Wiseguy Levy cashing in on comedy

Nov 26 2010 - 1:40am

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Cash Levy
Cash Levy

Cash Levy is headed back to where the magic started happening.

The Ogden Wiseguys comedy club was the first headlining gig for Levy several years ago. He also believes that Junction City has the most intriguing comedy fans.

"That Ogden club has always been one of my favorites in the entire country," Levy said in a phone interview in advance of next weekend's shows in Ogden.

"Both of my comedy CDs were taped in Ogden. The reason that they are taped there was because those crowds will go with you to very surreal, strange places. They are a very imaginative group."

Comedy, for Levy, came from a unique hobby -- he loved to sneak into events as a teenager.

"I snuck into a comedy show, and it turned out it was Jerry Seinfeld headlining," he said. "I was 16 years old, and it kind of inspired me to do comedy."

It took Levy eight years to work his way onto a San Francisco stage. He understood that in order to become a professional humorist, he needed patience. He had to hit the open-mic nights at the comedy clubs, perform at coffee houses -- anywhere to find the stage time.

"I just made an agreement with myself that I would do maybe a hundred shows without being too hard on myself -- try to do four or five shows a week and see what happens," Levy said. "At the end of that period of time, I was good enough to get paid."

It's easy to make your friends laugh, Levy said, but it takes skill to get strangers to giggle. The extra stage time taught him that secret.

Improv

Levy was a frustrated theater major in college, which was one of the major reasons he went into comedy. He was not comfortable performing what someone else wrote, and stand-up comedy gave him the freedom of having no borders.

"I like the amount of control you have as a performer doing stand-up," Levy said. "You get to write it, direct it, act it, perform it, and I like that aspect."

Levy learned his stage skills in theater, and it's how he modeled his act.

"My show is extremely improvisational -- more than most," Levy said. "I go up with a loose idea of what I am going to do. Then I ask a lot of questions and kind of let the crowd steer me into different directions."

Levy doesn't want to bash his audiences; that might be good for a quick -- albeit mean -- laugh. He wants to know about their lives.

"My style is more explorational," Levy said. "I sort of explore what someone's hobby is or where they were born and why did they move.

"I try to explore different aspects of their lives and discover what might be funny about it."

Hijackers

There's danger in bantering with an audience. Some audience members might want to hijack the show, and sometimes a conversation goes nowhere.

Patience, again, is the tool Levy uses.

"Hijackers" are audience members who blurt out funny answers, trying to get the audience to laugh. Levy steers clear of those people.

"You can't have two people trying to be funny. Someone has to be the straight man, and generally, it isn't going to be me," he said.

When Levy's questions yield humdrum answers from an audience member, he moves on to another topic -- but he never forgets what they said.

"I like to feed off what has happened previously," Levy said. He can often reference dull responses later to get a successful laugh.

"Then we are all in it together. We all have this shared common experience, with me and the crowd," he said.

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