Comedian Paul Varghese is going to perform his signature comedy act at UW-Whitewater on Thursday, but he hasn’t always been able to take the stage so easily.
“When I was a kid, I was super shy,” Varghese said. “I think I only did one funny thing every six months. I never considered myself a funny guy, but when I grew up, I realized I was good and could actually make a living off of it.
“I think back and it’s like … maybe I was funny the whole time I was a little kid, and I just had no idea I was actually being funny.”
Seeing how he never realized his “funny” potential when he was young, Varghese didn’t actually get his start in comedy until after graduating from the University of North Texas.
“I graduated college and was jumping around from temp job to temp job, and I took a stand up writing workshop,” Varghese said. “About four months later, they let me perform on stage at a comedy club and it just worked out in my favor. I’ve stuck with it since then.”
When Varghese took the stage for the first time, he knew it was the place he was meant to be.
“It was the most invigorating, validating thing for me,” Varghese said. “I hadn’t performed in front of a real crowd before, and until I did, I didn’t realize what actually worked in an act. I had only performed in front of a class and being up there for the first time was the biggest rush I’d ever felt in my life.”
Varghese’s parents were a little concerned at first about his career choice until he started making a real living off of it.
“It wasn’t until after college when I was being productive with stand-up that they were supportive of it,” Varghese said. “Once you get on TV and the Internet is when your parents really understand.”
As the years passed, Varghese developed a comedy act that isn’t just focused on one comedic style.
“In a show, I’m not one-liner or quirky or ethnic,” Varghese said. “I’m more of a mix of everything. I’m like 10 percent of everything. I want the crowd to always be on their toes.”
His unique approach seems to work as he’s been featured several times on national television, including an appearance on NBC’s “Last Comic Standing.”
That experience is one that Varghese has trouble putting into words.
“Being on TV is a hard thing to understand,” Varghese said. “As a comic you’re only reacting to what you see in front of you. You don’t realize that 50 million or so people are going to watch you. You don’t think in that sense when you’re up there.”
When asked to make a pitch for students to come to his show, Varghese made sure it was an interesting one.
“They should not want to study more than see me make jokes about pancakes,” Varghese said. “Like, unless you have a lot of pancakes, you should come. If you think a book is more entertaining than me, you probably shouldn’t come. I’d rather have three people who want to watch a funny show then 40 people who are resenting that they can’t study.”
Varghese will be performing his act at 8 p.m. on Dec. 8 in the Down Under.
SEAL, the organization that booked Varghese, expects him to draw a good crowd, and entertainment intern Kristie Pedersen thinks he’ll be the perfect remedy for the studying blues.
“We have a lot of comedians that we bring to campus because they’re popular with the students,” Pedersen said. “Everybody likes a little comedian break.”