Comedian Andy Hendrickson never thought that he would be entertaining soldiers in Iraq back when he was a student studying advertising at West Virginia University.
However, in February, that was exactly what he did.
“It was the best crowd you’re ever going to get,” said the 35-year-old Washington, D.C., native. “They were just so thankful that you took the time and the risk just to entertain them.”
Hendrickson compared the potentially dangerous situation to swimming in the ocean.
“You think about sharks,” Hendrickson said, “but then it’s like getting bitten by a shark; the odds are very slim.”
Hendrickson was also the entertainment for CSU students in the Ramskeller Monday night. During his act he reminisced about his time as a college student; things such as being too lazy to put new batteries in the TV remote control and having to watch the Weather Channel in Spanish for three hours.
His college education however, did not bring him to the career he had planned on. While living and working for an advertising firm in Atlanta, Ga., designing signs, Hendrickson took a comedy class that essentially became the beginning of his career as a comedian.
“I took the class because I knew it would give me the kick in the ass to get some material together,” Hendrickson said.
Hendrickson recalled his first time on stage in front of his class when he didn’t receive any laughs. Determined to “blow everyone off the stage,” he spent the following five weeks only thinking about comedy and practicing as much as he could.
“You don’t just pick up a guitar and play, you need to practice and practice,” Hendrickson said.
His comedic talents originated long before he took the comedy class in Atlanta, however.
As a kid, Hendrickson remembered having to sneak around his parents so he could listen to his brother’s copy of Eddie Murphy’s first comedy album. His family enjoyed listening to other standup comedy albums together, however Murphy’s was too explicit for a 12-year-old. Hendrickson listened to the album anyway and even memorized it.
“I would perform it in front of my friends, and that was often how I made friends because I moved around so much since my dad was in the Navy,” Hendrickson said.
After taking the comedy class, Hendrickson continued performing at open-mics at local clubs, and eventually went on a short one-month tour. Not long after he returned, he was laid off from his advertising job. However, this did not ruin Hendrickson’s ambition, and he soon saw a parallel between the job he was trained to do and his new career interest.
“The reason I got into advertising was the same reason I got into comedy, I saw something and thought, ‘I could do that better,'” Hendrickson said.
He noted that both professions, advertising and stand-up comedy, require many steps before one can become successful. Hendrickson said he tried to “climb the corporate ladder” and was able to for some time, but it clearly did not work out for him.
He has been working as a full-time comedian since July 2002. He hopes to gain popularity as he continues to tour across the country.
“Eventually I’d like to become one of those guys that could sell out a comedy club every night,” Hendrickson said.
He seems to be on the right track: Hendrickson has appeared with comedians such as Dave Chappelle, Jim Breuer and Dave Attell. He is also scheduled for upcoming shows all across the country.
Hendrickson said that his favorite jokes to tell are those that he creates on stage during his act.
“A lot of people laugh at those because they know it’s not part of your routine,” Hendrickson said.
Staff writer Elena Ulyanova can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org