave my business over to a friend, I found an open mic in Kansas City I wrote a couple jokes. The next chance I got I went to Stanford and Sons on a Monday night I paid 10 bucks and I got up and did it. I was horrible the audience was kind and forgiving I got a couple laughs and from there I was hooked.
Who are your biggest inspirations in comedy?
Early on it was Johnathan Winters and Bob Newhart in High School it was Emo Phillips , Bill Cosby and Robin Williams Now its Nieztche and Immanuel Kant
How long have you been doing comedy?
I started in 1998
Who has been the biggest help for you in your comedy career?
You know my first real support came from my mom. As a kid I would make her laugh all the time, She was always trying to get me to go into it even as a kid, Others want their kids to be doctors or lawyers my mom wanted me to do Stand Up from the start. And of course my Wife she has been an enormous support she was there for my first open mic and has always been over and above willing to help. She is especially supportive when I go on the road in fact she wants me to go on the road all the time she’s maybe a little too supportive in that regards. Anyway then of course Keith Stubbs has been amazing over the years.
I was running a weekly show at the theaters at Jordan Commons Keith Stubbs was running a weekend show in Sugarhouse we both saw the potential of having a real comedy club in the Salt Lake market, So Keith put up the money I quit my regular job and we converted a strip mall church into the West Valley Wiseguys.I was the house MC for the first 3 years.
How does Wiseguys compare to other comedy clubs around the country? (Comics, Crowd, etc.)
When we first started I would make it a point to not mention if a comic was from Utah. Utahnians have a self esteem issue and they assume that if you are from Utah than you could not possibly be funny. We also had to really teach Utah how to enjoy and appreciate stand up, Over time we turned it into one of the best clubs in the country Big named comics love performing here because the audiences are smart, respectful and tend to not get as drunk as most other places. I love performing in Utah. The comics are as good if not better than in most makets, consistently comics from here go elsewhere and do exceptionally well.
What advice would you give to a new comic just starting out?
Accept the fact that you suck, you are horrible. Once you start from there you can actually develop into a real funny person. And get on stage every chance you can. Go find places that have people sitting around and convince them to let you put on a show the weirer the better.
What is a mistake that you see a lot of comedian make in their first few years?
They assume they are funnier than they really are, Too often comics fall into the “ I’m a tortured Comedic Genius that others don’t understand” trap, No you are average and uninteresting. You have one job make people laugh that’s it make people laugh you aren’t going to start a revolution, change the world , heal the planet or develop a cult., just tell jokes and make people laugh. Don’t try to identify with the audience but rather get them to identify with you bring them into your world.
What are some ways that you can set yourself apart as a comedian?
You are a product think of who would buy your product. Advertisers understand that you buy things because of what that product says about you, Think of what it says about someone who would pay money to see you.
What additional advice would you like to parlay to the comedians of this land? Have fun on stage enjoy what you are doing. Turn off your filter if it makes you laugh bring that to the stage and sell it.
What are some of the favorite places you have got to perform?
Utah of course, NYC and Boston are always fun but it’s the small places like Liberal Kansas or Butte Montana those are my favorite places because comedy there is an event,
You now live in Connecticut, where do you perform regularly there and how is the scene in that area?
The Funnybone in Hartford and the Casinos in CT RI and MA. There are a lot of One nighters and open mics around You can get on stage every night.
You were a part of the Marine’s. Have you got a chance to perform in front of the troops? Where and what was your experience?
I Joined the USMC (91-95) right after I got back from a LDS Mission in New Jersey (88-90) That has given me the opportunity to perform for the military many times on Hill Air Force base Camp Pendleton and once for the ROTC program at BYU. I remember that show vividly because it was a big formal event and as I mentioned at the beginning of my performance they are Military going to BYU which on paper makes them the most uptight audience imaginable. They were awesome. It was dream come true an audience that could get my references to the Book of Mormon, church history and advanced military maneuvers against a larger force.
What was one joke that you have told that has stood out the most?
Early on it was my joke about being Big Boned and Growing up a fat kid. Lately it’s been my jokes about studying philosophy, the 2nd Punic war and of course the establishment of a constitutional monarchy during the Russian Revolution of 1905. I would be remised if I didn’t mention the stuff I do about the CIA’s involvement with the rise of expressionism in modern culture.
What do you think of the local comedy scene? Good and bad?
I think its one of the best places to get into comedy. It has a strong club with a national presence and a lot of one nighters and open mics popping up all the time. Comedy has become more accepted in Utah. Before we opened Wiseguys, comedians were lumped in with strippers and gang members. I remember early on telling people in Utah I was a comedian and they would react as if I told them I was a crack dealer.
What would make it better?
Kilts I would like to see more comics in Kilts.
Who are some of your favorite veteran and new local comics?
Keith Stubbs, Todd Johnson, Ryan Hamilton, Bengt Washburn, Steve Solberg, Marcus, Spencer King, Guy Seidel, Jerry Mabbott, Heather Mabbott, EK Kapo’o, Andy Gold, Paul Sheffield and Joshua Fonokalafi. New comics Jackson Banks, Christian Piper and Seth Tippetts.
What shows do you have coming up?
Wiseguys Ogden Nov 15 and 16
How can people connect with you?
Photos courtesy of Rodney Norman and Wiseguys Comedy Clubs