Brad Wenzel is a comedian from Monroe, Michigan. He started comedy in Detroit and very recently moved to Los Angeles. He has appeared at the Montreal Just For Laughs Festival and on Conan.
1. How do you describe your comedy?
I do a lot of short jokes and a few longer ones. It’s not for everybody, but it’s for enough people.
2. How did you get started in stand-up comedy?
I did my first open mic when I was 16. My cousin, Charlie took me to the Tower Inn Cafe in Ypsilanti. When I was 17, I took Bill Bushart‘s comedy class at Mark Ridley’s Comedy Castle. I had just started my senior year of high school and would drive up to Royal Oak on Saturday mornings for it. I consider that my starting point.
3. You recently made your television debut on Conan O’Brien’s show. Tell us about that experience.
It was very surreal and exciting. I got it by making tapes at Mac’s in Lansing and The Ann Arbor Comedy Showcase. I would send those tapes to my manager and then he would pass them along to the Conan booker (who approves jokes and helps put the set together). The taping was really cool. I used to hear comedians describe their first late night set as an “out of body experience” and I always thought that sounded a bit dramatic, but when I taped my set I understood what they meant. It happens very quickly, it’s like a whirlwind, but in a positive way.
I got to speak to Conan briefly and he was very nice and complimentary. I’ve luckily never had a bad experience meeting my heroes.
4. You just made the big move out to Los Angeles. What made you decide it was time to head west? How is it going?
I really love Michigan, but I didn’t want to plateau. L.A. offers some opportunities not available there, like TV writing. I had done New Faces in Montreal and Conan while living in Michigan, so it seemed reasonable to try my luck in L.A. Overall, I like it out here. I was coming and going a lot my first few weeks, but now I feel more settled. The hardest part is that I can’t really work on new material. At this point, I’ve only been out here a couple months, so if I’m in front of people I need to do my act. I haven’t figured out where to work on new stuff yet, but I’ve been writing a lot. The best part is I get to see a lot of comedians who I started out with in Michigan, but moved before I did. The weather is nice too.
5. How is the L.A. comedy scene different from the Detroit comedy scene?
Open mics don’t come with an audience out here. That’s a Midwest luxury as far as developing an act. L.A. is a fun place to do comedy if you’re experienced. Detroit is a good place to gain experience.
6. You have a manager. For up-and-coming comedians, what do you think they should look for in a manager? How do you find a manager?
As far as what to look for in a manager, I would say if their ideas for you sound in line with your ideas for you, then I think you’re on the right track. I think that next question is sort of a common misconception.
You don’t find a manager, they find you. Focus on your act. Do festivals and submit to online contests if they’re through somewhere legitimate like Funny or Die. That’s how my manager saw me. However, I can’t stress enough that you’re better off focusing on your act than anything else. Steve Martin said, “Be so good, they can’t ignore you.”
7. You have a unique, dry delivery. Can you talk about how you found your comedic voice, especially since you started when you were only 17?
I’m still learning as a comedian every time I go up, but my delivery developed over time. I used to be more deadpan than I am now, I used to do more of a schtick. Eventually, you get comfortable enough for your normal personality to exist on stage. I’m presenting one liners, so it’s always going to be a little different than a conversation, but I hope it comes across as mostly me up there.
8. What projects are you currently working on?
I’m working on a few little projects, but nothing I want to put in print until they’re further along.
Yes, I do wonder if I’m a fraud every day.
Photo is by Diego Antanasio.