By JESSE BERTEL
Across the Street
Multi-faceted standup comic, impressionist and actor Craig Gass began doing standup in 1993 by hitting the grueling, bumpy comedy circuit road and cultivating his craft in whatever bar or club would have him. A few years later, shock radio kingpin, Howard Stern, took Craig under his massive, media wing. The Mt. Vernon, New York, son of deaf parents made frequent appearances on Stern, blowing listeners’ minds with his uncanny impressions of notorious celebrities like Sam Kinison, Gene Simmons and Gilbert Gottfried.
Gass spoke with Across the Street staff ahead of his upcoming performance at 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 15, at the Elks Performing Arts Center, 117 E. Gurley St., Prescott. The following interview was edited for length and clarity.
How did you start doing comedy?
I think I was 20 years old when I went to an open mic at Laffs omedy club with a whole bunch of friends. I’ve been told most of my high school years that I was funny and friends would say, “You should do stand-up man you should be a comedian,” and I thought, “I’ll just have fun and I’ll get a bunch of friends together and we’ll go to an open mic.” I wasn’t old enough to get in the club and I signed up to do the open mic and that was one of the worst experiences of my entire life.
I didn’t know you were supposed to prepare material. When you watch stand-up comedy, it looks like people are just kind of talking, kind of effortless, like off the top of their head. I was like, “I can do that,” and I went up on stage. I had no idea how bright the lights were. I had no idea how loud the microphone was and I had never felt the quiet but intense pressure of people staring at you, waiting for you to do something and the combined effect of that paralyzed me.
How is being a funny person different from being funny on stage?
Well, it’s all relative, but I think there’s a trick that you have to learn being on stage, like, “how do I get a roomful of strangers to like me and understand my sense of humor?” Usually, a sense of humor that you develop with your friends can be very insular and can sometimes exist in a vacuum where just you and your friends have your own special brand of humor that just makes you guys laugh. There are just certain keywords that tickle you and your group of friends. But trying to figure out how to get a room full of strangers to understand that can be trickier. For me, it’s weird how it took me over 20 years before I just started talking about myself and talking about growing up in a deaf family in Ariz. and how unique that is and feeling comfortable enough to talk about what those experiences are like growing up in a deaf family. I know that that’s what separates me from most other people, is the unique way that I grew up.
What can people expect when they see you perform at the Elks?
I would say that as long as you’re not easily offended, you’ll have a great time. Can you please mention that I’m a good person and that I love my mom? But I do like dirty jokes. I really like dirty jokes, but I’m a good person and I take care of my mom and I think if you understand that, as long as you’re not easily offended, I think you’ll have a great time, because there will be some material that on paper might not look great.
For more information and to purchase tickets, visit www.prescottelkstheatre.org, or call 928-756-2844.
To find out more about Craig Gass, visit getgass.com.
Jesse Bertel is a reporter/videographer for the Prescott News Network. Follow him on Twitter @ JesseBertel, email him at email@example.com, or call 928-445-3333, ext. 2043.