|Photo Credit||Erica Swiger|
What’s the deal with grinning, am I right?
Our guest this week would certainly have a thing or two to say about the topic, whether it’s the physical resemblance to Jerry Seinfeld people often note, or the way he takes the stage with possibly one of the most beaming, ear to ear, smiles I think I’ve ever seen this side of a spring wedding.
Both of those hit me immediately when I saw Lennon Free this year in the Funniest Person in Austin prelims. While the passing physical similarity to Seinfeld is an apt reference, his comedy style is uniquely his own. (He also hears he resembles Mitch Hedberg from time to time.) Some comics will set up with a somber or serene persona, waiting for the moment to pounce on the turnabout that will form the thread of the performance. Free, who advanced to the semi-finals, launches quickly into sharing his infectious amusement, exactly the tone you’d expect from his look of enjoyment as he takes the mic.
From the age of 4 in rural Pennsylvania, when Free memorized a joke book to amuse his family, there’s been an element of comedy in his life. He swears he penned a magnificent joke at age 10, but can’t quite seem to remember it; we’re eagerly awaiting its unveiling, like a lost Picasso, newly recovered. And even though it takes just a few moments with Free to catch his good-heartedly goofy nature, comedy wasn’t something he pursued in earnest right away.
It took a chance stand up comedy competition in college, as a side act to an improv troupe performance, to actually pull Free up on stage. With a stacked and heated line up of over 1 entrants (2, to be exact), he was amazed to walk away with the grand prize: the opportunity to do a full 45 minute set at a coffee shop. That meant some additional material was needed, and quickly; he rose to the occasion, even though he bemoans his sense that he’s a slow writer. “I bet you if I do comedy until the day I die, I’ll put out one album. It’ll take me that long to put together [that much comedy]..and I’m titling it Never Again: Volume 2. Just to mess with people. ”
“I bet you if I do comedy until the day I die, I’ll put out one album. It’ll take me that long to put together [that much comedy]..and I’m titling it Never Again: Volume 2. Just to mess with people.”
Luckily, writing is a key part of the experience for Free, whether scrutinizing over a concept to develop his rapid-fire premises, or experimenting with incorporating longer form stories. Despite his seemingly casual delivery, he has a discipline for making sure a concept is as sound as he can make it before he brings it on stage. In the rich open mic scene in Austin, it’s not uncommon for comics to hit several shows a night, refining their material in front of audiences of varying personas, receptiveness, and size. But everyone’s process is different, and for Free, he focuses on tweaking his performance and only bringing it out when he feels he’s got specific new concepts ready to share. “I like to plan a while before I jump,” he jokes with Valerie, and indeed readily lays out his tactics for furthering his future career.
Despite all the talk of discipline, that’s not to say he doesn’t goof around in his daily life, as even a quick review of his YouTube channel–including a heaping handful of “Let’s Play” type parodies–will show. If he’s not at a show, he’s probably parked behind a controller; he definitely didn’t drop a reference to his gaming stream on Twitch.tv in the interview, but if he had, we’d say to check it out. Possibly 3-4 nights a week, 7 to 10pm. If he’s not on stage somewhere. Allegedly.
Free has also guested (and often sidled into becoming a regular) on several podcasts, and run a show that included both comedians and musicians. Technically he has a recording of one of the shows, so we might argue that he actually already has his first album out, albeit with a very limited release.
It’s going to be a bit of a wait before the next one.
Catch Lennon Free at a stage in Austin near you, and do the internet thing and find him on the socials (Twitter, Facebook) or–and I think this is a first for us–his PSN (Lennon_Free) and Twitch streaming channels.