"I've never been to Minnesota before," says comedian Sean Donnelly. He has, however, performed all over North America. "This past year, I did some pretty crazy places. I was in Reno and I was in Anchorage, Alaska, for the first time in my life. I did comedy there, and I performed in Newfoundland. I've been all over the map."
It was his management company that booked the gig in Alaska. "I didn't turn it down because I'd never been to Alaska. Why else would I have a reason to go there?" After two flights and 10 hours in the air, he was in the 49th state.
[jump] "I liked it because it was only 20 degrees there," he laughs. "I say 'only,' because it was the middle of February. It felt like that old TV show Northern Exposure. I didn't see any moose, but I did see a lot of moose art." He also saw a few things he never had before. "I saw a furrier. On the mannequin they had a fur thong. I guess that would be helpful if you lived up there and were out in the snow all day."
The other end of the continent was just as enjoyable. "Newfoundland was a lot of fun. We were up there for a while." Some of his material, though, didn't work like he thought it would. "I do a lot of jokes about my appearance," says the husky, bearded Donnelly. "I'll do that at the beginning of my set. But in Newfoundland, everyone looks like me. It was like I was their cousin. I didn't look weird or different at all. They were really cool and really friendly."
One thing that stood out to him was the Newfoundland accent, which is different from the garden-variety Canadian accent. Indeed, it's even distinct from the rest of Atlantic Canada. "'Newfies,' they call themselves. I guess they have a large Irish population because their accent sounds Irish. They also have that weird time zone I couldn't get use to." Newfoundland has its own time zone that is 30 minutes ahead of the rest of the Maritime provinces, which are on Atlantic time. "Even people in the rest of Canada think it's out there. I told them, 'I'm going to Newfoundland,' and they'd say, 'I've never been there.' It's like the boonies of Canada."
But for a kid from Long Island, it's an exotic destination. "I grew up in Nassau County, about 25 minutes from Manhattan," he says. "I think when most people think of Long Island, they think of the Hamptons and everyone living in a house by the beach. Where I grew up, it was very urbanized, like 20 houses on a block."
His first comedy audience was his family. "At the dinner table I'd kill with my family. I would destroy," he says. "My dad is really funny, and I get my sense of humor from him. I would tell funny stories at dinner, and that was the first inkling of a performance-based future. That's how I got the bug for it."
Even though he knew he wanted to do comedy, it took a while to work up the guts to actually try it. "There was nothing else I really wanted to do, but I would bounce around these random jobs, which were fine to work at but they weren't really careers. A lot of them were office jobs. I worked construction, I worked in a print shop. Once I started doing standup, I put all my energy into that and really got into it right from the beginning."
These days, he draws on his own life for comedic inspiration. "I talk about being married, I talk about myself -- I have a lot," he says. "There's a lot of self-deprecating, goofy stuff. A lot about being from New York. I try to have as much fun as possible, and hopefully everyone else does."
IF YOU GO:
Rick Bronson's House of Comedy
408 E. Broadway, Mall of America, Bloomington
For tickets call 952-858-8558 or visit houseofcomedy.net
18+; 21+ later shows
7:30 and 9:45 p.m. Wednesday through Friday; 9:30 p.m. Saturday; 7 p.m. Saturday and Sunday