For some parents, their worst fear is that their child will forgo the somewhat "safe" route of heading to college and getting a real job in favor of becoming something like an actor or a standup comedian. That makes Jeff Caldwell those parents' worst nightmare. "I was in grad school pretending to work on my Ph.D. thesis when I saw an ad for an open mic in downtown Baltimore," he says of his comedy beginnings. "I went; I was terrible; yet decided I needed to continue. I began to get paid, and one day just didn't go back to school."
This weekend Caldwell will perform four shows at the Mystic Comedy Club inside Mystic Lake Casino. Known for his witty but still clean comedy stylings, Caldwell has become a huge success at the clubs, corporate gigs, and late-night talk shows. And as for that abandoned Ph.D.? He hasn't forgotten. "I didn't complete my program, but I do insist that people address me as 'Doctor.'"
Before his stop here in Minnesota, we spoke with the comedian about his talk show credits, corporate gigs, and apologies on behalf of SiriusXM radio.
[jump] Congrats on your recent Letterman appearance back in February. I know you've done his show a few times, but how did this recent time compare to the past?
JC: This was my fifth Letterman and I've done three Craig Ferguson spots, too, so the challenge now is scraping together a funny enough five minutes that I haven't done yet. I was happy with this one because I was calm enough to perform it fairly well, and I'd improved the set a lot from when I'd first submitted it to the producers and had it accepted.
You play a good mix of clubs and corporate gigs all over the country. A lot of comedians aren't comfortable working corporate gigs because of the brighter rooms, less booze, and so on. Do you do anything differently when you're preparing for a comedy club as opposed to a corporate event?
JC: I much prefer corporate shows now. Sadly, I don't have a different strategy for different situations. I do my jokes and hope they laugh. I try to have local jokes for wherever I am, and tailored jokes for whatever industry the corporation represents. The corporates are great for the reasons you state -- brighter lights, usually not drunk -- which allows me to focus on enjoying the posh resort they've chosen.
Do you have any other big plans for 2014 outside of touring? Albums, television, writing?
JC: I am long overdue for a new album, so will attempt to get that recorded and to the satellite radio people this year. SiriusXM seems to play the same two cuts of mine over and over, and for that, listening public, I am sorry. I think Pandora grazes a little more widely through the CD.
Did you look at the weather in Minnesota this time of year before booking these shows?
JC: I take the work wherever and whenever if it's a good gig; I begin nervously monitoring the weather a few days before my flight to see if I'll need to adjust. I have been very lucky this winter, dodging all the storms and delays that global climate change has thrown at me. Fingers crossed, no shows missed.
IF YOU GO:
Jeff Caldwell featuring Ben Bergman
Friday & Saturday, 7 p.m. & 9:30 p.m
Mystic Lake Comedy Club