Alex Stone is relatively new to the Chicago comedy scene– he’s only been here a year, but he’s quickly becoming a must-see in our stand-up scene here. (I’ve heard him described by comics as someone who makes you rethink every joke you’ve ever told, if that sets the bar for you). His voice is very distinctive– sharp and self deprecating and wry. He’s also a super nice guy and incredibly smart and humble, so I couldn’t wait to talk to him about how he got started and what keeps him going. Have a read, kids.
Kris: How’d you get started in comedy?
Alex: Well, I dropped out of high school my senior year and during that period I used to stay up all night, usually going to bed around seven A.M. Around that same time Comedy Central started running marathons of their half hours, they would start around one A.M. and go to about four. That’s when I really fell in love. I would stay up all night every night watching these specials. I don’t know exactly when, but at some point I decided that was what I wanted to do. So, one day my mom sat down with me at our computer and we just googled “Comedy clubs in Ohio.” It turned out Go Bananas was only about a mile from where I lived. So I signed up for their “Funniest Person in Cincinnati” contest that day, and that’s how I got started in comedy.
Kris: You’re from Cinci, right? How long were you in that scene? What’s the adjustment to Chicago been like?
Alex: I am. I was in that scene for about six and a half years and it was a great. I loved it, but there’s a ceiling there. Go Bananas is one of the best comedy clubs in the country, but that’s only one stage. You’re really hustling if you get up three times in a week in Cincinnati. So, that’s what brought me to Chicago, more stage time. To actually answer your question though, the adjustment has been fine. There was definitely a certain amount of starting over, but I think I was ready for that coming in. It’s just part of it, and I know that. I moved to Chicago because I wanted to get better at comedy, and I told myself that if I didn’t make a single friend or get asked to do a single show while I was here, it was okay. As long as I was getting on stage every night and writing everyday, that’s all that mattered. I just wanted to feel like I was working as hard as I possibly could to be a comedian.
I will say the hardest part of the transition was getting myself to actually believe that. It’s hard to be a comedian and tell yourself that you don’t need outside validation. It kind of contradicts the whole reason you get on stage to begin with. But so far so good. I feel like I’m a better comedian than when I got here. Not to mention, I’ve made a lot of great friends and I’ve done a bunch of awesome shows. The Chicago comedy seen is an incredible place filled with a ton of amazing people and I love it here.
Kris: There are constantly waves of people moving from Chicago to LA or NYC. Are you sticking around Chicago for awhile? Would you ever consider moving?
Alex: When I first moved, I told myself that I only wanted to be in Chicago for two years, and as of January third I’ve been here for one. In another year I’m definitely going to evaluate where I’m at and then go from there. I may stay, I may not. I just don’t know right now. Would I like to stay? Absolutely. Like I said, I do love it here and I’m going to stay as long as i feel like this is where I should be. I don’t want to move to New York or LA just because that’s the model. I don’t want to just go clog up the pipes in another city. That being said, I also don’t want to get too comfortable here. I think comfort breeds complacency and I don’t ever want to stop growing. My goal is to just always feel like I’m moving forward, to always feel like I’m getting be getting better, and as long as I feel like thats what I’m doing in Chicago, then Chicago is where I’ll be.
Kris: What’s your favorite type of gig?
Alex: I like any gig where the audience actually wants to be at the show.
Kris: I’m asking everyone this: is it weird when strangers friend you on facebook? Do you maintain some social profiles for personal use only and some more public?
Alex: It was weird at first but now it just feels normal. There are multiple people that I have never met, and probably never will meet, that I feel like I know on a very personal level just from them adding me on Facebook after a show and then subsequently having their lives pop up on my newsfeed every day. I guess the weirdest thing about it is how I don’t think it’s weird anymore. To be honest, comedy is the only reason I even have a Facebook account at this point. Most of my time on Facebook is spent wishing I didn’t have to have one. (Or follow me on Twitter: @alexstonecomedy).
Kris: What are you working on right now?
Alex: I’m quietly working on a few different things, but I’m mainly just trying to focus on stand up. I write everyday and do sets every night. I mean I have some big goals and a lot of things that I would like to do, but I really try and keep it as simple as possible. I feel like looking too far ahead just makes everything seem so out of reach, so impossible. It’s an easy way to frustrate yourself, to feel lost. Writing new bits, filling up notebooks, and going out and doing sets is the only way for me to feel like I actually have any direction at all. I just keep telling myself that if I keep working on these little things eventually they will lead me to bigger opportunities. Or they wont, and I’m full of shit, which is a real possibility.
Kris: Who are your comedic inspirations? Who/what are you loving right now?
Alex: It’s really more what than who. There are so many incredibly talented people out there that most of the time what inspires me is simply hearing anyone of them tell a great joke, or a great story, or even just watching them have a killer set. Hearing or seeing something that makes me say “Fuck. I need to be better.” Is what inspires me. And currently I am loving Bo Burnham’s new special “what.” It’s great.
Kris: Any advice to people just getting started in comedy?
Alex: Be patient. Work hard. Nobody owes you anything and only you control how good you get at this. If you want it, go get it. Also, your mother and I love you very much.