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  • Writer's pictureChris Butera

Here's How I Almost Chose Stand-Up Comedy Instead of Voiceover


Comedian Brian Posehn performing a set at a club.

I’ve always appreciated the arts. My two favorite forms of expression are music and comedy. Voiceover happens to be the funny little thing I do that combines both.


If you know me, you know I’ve played in heavy metal bands since I was a teenager. I have a few albums under my belt and lots of fond memories playing thrash metal in dive bars, basements and barbecues all over the Tri-state area. You’ll hear about that in another post down the road.


What you don’t know is although I chose the path of a voice actor, I came very close to becoming a stand-up comedian.


Here’s how that almost happened.


Getting Bit By the Comedy Bug


A microphone on a stool behind a curtain as a comedian approaches to perform.

Although I can’t remember the first time I came into contact with stand-up, I do remember always thinking it’d be cool to try. I loved watching George Carlin, Richard Pryor, Robin Williams and Gilbert Gottfried as well as many others. I always thought it was amazing how just one person could get onstage in front of thousands of people and make every one of them forget their troubles and laugh in unison.


I had been playing in bands for years, but I also needed to figure out my next moves for college. One of the bands I was in had just broken up and I had just started up another, but I decided to attend school pretty far away from the other members. With my music career on hold and a growing urge to get onstage, I decided I ought to give it the old “college try” (pun intended).


The college I was dorming at had an open mic night on Wednesdays where anyone could try anything. One of my roommates would perform music there weekly. I joined him one day and thought it was pretty cool. I saw a lot of people bomb hard and thought, ‘I can do that better.’


I started writing immediately.


I had a late class and you’d get to perform on a first come, first served basis, something I didn’t think would be a problem. Sure enough, one week I signed up and didn’t get on but enjoyed watching everyone else do their thing. The same thing happened the following week. Finally, on week three, I asked my roommate to sign me up when he got there. I got on and they called me, and I told my first bit:


“Halloween just ended and the stores are starting to put up their holiday decorations. Most people are thinking ‘Christmas is coming around the corner. Hanukkah’s almost here. Hey, look It’s Kwanzaa!” Well I’m 5’2”, so when I see a holiday display, I’m thinking, ‘Goddammit, here come the elf jokes!.’”


It killed.


The rest of my set revolved around Christmas at my expense, and it went over pretty well. One of my other roommates even heard people coming out of the library talking about it. I went back to my room with the biggest grin in the world accompanied by the biggest adrenaline rush I’ve ever felt in my life.


I didn’t sleep a wink and couldn’t wait to get back onstage.


Fast Times at The Creek & The Cave


A young African American stand up comedian performing a set onstage.

I did stand up a few more times that semester until I eventually left that school a few months later. When I came home, the band I was in started back up and my music journey continued. Fast forward a few years and a few albums later, my run in the music business was winding down and I started my obsession with voiceover.


Once music officially ended for the time being (never say never), I wasn’t sure if I wanted to do voiceover or stand-up comedy, so I tried both. I found some open mics and started doing stand-up in New York City while I started to figure out what exactly this voiceover thing was.


My workout clubs were in Queens. Most Tuesdays you’d find me at The Creek & The Cave trying out new material during their rapid-fire open mics, where aspiring comics gave it their all in just two minutes.


The Creek & The Cave, which unfortunately closed in 2020 when the world shut down (thanks, COVID), was a neat place with a few rooms for stand-up, a warm-up/open mic room downstairs and a main room for its regular shows and events upstairs. The place also had good drinks, a rotating collection of pinball machines and great tacos, the perfect meal for a budding comic.


The cool thing was it was an open mic/training ground for other comics, which meant the bar was high as everyone in the room knew where you were going with your bits before you got halfway through. That said, if you had a great joke you knew right away. It was a great way to get a tight two minutes, and enough of those could get you a clean five to try out at other places. Best of all, my then-girlfriend (now wife) would meet me there after work for tacos and catch my set most weeks.


The Big Decision


A voiceover microphone set up in a recording studio.

While I was doing stand-up and getting my clueless feet wet in voiceover, I ended up suffering from a really bad bout with depression due to a combination of a very toxic work environment and friction at home. I fell off for a while and had trouble doing anything.


After about three to six months I got back into stand-up and voiceover. I was less depressed but still not in a great place. Once I got out of my funk, I realized I had to choose one or the other, as splitting time between the two meant I’d accomplish neither.


I knew I didn’t enjoy the idea of the grinding lifestyle that stand-up comedians endure because I wasn’t crazy about it in the music world either. Going to multiple clubs a night every night to test my material just didn’t appeal to me. I always preferred recording things, and I even had bits in my act about voice acting, so the choice was a bittersweet but easy one.


Gratitude


A scenic view of a beautiful mountain valley.

Although I don’t regularly do stand-up comedy anymore, I still get the itch every couple of years. When it happens, I find an open mic and fill the void. I still write bits to this day to be ready for when the time strikes.


During the pandemic, I did a bunch of virtual stand-ups, which saved my mental health. Like most of the world, I was unemployed and miserable. This happened while I was taking acting lessons and additional voiceover training, so I wasn’t ready to do what I do just yet.


These weekly virtual stand-up events gave me a sense of purpose, structure and something to look forward to during dark times.


Stand-up has also helped me a lot in the voiceover and corporate world. It boosts my improvisational skills for animation projects as well as my presentation skills for my nine-to-five. The snappy writing mechanics also stave off writer’s block while keeping my storytelling skills sharp.


Stand-up comedy also helps me develop bonds with people. When I first meet someone, I try to make them laugh to break the ice and get a sense of their personality (plus, it makes them feel good). Nothing’s more fulfilling than making someone laugh, and nothing’s warmer than a room full of laughter.


Although I ultimately decided to pursue voiceover, I’ve always wondered what that alternate path might have looked like. I’m sure it would have been lots of fun and a wild ride, but I don’t think it’s something I would have stuck with over the long term. At best I’d have a Netflix special or two.


Having said that, I’ll always love and respect the art, and I’ll always appreciate what stand-up comedy has done for me.


Need a friendly, conversational voice with a quick wit and a charming sense of humor for your next project? Fill out my project contact form or send an email my way!

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