Brooks Wheelan will be performing at Acme Comedy Co. for the very first time this week. However, it'll actually be his second trip to the club.
"I grew up in Iowa, and drove to Minneapolis when I was 19 so that I could audition for Last Comic Standing," he recalls. "Then I got drunk the night before, and ended up sleeping right through it."
While he may not have been destined for LCS, Wheelan still found his way to television this past year as a cast member on Saturday Night Live. Unfortunately, he was painfully underutilized on the show, and was let go earlier this summer. That hasn't slowed his comedy career, however, as he's been on the road performing standup at clubs and colleges all summer.
"I never let off of my standup," he says. "I didn't get on a lot at SNL, so I needed standup to remind me that I was still funny. Plus whenever I went on 'Weekend Update,' I would run that material at clubs in New York on Thursday and Friday before I'd perform it on TV Saturday."
While a lot of comedians and actors would look at SNL as an all-or-nothing step in their careers, Wheelan has never been worried about finding a fallback profession. After graduating college, he moved to Los Angeles to pursue his comedy career, but put his degree to use with a day job as a biomedical engineer. Seriously.
"All I cared about was standup. I used my engineering degree so that I had a way to make money, but I looked at that job the same way I would have looked at a job at McDonald's. I was just working there until I could figure out how to do standup for a living."
After working his engineering job "way longer than I should have," Wheelan found his way to New York. But even though he's no longer stationed at Rockefeller Plaza, Wheelan insists that his former career is in the past.
"Any rational person who knows me know that there's no way I'd go back to that," he says.
Instead, he's beefed up his standup schedule, embarking on his "Brooks Wheelan Falls Back On Standup Tour," which has been all over North America and Europe, along with a recent performance on Conan.
In terms of where he's headed next, Wheelan is hoping to follow in the footsteps of his comedy heroes.
"I want to put out an hour-special," he says. "Growing up I'd listen to guys like Mitch Hedberg and Jim Gaffigan, and just holding those CDs in my hand was so cool. My goal has always been to have a CD of my own. That's what I'm working towards most. I'm also doing some writing for some new TV projects, but right now I'm just focused on doing standup and enjoying life."
IF YOU GO:
Acme Comedy Co.
8 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, 10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday
$15 Tuesday through Thursday; $18 Friday and Saturday