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Living Your Dream: Interview with stand-up comedian, Sid Bridge

 
Sid Bridge doing his act
c. sid bridge
First of all, I saw you had a big evening at the Funnybone the other night.
How was it?
It was amazing! The event was “A Geek’s Night of Comedy: Episode III,” the third
in a series of geek-themed comedy shows put together by me and two of my best friends in comedy, Tim Loulies (AKA the Big 44) and Derek Williams. We caught ourselves discussing geeky topics and joke premises after a show one evening. The next morning, I messaged the both of them on Facebook proposing we put a geek-themed show together and it snowballed from there. 
 
The first two shows were successful thanks to Tim’s tireless marketing efforts, me using my PR skills to help get the word out and all of the wonderful talent who joined us on stage. Episode III was the best yet. It was one of those shows that just seemed to fly by – we definitely left everyone wanting more. What made it so special was the audience. Often, comedy audiences can be hostile or uninterested. The audience at the Geek show was definitely full of appreciative geeks. The deeper the geek reference, the more they laughed. The energy in the room was high, and the comedians put on excellent performances with lots of new material they wrote specifically for the show.
We also continued our wonderful relationship with our area’s chapter of the 501st Legion, a group of Star Wars enthusiasts who wear movie-quality costumes to raise money for charity. They were outside the Funny Bone before the show taking pictures with people in exchange for donations to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and we raffled off prizes to support the cause as well.

The venue was (and will continue to be) the Virginia Beach Funny Bone, the largest comedy club in the area, and they have been incredibly supportive of our efforts – our show is a lot different than the comedians you typically see there.
In short, it was awesome. One of the comedians continues to tell us he wishes he could perform for an audience of geeks exclusively. They were appreciative, friendly, and laughed/clapped at all the right times.
Most comedians find that they have to be raunchy or at the very least, use foul language. Is that necessary?

I try to avoid foul language and suggestive material. It does limit your ability to connect with certain
audience, especially at bars or smaller clubs, but it also broadens your appeal to most comedy venues and other types of events where they don’t want their audience offended. I also personally believe that it’s not necessary. A talented comedian shouldn’t need the F-bomb to be funny and if that crutch is all you have to rely on, you need to reconsider wanting to be a comic. I have an added consideration – as an orthodox Jew who wears a yarmulke on stage (casually, not as a joke), anything I say will be
construed as representative of other Jews. I try to keep that in mind. Most of my material is just amplification and exaggeration of things I encounter in my personal life, and I’m a pretty normal guy, so I don’t get filthy.
You do have a “grown-up job.” You are a writer by day, and a comedian by night. Talk some about how the two play off of each other. Do the two converge?
During the day, I’m the Manager of Corporate Communications for a real estate investment company with a $3.4 billion portfolio of investment properties. I love my job – it ranges from setting high-level PR strategy, all the way down to designing and printing presentations. I’m good at what I do and I take pride in my work. That being said, real estate is a pretty conservative industry. A wild sense of creativity really needs to be somewhat restrained in the workplace (don’t get me wrong – it requires creativity, but I wouldn’t suggest including Star Wars references in an investor memorandum). I came back to this position after a 5 year hiatus where I worked in more creative and varied industries. During those 5 years, I learned how much I really belonged in a corporate setting and that those stifled feelings of creativity could be released elsewhere – like on stage at a comedy club. Comedy is a wonderful release and it keeps my creative side sharp as a tack.
How do you handle nerves?
I have never had any issues with stage fright. Since I was a kid, I’ve always wanted to be in the spotlight, but was just never popular to get there in school, or emotive enough to become an actor. In the rare occasions that I do feel a bit nervous, I’ve tried two ways of dealing with it  

1) Be nervous. The energy actually speeds up your delivery which can be a good thing in a comedy club if you stay articulate. It helps you squeeze in more punchlines.

2) Have a beer. Disclaimer: Don’t be an alcoholic and NEVER step on stage drunk (Ever notice Ron White doesn’t drink much of that scotch?) One beer can help take the edge off of nerves, but if you’re not careful, the alcohol can also throw off your rhythm and make you a little too relaxed. The crowd feeds off your energy and if you have none, they will tune out.
I’ve heard it said that comedians wouldn’t be comedians if they weren’t “messed up.” Could you talk some about the catharsis effect?

