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Paul Hooper Is on a Mission to Perform in All 50 States

"I always had this desire to travel," says comedian Paul Hooper. "Some comics get burned out on travel, and some really love it. I talked to a few friends -- other comedians -- who still love to travel, and we're baffled by people who aren't curious about the world and don't want to see other places."

It was a classmate in fourth grade who told Hooper he was going to grow up to be a standup comedian. At the time, he didn't connect his interest in comedy with his desire to see places outside his native North Carolina. "I know as a teenager I wanted to travel the globe -- even before I started doing comedy. It's not that I hated my hometown, I was just curious."

[jump] Before getting into standup he joined the military, but backed out, then worked several dead-end jobs. He tried going back to school, but quit soon after. Fortunately, his comedy career went well with his sense of wanderlust. He is on a quest to perform comedy in all 50 states. He only has a few to cross off of his list.

"Every year I have a dream list of cities I want to visit that I've never performed in. There's always four or five of those. I like leaving the country too, so I pick one trip out of the country a year and try to make that happen."

"I do the Bahamas every year," he adds. "Then last year I went to the Middle East as part of an armed-forces tour. It was five countries in two weeks, which was pretty intense. I did Japan on a different military tour. I did a festival for Stand-Up Records in Mexico earlier this year. I loved that."

Based in New York, Hooper is usually in the city only a few days at a time. "I line up four or five days of spots during the week here, then go back on the road for the weekends," he explains. "In August, though, I was here for three weeks straight. I don't think that's ever happened before. I've never been off the road for three weeks like that."

It makes him wonder if he'll ever be able to settle down in one place. "I have this itch; I have to leave places. Maybe after 12 years of doing this I've psychologically damaged myself. I don't know if I'd be able to sit still in one town for the rest of my life."

Even during a recent family vacation he was anxious to leave. "I just couldn't relax," he says. "My family wasn't doing anything to stress me out, but I was just looking at the ocean, and where I should have just been daydreaming I couldn't. I raced back to the airport in Charlotte to catch my flight back to New York. When I got into the security line, I was finally able to relax."

IF YOU GO:

Paul Hooper

The Joke Joint

801 Sibley Memorial Hwy., Lilydale

$10-$15

8 p.m. Thursday and Friday; 10:30 p.m. Friday; 7:30 and 9:45 p.m. Saturday

For tickets, call 651-330-9078 or visit Jokejointcomedyclub.com