Interview: Standup Pete George
It should be no surprise that Pete George, "the Rock Star of Comedy," started out in rock bands back in the 1980s. He played for several years in a popular Cleveland act called Separate Checks. "We were alternative before alternative was mainstream," he explains. Inspired by the comedians he saw on HBO, however, he found himself drawn to standup comedy. Mixing the two seemed like the obvious solution to the artistic crossroads at which he found himself, and that mix continues to this day.
Now that he's living out in Los Angeles, he has also dabbled in acting. "I had a few auditions last week," he says. "I read for Days of Our Lives. They wanted a dorky, introverted computer geek who was going on a date, so I kind of dressed the part. I walked into the audition room, and the casting director started explaining this dorky character. It was unintentional, but I was wearing these old-style dorky pants, and when I turned around the front of them popped open. I told the casting director, 'That wasn't on purpose.' She was like, 'Yeah, right.'"
He pounds the pavement when necessary, and it's paid off over the years. "I go out quite a bit," he says. "I've had some national commercials. I worked on a short film a few years ago, and I had the lead. I didn't know it at the time, but the guy that wrote and directed it wrote the first two Shrek screenplays. He didn't say a word about it the whole time. I just thought he was some goofy guy. I met him at a Thanksgiving dinner."
Although he is an adept voice man, he has changed his standup a bit over the years, and doesn't do as many impressions. "Once in a while I'll do some stuff," he says. "We're always evolving as comedians. Maybe I'll do that again eventually, but I can tell a lot of my standup has changed into more real characters and more straight-forward standup as opposed to the silly stuff."
That doesn't mean he won't push the envelope. "I say things that people think but would never say in public," he says. "I have a whole bit I do on harelips. It's something that would be considered inappropriate, but I get away with it. I even use it at corporate shows, so I get away with a lot of stuff. It's kind of surprising."
As someone who played in a band in the '80s, George still feels a special connection to that decade. "I still really like a lot of that stuff," he says. "I've always had this connection [with the decade], probably because I grew up with it."
The young people today, though, often know more about the '80s than those who lived through them. "With the kids I teach guitar to, they're 12 years old and they are all into the '80s and classic rock. They know more than we know because of Rock Band and Guitar Hero. It's crazy, they know all this stuff."
Incidentally, one of George's students was Nicolas Cage's son. "I taught him for about a year and a half. That was kind of neat. Nicolas would come down once in a while and sit in on the lesson and hang out. That was fun."
With his wide range of talents, George hopes to settle into a sitcom. "I already have it developed, and I met with someone recently. I'm looking to meet with a couple of show runners soon."
A fan of the genre, he feels some sitcoms have held up better than others over the years. Frasier and Friends are still entertaining, for example. Seinfeld, on the other hand, comes across as dated. "It seems really old," he says. "And not because he's using a home phone with a big antenna on it, or he has an old computer that looks like a massive box. There's just something about it that makes it seem dated."
IF YOU GO:
Rick Bronson's House of Comedy
Mall of America, 408 E. Broadway, Bloomington; 952-858-8558
18+; 21+ later shows
7:30 p.m. Wednesday through Friday; 9:45 p.m. Friday; 7 p.m. Saturday and Sunday; 9:30 p.m. Saturday
Get the Arts & Culture Newsletter
Find out about arts and culture events in Minneapolis & St. Paul and offers you won't hear about anywhere else.