Oh my gosh! Gee willikers! Freaking heck! This week’s interview is with the red hot standup comedian Aaron Woodall. The pride of Utah County comedy.
Fresh off a semi final finish at the World Series of Comedy in Las Vegas and a 3rd Place finish in the Rocky Mountain Laugh Off, he has taken the comedy scene by storm.
Aaron goes into detail about his journey in stand up, his experience with coming up through the Humor U system and the violent nature of childbirth.
I found it very interesting to find out more about another part of the Utah comedy scene and see standup from a perspective that you normally don’t hear about a lot.
Read this interview and then go and see him headline for the first time in Ogden this weekend! Brigham Young says so!
Describe yourself in 10 words or less?
Insecure and loud.
Should people come to your show or watch conference? How will you inspire your audience?
I encourage everyone to come to my show with a few questions in mind. Then, listen carefully and take notes. But don’t just write down what I say, write down the impressions you get while listening to my material. I guarantee you will find the answer to your questions.
Also, I can say with complete confidence that all the ladies in the stand-by line in Ogden on Saturday night will be granted admission to my show.
If you could describe yourself as a particular restaurant, which one would it be and why?
When I played basketball during recess in the 5th grade, sometimes Richard Distad would pick me for his team and he would call me Denny’s, cuz I was always open and also not very good.
But the more I think about it, the more I think that could still fit today. Like, a lot of people hate on Denny’s, but I’m convinced that it’s actually pretty great.
What got you started in stand up comedy?
I think it’s something I always wanted to do. And by “always,” I mean my mom tells stories of me entertaining/bothering grown-ups at parties by reciting jokes I had heard. Even though, it took me a long time to really get started. I did stand-up once for a talent show in high school, but it wasn’t until I got to BYU and heard about their stand-up club, Humor U, that I really started writing and performing. I passed by their booth one day and thought “Yes. This is for me. I need to do this.”
Pete Holmes. He’s definitely my favorite, but I’m getting increasingly worried that instead of being “inspired” by him, I am just “stealing” his schtick.
How long have you been doing comedy?
About 2-2 1/2 years. I see people on Facebook sometimes honoring their stand-up anniversary and I’m like, was I supposed to mark my first open mic on my calendar? Because I didn’t.
Who has been the biggest help for you in your comedy career?
For sure Ryan Wingfield . I don’t know if a lot of people in SLC know him or not, but he’s a comic based out of Boise. He saw me at an open mic at Liquid and came up to me afterwards and told me the nicest things. And he asked if I would open for him when he went to Cedar City. And that was when stand-up for me changed from being just something I did to pass time at BYU and became a dream I started pursuing. And this was after I had been doing stand-up for about six months. I wasn’t that good. He didn’t have to take the time to help me out but that’s just who he is. He just likes to help. And that ended up making a huge difference for me. And since then, he has introduced me to bookers and club owners and given me lots of advice and held my hand all through the World Series in Vegas.
You performed and placed 3rd in the Rocky Mountain Laugh-off, what has that done for you?
I think it was very validating for me. The day before the Laugh Off, I wrote new material that was different for me, but felt perfect. It was very scary Tuesday night because I was performing it for the very first time. Turned out being the best bit I’ve ever written and that felt great. Also, I think I gained the respect of some of the local guys, which was nice to hear. But the biggest thing was that at the last night of the Laugh Off, Keith asked me if I wanted to headline Ogden sometime. That was a terrifying question because I didn’t feel ready for it. He actually asked me in an email the day before, but I was too scared to respond so he had to bring it up with me the next day.
Besides your headlining gig this weekend, what big things do you have planned for the rest of 2013 and into 2014?
Um, not much. It’s all downhill from here. I’ve got some road work, a week featuring at Liquid (Boise) that I’m really excited about. And I literally have nothing planned for 2014. Like, beyond comedy. Absolutely nothing. I do not excel at long-term goals.
It was good for me. I think I’ve grown a lot because of the World Series. I did a satellite in Colorado Springs back in April and I bombed. I just sucked. Easily the worst in my group. And it was so good for me to see that stark reality. I mean, I found out that my best 7 minutes were good enough for last place. And it took me a while to stop being sad and grow from it, but eventually I did. I came to Vegas with a MUCH better set, but with still a lot left to learn. The guys that advanced out of my round were much better performers than me and while I was mostly pleased with my performance, there are still a few areas that I noticed immediately where I could improve.
