Questions for Stu McCallister, local comic and Dr. Grins emcee
You work with all types of comedy between your own stand-up, involvement in LaughFest and emcee work at Dr. Grins. Which style are you most comfortable with?
I'm mostly stand-up. I've done a little bit of improv, but that was a long time ago. I've been offered parts in movies, but they've never come to pass. My acting is pretty much relegated to the lead role in third grade.
You've been doing comedy for seven years. How did your career start?
It really started at Dr. Grins. I had dabbled in comedy briefly when I lived in Buffalo, N.Y. That never went anywhere, but when I saw the open mic here, I came and it progressed into me getting onstage more frequently and me becoming the host.
You've also been almost like a mentor to up-and-coming local comics.
I'm going to help out whoever I can. I actually have tips that I send to open mic-ers. It has nothing to do with comedy; it has to do with general behavior. So much about comedy isn't about being funny. It's about networking, being on time, promoting shows, getting announcements right.
How did you get involved in comedy?
That started because I saw an ad for a comedy class, and I took that. A lot of it was the basics, like the structure of a joke, how to behave and stage mechanics. It was interesting. It got me onstage for the first time ever.
How did you feel when you were on stage for the first time?
It was a good feeling. People — people I didn't know — laughed at the things I said.
You're originally from Buffalo, N.Y. How did you get here?
I moved here in '95. I went to grad school at Grand Valley to get my master's in social work.
Are you still involved in the social work field?
No. Currently, as a social worker, I'm unemployed. I'm not gonna lie; if I never had to do social work again I'd be OK with it. Comedy is a really difficult business. You really have to supplement it with something else. So I'll probably go back to doing something in social work, unless I get lucky.
Comedy and social work are two very separate careers. Did comedy help with the heaviness of your social work career?
I was able to use humor in a lot of the therapy that I was doing. So much of social work is being able to interact and lowering people's guards down. Obviously, you can do that with humor.
What do you enjoy about the West Michigan comedy scene?
I think there's a strong core of guys who are loyal to themselves, try to help themselves out. I try to take guys on the road with me. I wish there were more women in this community. I don't really know why more women aren't getting onstage.
The topic of women in comedy has been a big conversation piece within the past year.
Unfortunately, I feel like a lot of people think jokes are going to be, ‘Ugh, I'm on my period' and bashing their boyfriend, ‘Men are stupid.' If you see Amy Schumer, who's coming to LaughFest, it's nothing like that.
You're heavily involved in LaughFest. What was your favorite part of last year's festival?
I got to do two showcases, so I got to perform, which was great. I got to host the comedy competition, which was nice.
You're hosting the comedy competition again this year. What else do you have on deck?
I have a showcase that's going to be happening at The Pyramid Scheme with [local comic] Matt Lauria and a bunch of other local guys. There's a lot of talent in Grand Rapids that people aren't willing to admit that's there.
Interview conducted, condensed and edited by Lindsay Patton-Carson. Photos by Rebekah Dietsche.