Monday, 22 December 2014 16:54

Don Friesen's Journey from Bankruptcy to the Spotlight

Written by  Josh Spanninga
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Don Friesen
Dr. Grins, Grand Rapids
Jan. 15-17, show times at 8, 9 and 10:30 pm
$10,, (616) 356-2000

Most college kids who get a fake ID use it for one thing, and one thing only: to obtain copious amounts of alcohol. Of course there is the occasional oddball who has ulterior motives, and comedian Don Friesen is one of them.

When I was 20 years old, a comedy club came into Fresno, which is my hometown,” Friesen said. “I started going out there with my friends and I actually got a fake ID just so I could see comedy.”

Friesen said when he first started going to comedy shows the idea of making audiences laugh appealed to him, but his stage fright prevented him from ever performing himself. Toward the end of his college career, he dabbled in improv, but never found the courage to get up on stage just by himself. That is, until he discovered there were far scarier things than performing alone onstage.

I actually was going bankrupt as a business school major, so that's a bad start," he said. "I think it was the universe telling me 'This isn't your thing.'”

It was at this time that Friesen had to second guess his career choice, and was reminded of his passion for comedy. And while the jump from business school to stand-up may not seem like the most the stable decision for a reliable income, Friesen said he was far too familiar with being broke for that to deter him.

Rock bottom can be very liberating,” he said. “When you have a lot to give up, it's a little harder to go full force into something like stand-up.”

Friesen's second career choice worked out much better for him. His self-deprecating humor would eventually help him go on to win the prestigious San Francisco International Comedy Competition twice (a feat previously unheard of), tape an hour-long special for Showtime and even get gigs opening for the Goo Goo Dolls and Counting Crows.

And he continues to hit the touring circuit, opting out of acting gigs and other possible career turns to focus his energy completely on his stand-up and family life.

I already feel like to be as good of a stand-up I want to be and as good of a dad I want to be and husband, it's very hard to even balance those few things and excel at them,” Friesen said.

Of course, with his kids nearing the end of their high school years, he says he'll soon have more time to take on some of these other challenges in hopes of reaching his highest aspirations.

Someday I would like to be a household name,” Friesen said. “Or I would like to have a sandwich named after me somewhere. That'll be my fallback, either be a household name or be a sandwich.”

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