19-year-old Aidan McCluskey wins Acme’s Funniest Person contest

Aidan McCluskey

Aidan McCluskey Misha Estrin

This year, Acme Comedy Co.’s Funniest Person Contest turned 26, making it seven years older than last night’s winner. 

Aidan McCluskey of Galesville, Wisconsin, is just 19 years old and only about five months into his comedy career, but the aspiring standup is now $1,000 richer and has a pretty impressive title to put on his resume.

“I always liked comedy growing up,” he explains of his entry into the world of comedy. “Then I started college, and realized I don’t like college. I’d rather take my chances and try to make it in comedy instead.”

The show was the culmination of a summer-long competition, featuring hundreds of amateur comedy hopefuls doing their best three minutes of material. In addition to the amateur finals, last night’s show included former Funniest Person Contest finalists Ali Sultan, Bryan Miller, and Trevor Anderson, who have all gone on to become major names in the local and national comedy scene.

Though many contestants sharpen their skills at open mic nights around the Twin Cities, McCluskey, who had to travel nearly three hours from home just to make it to the show, has had a much tougher time finding places to work on his material.

“It’s really hard to find comedy rooms where I’m from. I have to drive at least an hour and a half to get anywhere decent,” he explains. “I did an open mic at a coffee shop in La Crosse. I did the same set I did tonight, and they got really angry. They thought it was offensive.”

Aidan McCluskey winning the big prize.

Aidan McCluskey winning the big prize. Misha Estrin

Lack of stage time aside, McCluskey was the blown-away winner of the night, which is an even more impressive accomplishment when you find out that he made the decision not to pad the audience with family and friends, choosing instead to let his jokes do the talking.

“From the beginning I heard that if you bring a lot of people, you win,” he says. “I just thought it would mean more to me to get second place and not bring anyone with me than win and bring a lot of people. It makes me feel better to make strangers laugh than to make my friends laugh.”

While Acme is a holy grail for up and coming comedians, McCluskey admits he didn’t have a lot of familiarity with the club or its legacy before entering the contest.

“I didn’t know anything about it until I won my first night. I heard people say that it’s a big club and a pretty big deal, but I think most clubs have some sort of reputation. I did some Googling and read up about Louis [Lee, Acme owner], the club’s history, and the people who have been on stage here. I really hope I can come back more often.”

While he might still be working on building himself up as a performer, he is already showing the financial maturity of a comedian when it comes to his newfound wealth.

“I’ll probably just spend [the $1,000 prize] on some dumb shit I’ll regret buying later.”