On April 29, Urban Lounge held another awesome indie comedy show hosted by Jason Harvey. It's a cool way for people to check out what's happening in the local comedy scene, and totally free to attend; give it a try sometime. The April show featured Tanner Nicholson, Abi Harrison, Trevor Kelley and Jackson Banks. Today we chat with Kelley about his style and time in the local comedy scene, along with a few other topics. (All pictures provided courtesy of Kelley's Facebook page.
Trevor Kelley on Twitter
Gavin: First thing, tell us a bit about yourself.
I'm 32 years old, born and raised in good ol' Utah, grew up in Springville. I was born with a condition called Arthrogryposis Multiplex Congenita, which is a muscular condition that makes it so I have hands that look "backwards" and can't walk. It hasn't stopped me from much, aside from dancing, and is definitely a huge well from which I draw a lot of humor. People never know what to do with me, and I honestly really enjoy it sometimes.
When you were growing up, what comedians interested you the most??
In my house, we watched a lot of Monty Python, SNL
and tons of movies. Though Bill Cosby may be an unsavory character these days, back then his old comedy records my dad had were a huge influence on my storytelling. There used to be a standup showcase on one of the major TV channels which my family watched religiously. One of my earliest memories was watching Disney's Aladdin
, and Robert Williams' performance as the Genie made me realize I wanted to be funny just like that. As I grew older and saw other movies such as the Austin Powers
, Dumb and Dumber
and such—it only further cemented it in my mind.
How did the idea come about for you to start doing standup comedy locally?
Throughout much of college, I did a ton of sketch comedy with various groups, dabbling in improv and such things, but never tried standup. After getting into the normal, everyday work environment doing IT, I gradually grew less and less satisfied with life, and truly missed performing. My wife, Andrea, actually suggested I try doing the standup open mic at Wiseguys, which I did off-and-on for a few years, and I met some great people there.
How was it for you breaking into the scene and performing at open mics?
Since I lived in Provo, traveling to Salt Lake City became sort of an issue, and I turned toward a local improv group. I did this the next five years in Provo, and moved to Salt Lake City in the hopes of starting our own group up here. Eventually, we started performing regularly at 50 West, whose initial owner, Johnathan, took me aside and insisted I start doing standup for a competition he was holding. I buckled down and wrote a new 10-15 minute set every week for a month straight. It was a very into-the-fire experience, but my improv background made it much easier to handle if I ever got lost in a set. It was an amazing experience, and I got to meet a lot of the people I know in the scene.
What were some of the lessons you learned about performing early on?
When I first started doing standup, memorizing my set was a huge obstacle. If anything went slightly wrong, I'd start floundering, and I had some pretty big bombs. After doing improv for five years, I was able to really calm down and take my time with my material, and if anything unexpected came up, I could just roll with it. I also learned how to really take apart a joke and analyze it by asking myself why I thought something was funny. Context is everything in standup. When you take apart a joke piece by piece, it really allows you to figure out how to give the audience the context they need for your joke to land.
How do you go about writing up material and seeing what works best for you?
Typically, I think of an idea like "wouldn't it be funny if I got in trouble and faked being less mentally capable than I am to get out of it?" And I write down a couple words or a phrase that will remind me of the scenario. Then I'll try it at open mics or even just in group situations and take note of what makes people laugh and further analyze it and break down as far as why. A lot of my material is storytelling about experiences I've had with my disability, and the way I imagine things or people interacting in certain situations, and I always ask myself what makes that situation funny. People genuinely want to know what my life experience is like, and if I can bring that to them and give things a little snarky commentary and show them our lives really aren't so different, they always respond very well.
How has it been for you getting to know other comedians and working in the local scene?
For the most part, people are extremely supportive here, and everyone wants to see everyone else succeed. There's always a few bad apples or big egos, but the Salt Lake scene largely is supportive. Big shout out in particular to Nicholas Smith and Jason Harvey—they always go out of their way to not only promote their own shows, but that of other local comedians, too.
What's been your take performing both the smaller indie shows and performing on bigger lineups?
The biggest show I ever did was opening for David Koechner of Anchorman
and The Office
fame. It was amazing. But I've done shows in front of groups of like five to ten people that were just as good. I do every show I get invited to, because every experience has something good to take from it. You can always learn from any experience, whether good or bad.
Where would you like to see yourself in a couple year's time with your standup career?
Well, as with every comedian, I'd like to see myself touring nationally or doing movies in Hollywood, haha. Realistically though, I'd like to be regularly opening for the bigger names that come through, and even headlining myself every so often.
Who are some of your favorites you like to check out around town?
Aaron Orlovitz and Nicholas Smith have a show called Dungeons and Comedy
which never ceases to be spectacular. I also really love Shayne Smith, Greg Kyte, Jay Whittaker and Guy Seidel & Marcus. Anything that goes down at Wiseguys is going to be good, and we have tons of great, local talent.
For people who wish to check you out, what shows do you have coming up in the next month or so?
I actually just finished doing three shows this week! I often perform at Comedy Sportz Provo, and have a few things coming up, but the dates are nebulous at the moment. I have a YouTube channel
where I've written and performed my own original content you can check out there, or just search for Shortbus Bordello. Follow me on Twitter
, and of course, you can find me on Facebook
. I always keep everyone informed as to when I'll be performing next.
What can we expect from you over the rest of the year?
I'm always doing shows and stuff, whether it be improv, standup or videos. I've recently filmed a comedy pilot where I play the maintenance guy at a hotel, keep your eyes open for that! I also have a few other film projects going so we'll see where those lead. Follow my social media and come along for the ride!