David Huntsberger is one-third of the successful comedy podcast "Professor Blastoff." Along with Tig Notaro and Kyle Dunnigan, they explore different topics loosely centered around science. They usually have a guest who usually is an expert at something. The triumvirate is equal parts inquisitive, instinctive and incorrigible. Class clown meets class pet.
I discovered them through an appearance by Ira Glass of NPR's "This American Life" fame.
While Notaro and Dunnigan have seen their share of publicity, Huntsberger flies below the radar. He has been working comedy clubs for years. Throughout that time, he has been able to make comedy his full time gig, while seemingly working on five projects at any given time.
Huntsberger will be performing Thursday at Sugar Maple. The show starts at 9 p.m. with a couple openers before Huntsberger takes the stage.
OnMilwaukee.com: How did you get started in comedy?
David Huntsberger: I went to an open mic. Once you do that, you're pretty much in comedy. Nobody really tells you that, but once you've done one, they're like, "Hey, come back next week!" And you keep doing that for the longevity of it.
OMC: Were you comfortable on stage right off the bat or did it take some time to get used to that feeling of performing?
DH: It went fine from the beginning. The hardest part for me was getting up there. That took forever. I was nervous to talk in front of people, so I just memorized it and thought I would just recite it. Once I got on stage, it was the opposite of what I thought. It was comforting. The lights put a shield between you and the audience. And for the most part, every face you see is at least intrigued by what you have to say. They may not all be smiling, but they're not like you picture in your head, frowny and judgey.
OMC: But you got laughs right away?
DH: I got a few laughs trudging through my rehearsed material. I had to pause. I didn't account for that, I was prepared to motor right through it.
OMC: Does your stage persona differ greatly from your everyday persona?
DH: My character on stage is pretty much me. I never change my cadence much. I always talk in the same tone or style. It's just a matter of learning to be more comfortable with silences or learning how to craft jokes in a certain way that would be more like I'd be chatting. Always off stage people are like, "You're kind of quiet, I can't imagine you being a comedian." I feel like in that respect it is kind of a character on stage. Rarely off stage am I trying to be all that funny. It's weird to suddenly drum it up and go on stage.
OMC: Does that get more comfortable with time?
DH: With stand up, they say it takes forever to get back to being the person you set out to be. You start and you meander down this path and a few years in you stop and think, "Yeah, I'm getting laughs, but I don't feel like me. I feel like someone doing jokes. Mic presence, being comfortable on stage ... those are the biggest points on the learning curve.
OMC: When approaching this new medium of podcasting, did you feel comfortable immediately?
DH: The first ones are a little rough. It was about eight or nine in when we hit our groove.
OMC: The show definitely has an improvisatory feel.
DH: Most of the things we have tried have come about organically. Other than Name That Punky, everything has come about pretty naturally. Usually from us making fun of each other and it turning into a thing."
OMC: How did you meet Tig and Kyle?
DH: Tig and I met at Last Comic Standing. We became buddies from that. When I would come to L.A. I'd look her up and if she was coming to a city I was in, she would do the same. I knew her and Kyle were close. I actually worked at Kyle at a comedy club and told him I was friends with Tig. He has such a terrible memory, I ran into him a few months later and he was like, "Hey, I'm Kyle." He and I had that kind of existence for a while where I was constantly reintroducing myself. Then eventually we started to hang out and be more personable.
OMC: For a comedian that isn't making sitcoms everyday, how do you fill the time? Just writing jokes and eating bon-bons all day?
DH: It's a hodgepodge, I guess. These days, it seems everyone has to have their hand in five or six different pots. I have interest in animation so I'm constantly hatching ideas and developing concepts for shows and pitching them. That takes up a lot of my time.
OMC: Does that ever get stressful?
DH: I've never had a set schedule. I'd always line up little work here and there and keep plugging along. There's always an unknown factor of, "What if it dries up?" But, something always falls in front of it. You get used to that unknowing, but for most people, knowing where their paycheck is coming from day after day is a lot less stressful. The freedom that it allows you outweigh the freedoms that a regular job allow.
OMC: Not many comedians wend their way through Bay View. How did that come about?
DH: I did the Comedy Café years ago, and these British people kept in touch and wondered when I'd be back. So, I set up a show.
OMC: The Sugar Maple isn't known for its comedy. Do you prefer smaller venues?
DH: The way I've been touring the last couple years has been more grass roots, going to places like Sugar Maple that are not traditionally comedy outlets.
OMC: Is that more challenging?
DH: If you get booked for a comedy club, you book a date, get a plane ticket and fly there. There's very little work involved. Whereas something like this, I'm also doing shows around this. Which involves contacting people, lining up other support acts, transportation, promoting it ... so that ends up being quite a lot of work.
OMC: What are your goals in comedy? Are you looking for a TV or movie career?
DH: When you start out in comedy, everyone thinks fame is the pinnacle. For me, that has been the anti-goal the entire time. Essentially, I'd like to stay right where I'm at as far as notoriety and be more behind the scenes. So, if I have an animated show or web-series with a decent following, that would be great. Bring my friends in to do voices and be collaborative in a creative way.
Eron Laber is the owner of Through Line Studios. He specializes in artistic, personal wedding and portrait photography that reflects the character of his subjects.