Most comedians spend their lives chasing things: fame, a sitcom deal, a movie deal, actresses, validation. That's not true of Pittsburgh resident comedy hippie, Mike Wysocki.
Wysocki, 40, is just going with the flow and enjoying the ride even if it all starts on the 51C bus on Brownsville Road in Brentwood.
"I don't want to be rich and famous," he says. He's more excited by a found $20 bill in his pants pocket, his joke notebook and a fresh cigarette.
He recently appeared on "The Arsenio Hall Show" for winning the Jack Rollins Breakthrough Talent Competition at the Cabo Comedy Festival. He also was the winner of the Comedy Central Up Next Talent Search at the Pittsburgh Improv, which won him a trip to Boston to compete at the Wilbur Theatre on Oct. 21. Unfortunately, he didn't advance to the nationals of the Up Next competition, but this is just another stop on his comedy voyage.
He appears once a week on the popular "WDVE's Morning Show," a regular on "No Restrictions" podcast with former WDVE morning-show host Jimmy Krenn. Not bad for a guy with a bus pass.
Wysocki is busy "busing" it all over the Bridge City, performing up to three times a week at open mics and paid appearances. He loves the "total lack of responsibility" that comes with riding the bus.
"It allows me to write jokes on the way to shows," he says. "And it's cheap; you can get anywhere in this city for the price of two- thirds of a gallon of gas. I could live without the vomit, though."
The older brother to three sisters, Wysocki "bounced all over" as a child because his dad worked for the railroad and was transferred often. He lived in places like Harrisburg, Maryland and Delaware; but he calls Pittsburgh his "adoptive" home.
His family has been supportive of his career choice all along and, after all these years, his grandparents were finally able to catch his act on Arsenio Hall's new show. "My grandfather had to take two naps to see it. Then he went right to bed."
Wysocki has a Mitch Hedberg flavor to him in that he seems to be content wherever this comedy trip may take him, but, the way things are going, he may have to trade his bus pass for a frequent-flier card.
Question: What are your long-term goals?
Answer: I don't want to be rich and famous. I still want to be the observer. I would just like health insurance, car insurance, any kind of insurance. If I luck into a job writing for a TV show, that would be good. I would still do standup comedy, though.
Q: Did you choose standup or did standup choose you?
A: I can trace it down to the exact moment. I was watching Johnny Carson. I said to my mom, "Does he get paid to do this?" I knew then I just wanted to get paid to tell jokes. And in junior high, I hand- wrote my own newsletter, The Rumor Mill, where I made up ridiculous stories about kids, teachers, the janitor, anyone that was famous. I always got a thrill from that, and I was never suspended.
Q: Were you a good student?
A: I was. I was a solid B+ student. I was the class clown, though. I come from a long line of class clowns.
Q: Do you have favorite comedian?
A: Carlin, it has to be (George) Carlin. He had the power of the language; all its nuances and foibles -- "You know what I like about the NCAA Tournament? 63 losers." I saw him at Heinz Hall and he was going through his notes for his special, trying new jokes. Heinz Hall was his open mic.
Q: What did you do to support yourself in the beginning?
A: I was a short-order cook all over the city. I would cook all day and then do open mics at night.
Q: Do you have a specialty dish that you cook?
A: I still make decent pasta sauces. My girlfriend likes those. She's a great cook, so we split the cooking.
Q: Tell me about your creative process. How do you create your jokes?
A: I'm a streaky writer. I write a few days in a row and then nothing. I should be more disciplined.
Q: Is there a time when you knew you could make it in this business?
A: I knew it was going to take a long time. I just keep showing up. It's like what Woody Allen says, "90 percent of success is just showing up." I knew it would take me longer because I just have jokes. That's all I have; I just have jokes.
Comedian Matt Wohlfarth is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.
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