Very true. Most comedians had some kind of difficult childhood or some level of awkwardness. The sharp wit and sense of humor often develop as a defense mechanism for those of us who spent our
formative years being bullied or picked on (or worse). Combine that with a lack of stage fright or a willingness to overcome stage fright, and you have the recipe for a great comic. The underdog is always the hero and the bullied kid is one of the most relatable figures in the world. Most of my comedian friends have some insecurity or foible that they have overcome (or are in the process of overcoming). A great mainstream example of this is Christopher Titus. Google him and see how screwed up his family is. His material rings true and his ability to make such a horrible family situation funny is magical. People want to relate to the comedian as a folk hero – the guy who did something creative to deal with a problem that everyone has to deal with. Often our punchlines serve as a catharsis for a big issue. I have great respect for any comedian who can take a person tragedy, bear it to the world on stage, and make it funny. I have a friend on the local comedy scene (here in southeastern
Virginia) who is a breast cancer survivor. Her comedy career grew out of surviving that ordeal and she can joke about it with the best of ‘em. This type of comedy has the power to help audience members deal with their own personal tragedies, even if that wasn’t the comedian’s intent.
Where do you get your inspiration?
Most of my material comes from my everyday life, just amplified and exaggerated. I have five kids – four girls and a boy, so funny material presents itself daily. I also am a bit of a geek, so I do have fun telling jokes that mock my obsession with Star Wars, Transformers, Voltron or any of the other
geeky things I grew up with in the 80’s. I’ve been a bass guitar player since I was 17, and since I started doing standup I haven’t had time to join a band. Last summer, I started integrating my bass playing into my act, and I now have a few songs and bass-related jokes that I work in, too. This is pretty helpful whenever I’m called upon to perform in a bar – even though I don’t drop F-bombs, the music gives people a reason to pay attention and laugh.
You wear a yarmulke during your shows, do you ever poke fun at religion?
Not much. I will admit that I wear a more noticeable yarmulke when I’m on stage (off-stage, I have my black knit “stealth” yarmulke), but on stage I don’t want to hide who I am. I enjoy wearing it because it reminds people that I’m different and actually helps connect me to the audience – everybody’s different in some shape or form. It’s also a neat way to throw people off a bit. I wear it, but I don’t talk much about being Jewish. It kind of messes up their preconceived ideas about orthodox Jews. Occasionally, I have done short sets about that very topic, but I don’t tend to do that often. On the flip side, I will say that the yarmulke is a bullseye for other comedians. They often take the easy way out and pepper my with Jew jokes to get that cheap laugh. I go into shows expecting that and do my best to laugh and let the world know that we can take as many jokes as we dish out.
What sorts of stressors do you encounter as a comedian?
There are lots – none of it kills my love of the stage, but I’ll try to name the top few:
a. Inattentive/Uninterested audience: Sometimes they just don’t want to hear your jokes and no matter what you do, they aren’t going to laugh. It happens and when it does, you learn from it, but that doesn’t make it less stressful. Sometimes you just need to understand that even your best stuff doesn’t make
everyone laugh – humor is very subjective. Finish the set, sit down, watch the other comics on the show and see who does get laughs, then figure out why.
b. Approval from the important comics: Every town has that clatch of comedians and/or bookers who decide who gets to be on what show and how much time they get. Some of these guys are lifelong comics who have lost their wives, families and just about everything else to comedy as they sacrifice everything to travel from city to city and earn $100-$300 for a feature or headline spot at a small
club. It’s not an easy life, so a guy like me with a good day job can’t really act the least bit arrogant around someone like that. You have to play the politics – show respect, do what they expect you to do and ask for their guidance.
c. Competition: The first time I performed in the VB Funny Bone’s Clash of the Comics amateur competition, I tied for first and ended up second after a run-off. The second time, I placed third. I haven’t placed since, and it’s quite a frustration. Competitions are often judged subjectively and depend sometimes on a crowd who loves you.
After your honeymoon phases (first 1-2 months), your friends stop coming to your shows since they’ve seen your material so much. With your own personal audience gone, winning competitions is difficult. It takes the ability to be technically perfect and to appeal to people who don’t know you. It’s a huge
source of frustration for me, but also a huge motivator.
What do you do when a joke falls flat?
Finish and move on. It happens, you recover and hopefully learn from it.

Sounds like a great lesson for people in all trades. Thank you SO much, Sid. This has been awesome!!
 
You can hear some of Sid’s comedy by looking up sidbridgecomedy on Youtube.     

c.2012

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