Picture a young man of 18, ready to try his hand at stand-up comedy. He is confident, ready to take on the stage. He knows he will do great, it is inevitable for him. He plans to have one great show, then an even better show, and his third show will be on the Tonight Show (or other late night equivalent). He is psyched!
This was a young Alex Wood, a current darling of the Ottawa comedy scene, and without a doubt one of the future superstars of comedy. Fast forward six years, and Wood has learned a lot. He has learned that there will be good and bad comedy shows, and that the road ahead will be paved with hard work, rejection, and lots of partying. At age 23 Wood demonstrates confidence on stage, with comedy that appeals to all generations. His comedy is clean, but with an edge. His laugh is loud, and when he laughs and smiles on stage, the audience wants him to succeed, and most often he does.
Wood always knew he was going to do comedy. There was no reason for it, he just sort of knew. He had three careers to choose from: NHL, Professional Wrestling, or Comedian and lucky for comedy the first two did not pan out. Wood has taken to the stage, and slowly developed himself as one of the most charming young comedians today. In 2008 he participated in the prestigious Just for Laughs Homegrown Comedy Competition, and in November, Wood was signed on by Funny Business, the agency that delivers the talent for Yuk Yuk’s Comedy Clubs, as well as corporate and fundraising events. This is a big thing in the comedy world; they don’t just sign anyone.
When Wood is on stage, he looks like he is having the time of his life. He looks like he is merely having a fun conversation with many people. When asked how he feels on stage, Wood states that he is not taking the time to enjoy being on stage. He is like a robot at times, and goes on auto pilot. He is thinking while talking about what to say next, how to use things in the audience as humour. He is processing many factors while on stage, making decisions as he goes as to the best next steps. He is a technician, who leaves the stage analyzing his performance. No matter how good or how bad he feels he did, he tries to remain neutral, and not go to extremes in emotion.
At this time in the interview Wood is interrupted by his mom. I cannot hear what they are talking about, but I think she offers to make him a sandwich. This is charming, and serves as a reminder that comics have to work hard while making minimal money on their way to the top. Some work 2-3 jobs, some live with their parents, but this does not mean they are not successes, it merely means they have chosen a career that requires significant sacrifice to make it to the end.
A little embarrassed, Wood asks if this can somehow look cool in the article. Assured he will not come out as a mama’s boy, we continue. Wood likes the opportunity to develop a small relationship with the audience. He loves, absolutely loves when an audience member falls into a trap, and yells something out to which he already has an answer to. He has a joke about the “C” word, where he states out saying “women don’t like the “C” word” (he says ‘C word’, not the actual C word). At times a woman will yell out “that’s not true I love the C word” to which he counters “CLASSY women don’t like the “C” word). What looks like a spontaneous moment to the audience, is a pre-thought out response to situations like this, allowing a stronger performance and that much more fun for the audience.
Wood shares an experience he had while on the road. He was performing for 500 male mushroom farmers, and not the good kind either. The show was in a barn, part of a small city fair. Right before he was brought out, the promoter said to Wood, “don’t worry, we talked to everybody about throwing things at comedians like last year”. A young man in front of 500 drunk mushroom farmers gets scared when given this information right before he is to go out. The promoter then goes out to announce him, and reminds the farmers that they are not to drink and drive. There are 40 beer cans piled up high in front of each farmer with pick up trucks lining the parking lot, and the mushroom farmers begin to HECKLE the announcer over drunk driving. Wood is scared, but gets out there and not only made it out alive, he makes them laugh.
|Alex Wood, Julien Dionne, Trevor Thompson|
Wood’s favourite comedians are Jerry Seinfeld, Dave Chappell, Mitch Hedburg, Norm MacDonald and Mike Wilmot. Wood goes on to discuss his favourite Ottawa comedians. He enjoys Matt Carter, Nick Carter, Trevor Thompson, Greg Schroeder, Peter Gunstra, Dave Atkinson, Don Kelly, Geoff Mackay, Wafik Nasralla, Mike Beatty, Julien Dionne, and he adds diplomatically but unnecessarily, Jenn Hayward. He is worried he has left someone out. Asked why so many favourites, he tells me that what he loves most about comedy is the camaraderie with the other comedians. He loves it when they go after a show, grab a beer or late breakfast, make fun of each other, and just having bonding fun. He is often taken with the fact that so many strangers from various backgrounds can come together and bond over the love of comedy. It is an unspoken brotherhood, then sheepishy adds that he enjoys the females as well, citing Melissa Morse, and yet again, Jenn Hayward. It is clear that Wood loves not only being on stage, but the comedy life itself, and nothing is more charming that someone enjoying his job, giving kudos to those he respects around him. Or he is a big suck up, but let’s go with the first thing.
Overall Wood will go far in his comedy, of this JH5 is certain. Wood himself is insecure, and discusses with his comedy friends the need to get out there and promote himself. He knows that promotion is a big part of comedy, and that people can be perceived at a status above where they actually are. He is frightened by the idea of a website; he has an inner critic, and imaginary voice saying that he doesn’t deserve this, just be quiet, do your work and don't draw attention to yourself. He knows deep down people will be supportive, but has his fears, and will need to conquer them to take the next steps in moving forward. At age 23, he has done much already and will be able to take the next step in self-promotion when he gains more confidence.
After discussing self-promotion,, Wood becomes agitated and feels he has lost something valuable to him. He puts the phone on hold, then comes back and says “it’s okay, I found it”. He assures me that it is okay to say what he lost, but I will leave it to your imagination. If you know comedy, you know there is only one thing that would put a comic in a panic like that if lost, and rest assured, Wood found his.
Wood will continue to do comedy for the rest of his life. He uses a poker term as being ‘pot committed’; he has put too much time in to give up. JH5 fully supports Wood and is proud to showcase him as WHO TO WATCH.