A Discusssion With Paducah's New Comedians
Comedy is a perspective-shifting force for the soul. It flips the incongruences of life on their heads, highlighting the absurdities of what might otherwise be frustrating, infuriating, or disheartening. It alleviates the weight of the world, providing a much-needed, alternate perspective. As Chris Rock said, "Comedy is the blues for people who can't sing."
Those who make us laugh are held in high regard as they sing their "songs" punctuated with our guffaws. Paducah has its share of comedians, and now, our city boasts a thriving comedy scene. We recently spoke with Jesse Barfield, Justin Raye, D.J. Wood, Jon Walker, and Cathy Newton, stand-up comedians who regularly step on stage in order to bring their take on life to our city and give us the opportunity to laugh.
PL- Stand-up comedy is relatively new to Paducah. Why did you decide to pursue performing publicly?
D.J.- We all have a mutual friend, Jorge Machaen, who really kind of kickstarted this. He encouraged me, and I found it was such a great way to vent. I think we all do it because we are insecure in some way and want people to laugh at us.
Jesse- Speak for yourself!
Cathy- I do it as therapy. It gets out all my emotions on stage, and I get to entertain people while they listen to my agony.
Justin- I do it because I have extremely bad stage fright, so I'm conquering one of my fears. It's so rewarding. Three people may laugh at my jokes, but I am conquering my fear of public speaking.
Jesse- Another reason we do it is that it gives the audience a chance to forget their problems. For that time I'm on stage, I don't care about a thing in the world, all my problems go away, and I am focused on making people laugh.
Jon- So now I see how different I am! I guess for me it's because since I was a kid I just wanted the most attention! And I've been a comedy nerd my whole life. I watched George Carlin all the way back when I was ten. I always fantasized about doing it. I felt like I had a one-in-a-million shot of making it anywhere and never had the guts to go somewhere and do it. So when Justin contacted me about doing it in Paducah, I felt like I now had a chance.
PL- What are your personal approaches to doing stand-up?
Jon- I'm probably the least comedic, I suppose. I just talk like I talk to my friends. Maybe I need to learn some jokes! Something happened to me, for instance, that I wasn't crazy about everyone in the world knowing, but it happened a while back, and I thought it was time to get out in front of it and talk about it because I wanted to get it out in the air and say, "I'm done with that." Through comedy, I don't have to worry about being judged about that. And If anyone gets upset, I can always say, "I was just joking."
Cathy- That's your answer for everything!
Justin- A lot my stuff comes from what I find funny throughout my day. I think that's the most important part of stand-up. You don't have to come up with what you think the crowd will find funny. People are here to see what you think is funny, and usually they find that funny too.
Cathy- If you think about it, life offers you a lot of gifts. Things are funny! You just have to pay attention. Mine's very self-deprecating! I guess I just go up and tear myself apart.
Jesse- Do you need help with that? I can help! I think it's about observing. Most of my stuff is life experiences, pulling from things like past jobs and being a single dad. Of course I also beatbox and make up songs!
D.J.- Every time something horrible happens to me, I think, "This sucks so bad." The next day, however, Im thinking that same situation will be great on stage. Whatever the awful situation is, somehow we find the humor in it. And when it comes to life around here, there's so much to make fun of.
Justin- If you make light of something in Paducah, even something that's a staple, people seem to connect and think, "Oh yeah, he's one of us!"
D.J.- You can only do that if you're local, however. It's like being a part of a family.
PL- What's your current assessment of the Paducah comedy scene?
D.J.- There's a lot going on right now, and it's not all stand-up. Paducah Improv is great and Todd Hollomon is doing a comedic podcast. There's a lot of variety. And the improv to me is the base of comedy. You're going to be a better stand-up comedian because you've learned to think quicker. That's probably good if anyone tries to heckle you!
Jon- Sometimes I'm up there, saying what I intended to say, but I'll accidentally improv. It just kind of splits off out of nowhere, and it's unintended. But I go with it.
Justin - For me, it's more stalling until I remember my next line!
These local stand-up comedians have found a tremendous truth in life: don't take yourself too seriously. They discover levity when there can be disappointment and frustration. In their experiences and words, we discover a part of ourselves, and the therapeutic effects of laughter carry us away to a better state of mind.
Shows are scheduled regularly at Paducah Beer Werks, so keep your eyes open for the next show!