As for the atmosphere, uh, it wasn’t for me. I don’t do very well trying to mingle with people. I’m awful at making new friends. So like, during the poker tournament everyone else played in, I did my sociology homework. Also, the “Meet & Greet” with the owners and bookers was excruciatingly awkward, but probably good for me?
What was one joke that you have told that has stood out the most?
Probably my episiotomy bit. It’s at least the joke that I am most proud of. It’s the one I wrote the day before the RMLO. For me, it represents over two years of doing comedy. It’s the best joke I’ve ever written and the first one that I felt really resonated with the audience. I wasn’t just poking fun at some pop culture phenomenon, but I was talking about real emotions (mostly fear) that my wife and I had, emotions that a lot of people could relate to. I think it was the first time I wrote a joke that both I and the audience were passionate about.
It was also important for me because it was the first time I went back to a joke I wrote under the constraints of Humor U and asked how I would have written it if I was completely uncensored. It was an exercise in finding my real voice (inspired by Spence Roper and Paul Sheffield) and I think it went really well.
What do you think of the local comedy scene? Good and bad?
You know, I’m probably not the best to ask about the local scene, I really don’t know much about it. I still don’t really think I’m a part of it.
What would make it better?
Again, I’m no authority but…more comics, more venues, more open mics. Maybe a 2nd open mic a week at Wiseguys? More chances for people to do longer sets? Also, if someone could get a TV show, it would really elevate the status of the SLC farm system. Someone get on that.
Well, there are a lot less dick jokes. And even less lesbian jokes. But it’s a really, really great place to learn how to write comedy. The constraints I mentioned before? Actually incredibly helpful for a new comic because it forces you to try harder. And the atmosphere in the club is very friendly and cooperative. And the crowds could not be better. But that’s probably also the downside to performing with Humor U: you can’t really grow if all you ever play are great, eager crowds. Even though I’ve spent less time performing at Wiseguys than at BYU, I’ve learned more from those handful of performances. the first time I did 7 minutes with, I kid you not, ZERO audience response was at Trolley Square and it was glorious.
I also think it’s different for a Humor U kid to enter the SLC scene than for your average newbie. The only things I knew about the Wiseguys scene were from old Humor U people and they all pretty much fell somewhere along the lines of “they think we suck because we’re from BYU, but really they’re the ones that suck and they just hate us cuz we won’t let them perform with us.” And they weren’t totally wrong. The first time I performed at a Wiseguys showcase (thanks Spencer King!) several comics told me how surprised they were with my set since almost all comics from “down south” were just awful. I think there’s definitely a stigma that comes with being associated with Humor U. Even one night at the RMLO I heard two comics talking about my set and one told the other that I was from Humor U and the other guy couldn’t believe it. “THAT GUY is from HUMOR U?” To be fair, I was just eavesdropping so I don’t really know the cause of his total surprise. It very well could have been the fact that I told 6 straight minutes of vagina jokes. Now that I think of it, yeah, that’s probably it. But I still feel pretty intimidated at Wiseguys. I still feel like I have to prove to people that I’ve got more than just jokes about the funny thing the Relief Society President said in Sunday School. Comics still condescendingly talk to me about how if I swear on stage, it’s ok, I don’t have to go talk to my Bishop about it.
But the worst part is that as much as I defend Humor U to my Wiseguys friends, I spend equal time defending Wiseguys to my Humor U friends. They think that SLC scene has nothing to offer them and they look down on these other comics who have skills and experience and resumes that we in Humor U could only dream of. And it bugs me. I regret that such a rift ever developed between Humor U and the rest of the Utah comedy scene. Humor U could benefit a lot from other local comics and I think we should start looking outward more. I’ve got a few more months left before I graduate and leave Humor U and in that time, I’d really like to start building some bridges between us and the rest of the comedy world. I’d like to see more of the professional comics come down and do guest performances with Humor U, or maybe lead a workshop or something. And I’d really like us to do more with Wallace and Connor and their colleagues at the U. Those guys are so funny and I think we could do a lot of fun stuff together.
Who are some of your favorite new local comics?
I met Jackson Banks (Miss Congeniality, 2013) at the RMLO this year. I liked him instantly, but I fell in love on the trip to Rock Springs where he revealed his Jurassic Park erotic fan fiction and his Spence Roper impersonation. He’s got smart, weird humor that we need more of. He also makes comedy shorts which are great.
I headline Wiseguys in Ogden on Oct 4-5. I’m performing at The Wall (in Provo) with The Left Field on November 1.
How can people connect with you?
Good stories, similar interests, a healthy amount of one-on-one time.