Best known as the star and co-creator of the hit Comedy Central series Workaholics, actor/comedian Adam Devine has personally embodied the show’s title with his busy career since the slacker cult classic ended its run last year after seven seasons.
Besides appearing regularly on the award-winning ABC series Modern Family as “Andy the Manny,” he’s lit up the box office with hilarious performances in hit movies like The Intern, Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates and Pitch Perfect 1 & 2.
But life wasn’t always all Hollywood premieres and A-list parties for the 34-year-old star.
Born in Waterloo, Iowa and raised in Omaha, Nebraska, Devine still holds his Midwest roots close to his heart, and credits his upbringing in the heartland for making him the prolific performer he is today.
“I come from a family of very blue-collar, Midwestern workers where it wasn’t an issue for my dad to go to work for 12 hours a day, because that’s just what he did in order to put food on the table for us working for the railroad,” Devine told Revue. “So you’ll never catch me complaining about how much I’m working. I always like to keep a lot on my plate, because coming from the Midwest I also have that feeling like, ‘It’s all going to stop any second.’”
Devine’s seize-the-day approach to life and comedy goes all the way back to his childhood, when he had a terrifying accident. At just 11 years old, a cement truck struck him while he was walking his bicycle and left him with injuries that put him in a wheelchair for two years.
The simple fact that he didn’t die made his parents so grateful, they’ve supported him in anything he’s wanted to do ever since. His time spent in a wheelchair also gave him the sort of unique perspective that helped launch his pathway into comedy.
“It happened to me in that weird part of life when kids are the absolute meanest humans on the face of the Earth, and that is like between 11 and 14, before they start having a little bit of humanity inside of them,” Devine said. “So I was getting bullied a little bit at school, and I’m in a wheelchair, and I just wasn’t having it. I found that if you can disarm the bullies with humor, and you can get people around them laughing, then they won’t make fun of you.
“It’s like having a little superpower when I felt powerless being in the wheelchair.”
That sense of humor allowed him to still feel like part of the group at school, despite not being able to play sports or do what other kids his age did.
“Not that I would’ve been any good,” Devine said of his athletic prowess. “But that was my great excuse. Now I can always say I could’ve been a professional baseball player — but the accident.”
By 13, he had started calling into a local Omaha radio station during its drive-time, doing different voices over the phone and developing characters. But when the station invited him to come down and start getting paid as part of the on-air comedy team, they were shocked to see he was a boy in a wheelchair.
The experience essentially started his career in comedy, even if he only got paid in free CDs and concert tickets.
“It wasn’t just other little kids (that I could make laugh),” he said. “It was adults, professional radio people, and they thought I was funny, so I guess that kind of gave me an extra boost of confidence that I needed at that time to keep going.”
Starting out in the world of stand-up comedy, Devine relocated to Los Angeles after high school and not much later met his Workaholics collaborators while in college.
Currently making his way through the Midwest on the final leg of his Weird Life Tour, Devine plans to tape his first hour-long Netflix comedy special back home in Omaha at the end of this run.
“Stand-up is my home base,” Devine said. “It’s where I started in comedy when I was 18 years old, and I’ve never fully let go of it even when things got really busy with doing Workaholics and then all the movies and all the things I’ve been doing. Stand-up was always there for me and was a place that I could always go and find my voice again if I ever felt like I was losing it.”
Devine’s Netflix comedy special will likely arrive sometime in 2019. Until then, fans can see him live on the road, or in next year’s family film Magic Camp for Disney’s new streaming service, and The Righteous Gemstones, alongside Danny McBride and John Goodman on HBO.
“I feel like every comic secretly wants to be a rock star,” Devine said. “So this is as close as I’m gonna get. As the world has seen with my singing and dancing in the Pitch Perfect movies, true rock stardom isn’t in the cards for me, but comedic rock stardom may be.”
Weird Life Tour
20 Monroe Live
11 Ottawa Ave. NW, Grand Rapids
Nov. 6, 7 p.m., $39.50 and up
20monroelive.com, (844) 678-5483