John DeBoer is a standup comedian who hails from Moorhead, Minnesota. He currently splits time between the Gopher State and the Sunshine State, wintering here, summering in Florida.
City Pages took a moment to chat with the seasonally local standup before his show here at Joke Joint Comedy Club this weekend.
I just had fun making people laugh. When I was about 10 or 11, my parents would have people over for dinner, and I would act out all the parts of Smokey and the Bandit. I almost wish I had kids just so I could teach them to say to me, "There is no way, no way, I could ever come from your loins."
Who were your comedy influences?
Johnny Carson made it look easy, Eddie Murphy made it look cool, George Carlin made it look smart, and Rodney Dangerfield made it look fun.
Did you decide to give comedy a go on your own? Or did friends say, "You're funny. You should be onstage?"
I did comedy in our high school talent show when I was in 10th grade, won $50, and then hosted it the two years after that. That $50 was more than I got paid for any show the first year I did comedy.
Did you leave a different career to go into standup?
I was going to college for engineering, and decided that comedy was my future about halfway through, thus ensuring that I would live at the poverty level into my early 30s.
Are you still doing corporate gigs most of the year and clubs in the summer, or has that changed?
Yup, it's a nice mix of both. After last winter, I wish more companies would have their holiday parties in June and July. Heck, World of Christmas is open all year round.
Do you have an entirely different set for clubs versus corporate gigs?
It's not entirely different. There are some jokes that you leave out altogether for a corporate show, and some jokes where you just change the punchline to make sure the person hiring you still has a job on Monday. But the same basic structure of my act is there for both.
Do you ever come with a joke you can't use in your corporate set, but is perfect for your club set? Is it hard to wait until you can tell it?
All the time. For corporate events, you have to stay away from anything political, sexual, or even remotely dark. That is why I like having the balance of both types of shows. I love the freedom of being able to do whatever is on my mind at a comedy club, yet it is also very satisfying to do a corporate event and have people come up to you after the show saying how much they enjoyed it and that they appreciated the fact that you kept it clean.
The best intersection is when you're doing crowd rap at a corporate event, which they like because it involves people they know, and something comes out of their mouth that could not really come out of yours. I was doing a show for a plastics company last winter, and I asked a guy what he did at the company. He said, "I am a master packer." The crowd laughed hysterically right there. It's times like that you just let them write their own joke. I grabbed the contract out of my back pocket and said, "Let me check this for a minute to see what my options are for responding to that." And since I knew they were with me and I had a good idea where the line was with them, I did take the easy line and say, "It's a good thing you don't work at a bait shop." Not exactly atom-splitting comedy material, but we all had a blast that day, and that is why I do this.
You told us once that your comedy comes from the mistakes you've made over the years. What mistakes formed your early material?
It could be said that drinking and driving is a fairly expensive way to write comedy bits. A newspaper reviewer actually wrote the line about the mistakes in an article many years ago, and I used it as part of my bio. I think because of that, it may have been a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy. What I should have used in my bio was something about a "rapid rise to world comedy domination." Then I could fly you to this interview on my jet.
Do you still make the same number of mistakes or the same kinds of mistakes?
I quit drinking a couple of years ago. I'm enjoying comedy and life more than I ever have, and I'm not too worried about mistakes because any mistake I make sober is peanuts compared to the ones I used to make. The dumbest thing I have done lately is accidentally superglue my sock to my foot, and it didn't come off for four days. Heck, I have had hangovers last longer than that.
IF YOU GO:
Joke Joint Comedy Club
801 Sibley Memorial Hwy., Lilydale
8 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. Friday, June 20 and Saturday, June 21
For more info, visit jokejointcomedyclub.com