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Standup April Richardson on Pep Talks with Billy Bragg, Meeting R.E.M.'s Mike Mills as a Teen

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It was her love of music that ultimately led April Richardson to try standup for the first time, as she was personally urged to do so by British singer-songwriter Billy Bragg. The two are close friends.

Richardson was a fan of both comedy and music for as long as she can remember. She doesn't know if one came before the other. "I got my first Smiths tape when I was 12, and that pretty much opened the floodgates," she says. "But around the same time I saw Bob Odenkirk on TV, so they were probably side by side."

Growing up in Atlanta, she naturally became a fan of R.E.M. "That was pretty easy to come by considering I grew up in there. They were kind of like the hometown pride."

For her 15th birthday, she asked her mom to drive her to Athens, Georgia, home of R.E.M., so she could take in some band-related landmarks. While eating at the town diner, the owner told her where to find the house of R.E.M. bassist Mike Mills. So she went there. Mills was very gracious, and even took a picture with the young fan right there on his porch. She recently posted it to Instagram at the behest of Pat Francis, the host of the Rock Solid podcast on which she is a rotating co-host.

"Mike Mills commented on it," she laughs. "I was like, 'Sorry man.' He wrote, 'No, that's cool.'"

Her mom was okay with her daughter obsessing over music. "I didn't do anything bad, I wasn't doing drugs, and I guess she figured if that's what I was going to obsess about, it could be worse." Her other passion, comedy, manifested itself differently.

"When I was growing up I was obsessed with Saturday Night Live," she recalls. "I grew up in the era of Phil Hartman, Jan Hooks, David Spade, Chris Farley -- those crews. Then saw I saw Bob Odenkirk, and he is my number one. He's the funniest person that ever lived."

As far as pursuing one of her two passions, the choice was easy. She wasn't going to be a musician. "As obsessed as I am with it, I can't sing. I'm a terrible singer. I can play piano and read music, but I'm not good at it. Comedy was the one thing that I knew I could do. I could always make people laugh."

Upon college graduation, Richardson left for Los Angeles. A series of personal setbacks, including a divorce, left her in a dark place. "It was the lowest point in my life. I laid in bed and cried for six months." Then, an English singer-songwriter whom she had met while working at her college radio station came by to visit her.

"Why aren't you doing comedy? That was what you moved out here for," said Billy Bragg. "I remember you telling me."

"He gave me this dad-like, Tony Robbins pep talk," she says. "'Do comedy, or I'll be totally disappointed in you.' Total dad style. The very next night I did my first open mic."

Richardson went on to not only be a standup comedian, but a writer and panelist on Chelsea Lately. She will feature for Chris Hardwick this Friday as the Nerdist Industries CEO brings his Funcomfortbale tour to the Twin Cities.

IF YOU GO:

Chris Hardwick Featuring April Richardson 8 and 10:30 p.m. Friday, April 10 Pantages Theater 710 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis Tickets are $35.