Get Uncomfortable With Me: Our Q & A with Comedian Bill Squire

Bill Squire: Hey, thanks for putting Adam Richard in your Cleveland People issue. He's a great young comedian.

Vince Grzegorek: We could have written about you or Mike Polk or someone with a name but that would have been boring. We wanted to highlight someone people might not know about. I saw him at the benefit show you did at Market Garden for your father-in-law.

The clubs here are slow sometimes and nervous about doing new, weird things. I want to get that out of their mind and get people like Adam shots. If they don't change, it just forces the best comedy minds out of the city.

If they don't get shots they go somewhere they can.

That's what it comes down to, going to a bigger city with more open-mindedness about comedy. If I took him to New York, he'd be an instant star. For some reason, the clubs here are a little conservative.

So, that benefit show: Maybe you're over it, but it has to be weird talking about having sex with your wife and jerking off in front of her parents.

With anybody else's parents, it might be uncomfortable, but they're pretty easy going. They don't really care. And I've gotten to the point where — I've told these jokes in front of my parents — I don't care. There's nothing I can do about it and it's not going to change my act because someone might be uncomfortable for a few minutes.

By the way, dynamite job featuring gifs of boobs and asses on your website to get people to click stuff. Real top-notch web work.

We used to be able to use that stuff on the Alan Cox website, then they told us we couldn't do that anymore, so I put them on my site. People: If you want to get clicks, throw some cleavage in there. Works every time.

What's your role on the Alan Cox show?

I would call myself... I don't know. I don't think of myself in any one way. We all have important roles.

I have to admit: I don't listen to the show, so I don't know.

Ha. That's fine. I make jokes a lot. That's what I'm there for, my comedic timing. But I also try to think of my job as keeping the topics moving forward. When I don't have something to say is almost as important as when I have something to say. That way Alan knows when a topic is cashed. I don't like to beat stuff into the ground, but it still happens from time to time. I'm the sidekick. I'm not in charge, but I can help out. I don't mind being Robin for a little bit.

As you were starting, how did you go about trying to make this a career and did you ever have a streak of bombing so badly that you contemplated giving up?

I never bombed... well, I did bomb one time at a casino in northern Minnesota. I was pretty down on myself after that. But then I thought, "If they like me here, then I'm probably not doing the right thing anyway." They're in their hunting gear at the casino, and those are their good clothes. I just reminded myself to not worry about what they thought. I was a class clown, but not the popular class clown growing up. I annoyed my teachers, but people didn't know my name. I'd look for my moments.

So open mic nights were the genesis of the career, I'm guessing?

I started hitting every one I could to start out. I played anywhere. I was driving across the country looking for stage time. I called any friend in any city where I could stay. Within a year, I was working on the road once a month.

Did you have your wife and kids then? I imagine that's a tough sell to start out rather than already being immersed in the comedy scene and them knowing what to expect.

My family came along three years after I started. My wife had three daughters from a previous marriage, and I've taken them in like my own. I love them. My wife knew what was going on with me. It was never, "You can't do this." She's helped me a ton keeping me balanced and relevant. I have so much more to talk about than a single guy living by himself. I was that guy before, and I didn't have anything to talk about. I was making up crazy shit and weird situations and now I have too much happening.

Fatherhood is fertile ground.

I love my daughters so much. I have two favorite bits about them: one about taking them to the water park and another about my daughter introducing me to one of her friends. They'll never stop giving me material. Selfishly, that's why I love them. I mean, of course I love them, but they also make my job easier.

You had to make your bones on the road. In the last two years, the comedy scene has really exploded and provided guys like Adam a chance to hone their skills here.

It is nice. A lot of that has to do with Ramon Rivas. He's been kicking ass. I never had that local chance to get out here as much as there is now. I had to go on the road and make money to help support my family. I wasn't able to stay around Cleveland and build at open mics and local showcases. Ramon's even helped me plan my CD-release party next month. The Grog Shop does shows with Ramon once a month or more. It's great.

Is this your second CD?

My third. The first one was back in 2008. This one will come out September 18.

Where was it taped?

The Funny Stop in Cuyahoga Falls.

So you didn't go the Mike Polk route of putting a recorder on a stool at 20 different places and cobbling it together at the end?

No. Ha. I loved that idea. I want to do that sometime but more in a documentary sense. It'd be nice to show all the places I do comedy, from Hilarities to a VFW hall, show the differences in the audiences and how you have to change yourself without totally giving up and pandering shit. There's a lot of guys that want the crowd to like them, so they'll go up there and act like someone completely different, like a white comic in front of a black crowd who starts acting black. I don't want to be that comic. I'll tell my jokes the way I want to.

What is it like playing a VFW?

It's not bad. Usually all the lights are on, but it's usually at a place where people are starved for entertainment, so if you give them any sort of twist or turn on a joke they haven't heard before, they'll love you. Get them to like you first, and then when you get to the stuff you're not sure they'll like, nine times out of 10 they'll laugh because they're in the moment.

Tell the lovely readers two local comics they should be seeing?

Mary Santora is really funny. Brian Kenny too.

What's the local scene lacking?

A small club that can do weekend shows with 60 to 70 seats in downtown so you can bring in guys like Doug Benson and they don't have to fill a 400-seat theater at Hilarities. They can do an intimate room and come kick ass. If we had that, I don't think it would take away from anything any other local club is doing.

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Vince Grzegorek

Vince Grzegorek has been with Scene since 2007 and editor-in-chief since 2012. He previously worked at Discount Drug Mart and Texas Roadhouse.
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