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This Ain’t No Joke: Kevin Bozeman

POSTED ON MAY 6, 2012

“Stand-up comedy is one big hustle,” says Kevin Bozeman, who has been working his way up in the stand-up comedy circuit since the late 90’s.

Developing a name for himself in a time before social media and YouTube, his career as a professional comedian has been a nearly constant grind filled with hours of lonely car rides from club to club and endless hours of networking and self-promotion.

And that’s not even mentioning the time he puts into writing, re-writing and testing out his material.

But with credits that include appearances on Comedy Central and CBS’ newest Star Search, Bozeman can tell you that the hustle is worth the effort

CHICAGO UPBRINGING

Born in and still a resident of Chicago, Bozeman, 41, grew up the youngest of 10 in a lower middle class family. His father worked as a butcher while his mother worked as a third-shift restaurant manager in a seedy part of the city.

Pursuing higher education at the University of Wisconsin-White Water, Bozeman became disillusioned by his college experience.

What Bozeman considers his real education began during the nights when he and his friend would watch Def Comedy Jam. Inspired by the episodes as well as the works of comedic greats including Eddie Murphy, Richard Pryor and Steve Martin, Bozeman thought that he too could make a room full of people laugh.

He soon decided, on a whim, to give stand-up a try.

THAT FIRST NIGHT

Performing for his first time during an open mic at the Comedy Club on State (formerly Funny Business), Bozeman recalls the experience with a vivid clarity. Nervously taking to the stage following some horrible openers and only armed with a few “poop and dick jokes”, Bozeman managed to survive and actually received a few laughs.

He also had a newfound sense of enlightenment.

“I’ve never bungee jumped, but I can imagine the exhilaration of it is similar to what I felt during that first show,” says Bozeman. “It was such an adrenaline rush for me.”

After hitting the stage a few more times, Bozeman took a short hiatus from comedy, feeling as if he’d achieved his initial goal of simply performing. Yet even after a few years of pursuing other hobbies and work, the itch to get back on stage remained, eventually becoming too great to ignore. He then dove back into the game headfirst, pursuing stand-up comedy as a full time career.

Hitting up open mics weekly to gain experience, it was a year before Bozeman felt comfortable enough to let anyone know about his comedic pursuits. But it was during that year of occasional flops and re-writing material that Bozeman found his footing.

“The biggest education for comedy is actually going up on stage,” says Bozeman. “That will teach you more about it then anything else. You learn how to perfect your rhythms and delivery, and become comfortable at just being yourself.”

AFTER A DECADE

Over a decade later, Bozeman’s act is one of seasoned confidence, having fostered a laid back delivery to his sharp observations about life and its almost constant contradictions.

With the help of social media like Twitter and Facebook, he’s also found it easier to reach out to fans and clubs around the country as well as sharing videos through his website. He now also writes a sports blog for fun in his spare time.

These days, Bozeman travels about 40 weeks a year doing shows across the country, including hitting Madison at least twice a year—once at Thanksgiving and once in the summer.

Yet even in the age of the Internet, certain difficulties remain. There are still the lonely car rides. There’s still the stress of constantly securing new gigs to make a living in a downturned economy.

But it’s all a part of the grind, the uneven terrain that is the comedic hustle. And while challenging at times, Bozeman says there’s freedom to be found in a life built on laughs.

“I don’t have to get up at 7 in the morning and drive to an office where I need to look at the same people and hear the same problems and be stuck in a cubicle,” he boasts. “Every day [as a stand-up comedian] I’m able to create, as opposed to being a drone. I’m my own boss and I get to express myself creatively to a room full of different people every week. I wouldn’t trade that freedom for any other job in the world.”

The MAD

5/6/12