It won't surprise comedy fans to learn that sometimes-guitar-slinging comic J. Chris Newberg once had aspirations of being a rock star. His early influences were Guns N' Roses, Bon Jovi, and Cinderella. "But I got out of that," he explains, "and got interested in singer-songwriter stuff like Elvis Costello." Standup fans can hear echoes of that in his repertoire of short, funny songs, some of which are merely a verse and chorus. A talented musician, Newberg has written serious songs for film and TV, including American Idol. That gig, on what was Simon Cowell's final appearance as one of the three judges, gave Newberg a chance to work with longtime friend Dane Cook. After helping pal Cook write Cowell's American Idol farewell, Newberg was approached to be a contestant on America's Got Talent in the summer of 2011. The Detroit native famously had several verbal sparring sessions with then judge Piers Morgan, who told Newberg he was "an idiot" and "inappropriate." Newberg got his revenge on the British journalist and TV presenter by roasting him. "You've made a tremendous career out of being known as the 'other,'" Newberg told Morgan. "The other Simon Cowell, the other Howard Stern, the other Larry King — the other guy your wife sleeps with." Newberg hammered away, while judges Sharon Osborne and Howie Mandel laughed hysterically. Indeed, by the end of the screed, even Morgan confessed that Newberg was funny. Newberg now headlines clubs across the country, and while he's a solid standup, he feels he'll always be growing and crafting his art. "I think I've found my voice, but I don't think that there's a show that goes by where I don't learn something from the set. I like to take the opportunity each time I get onstage to try and learn and get better. We all grow. If we don't, we're not artists." 18+; 21+ later shows.
Wednesdays-Fridays, 7:30 p.m.; Fri., July 25, 9:45 p.m.; Sat., July 26, 9:30 p.m.; Saturdays, Sundays, 7 p.m. Starts: July 23. Continues through July 27, 2014