You could say that fate led Paul Hooper to be a standup comedian. "In fourth grade, I was pretty introverted," he explains. "There was this kid that I would joke around with in class. He said, 'We should be comedians when we grow up.'" His buddy took it as far as to write up a contract on the chalkboard on the last day of school. "If that's corny, it's on him," Hooper laughs. At the time, he was just getting into watching standup comedy on television, so it seemed possible. After dropping out of 10th grade twice, earning his diploma through a community college, aborting an attempt to join the Navy, and working at a string of dead-end jobs, he finally, at age 22, performed at an open mic. "We were supposed to do five minutes," he says. "But I did two or three, because I rushed through it." And while his final joke went poorly, he was encouraged enough by the response he got with his first few gags that he decided to soldier on. As for his buddy from the fourth grade? "He's a firefighter," Hooper reports. "I don't know him, and haven't stayed in touch with him, but I do know he works outside of Charlotte." The story of that pact still fits into Hooper's set, though. "I tell the audience that he's a firefighter and I'm still honoring this ridiculous contract."
May 16-18, 8 p.m.; May 17-18, 10:30 p.m., 2013