"I went to school for radio after I got my G.E.D., because my grades weren't where they were supposed to be," says comedian Michael Thorne. "The goofy thing is that my friends would say, 'You know more about these classes that you failed than when I aced them.' I would say, 'Well, I listened, I just didn't want to put it on paper because I thought it was stupid.'"
The one part of school he didn't find stupid was choir class. Outside of class, Thorne performed in a rock band. "I played drums, and then I actually ended up singing in bands," he recalls. "My brother had a band in the mid-'80s, and we did a gig at the Hollywood Theater in northeast Minneapolis. I thought that was really cool, and I thought that's what I was going do. And then when I figured out I was funny, I realized there's a lot less shit to carry, and you don't have to pay as many people."
Still, his singing voice came in handy even after he became a comedian. "When karaoke came around, I was hosting at comedy clubs in Minneapolis, and most of the comics were just pissed. They'd say, 'No way! I don't sing!'"
But the club owners told Thorne he'd make an extra $100 a night if he did karaoke. "I was like, 'Sure. Will you give me free beer, too? Let's do this. I'll sing songs all night!'"
Thorne never did pursue broadcasting, mostly because he found standup paid better. Instead of taking a job at a small-town radio station making $6 an hour, he could make $100 working for a few hours doing standup on a Friday or Saturday, and then go back home to Minneapolis.
"I gave myself a year to get paid doing it," he says. "I started working for comedy clubs as a door host, doing open mics, and getting on stage as much as I could until they started to hire me as an emcee. From there, I just kept climbing and doing road gigs."
That soon took its toll, however.
"I tackled the road for the better part of 12 years, doing it full-time. I developed a pretty good drug habit and drinking habit, married a comedy club waitress. A comic and waitress? That never happens," he laughs.
Thorne and his bride bought a house, after which he decided to sober up. "I got a corporate job that sucked the life out of me for a couple of years, so I went to a different one." When it was time to have kids, Thorne and his wife decided against daycare. "I was burnt out on my second job processing payroll."
Thorne became a stay-at-home dad, which allowed him to start performing at night again. He still performs, but is also an entrepreneur, having parlayed his past experience into a new career as a booker and promoter of standup shows in the region. He uses the lessons he learned as a road comic to run an ethical business with which comics can partner.
"Back then, it was not a matter of trying not to get screwed, but finding someone who would screw you the nicest," he laughs. "Maybe buy you a drink, spin you around the dance floor, and tell you that you look pretty."
IF YOU GO:
The House of Comedy
Mall of America, 408 East Broadway, Bloomington
21+; 18+ later shows.
$20; $15 Sunday.
7:30 p.m. and 9:45 p.m. Friday; 7 p.m. Saturday and Sunday; 9:30 p.m. Saturday.
For tickets, call 952-858-8558 or visit houseofcomedy.net