Brett Davey is a man of many talents. He’s an accomplished writer and editor, he’s been involved in the local music scene as both a spectator and a promoter, he’s pretty good at …
Brett Davey is a man of many talents. He’s an accomplished writer and editor, he’s been involved in the local music scene as both a spectator and a promoter, he’s pretty good at basketball and if you follow him on social media then you know that he’s a fantastic chef through the photos he posts from time to time. The Cranston resident also has a great sense of humor, which he’s been conveying through his brand of stand-up comedy. Folks will have the opportunity to see him exhibit his craft, along with a few others, on June 30 at the Trinity Beer Garden adjacent to the Bank Newport City Center located on 2 Kennedy Plaza in Providence. Davey will also be doing hosting duties with the event starting at 8pm.
We had a talk ahead of the show about how he got started doing stand-up, the importance of coming up with good jokes, what his material is usually inspired by and what people can expect when they stop by the Trinity Beer Garden.
Rob Duguay: I've always known you to be a pretty funny guy, but what made you want to start doing stand-up? What made you realize that you could pull this off?
Brett Davey: I actually first did it around 30 years ago, believe it or not. I had always wanted to try it out and there was this place called the Learning Connection, I don’t know if it exists anymore but it was for adult learners and you could go in and learn various skills. They were teaching everything there and one of the things they had was a four-week comedy course, so I took that with Frank O’Donnell, who is still around. It was funny because I went in and there were five of us in the first class, we were supposed to write a routine and do our five minutes. Frank would critique it and we’d all come back the following week to go through it again and so on, but during the second week I was the only one who came back.
It was just me sitting there with Frank repeating these same jokes I had, which I’m sure weren’t that great anyway. We did that during the third week and during the fourth week I got to go up and perform in front of an audience. I did my first run with stand-up for about a year and then I stopped because I got married and had kids along with making five independent movies over the last 20 years to scratch the creative itch. Last year, I got the idea of going back to try it again because I’m such a huge fan of stand-up and there’s so many places where you can go out and do it now, so that was sort of the impetus.
RD: Since you started performing again, what have you gotten more acclimated to doing when it comes to the process? Is it being on stage in front of an audience, coming up with new material or something else?
BD: I think the thing I learned after the first time I got back on stage was that it’s really about the jokes, so writing the material is really important. I mean, everything is important from the way you perform and timing out your set so it’s the length of time that’s requested, but to me it’s really about the jokes. During that first time I did stand-up last year, I did a story that was somewhat amusing and funny but it didn’t have punchlines in it. From that, I learned that the idea is to start out of the gate with something good, try to get the audience on your side and then after that keep the jokes coming. I’ve always been a writer, so I like the part of coming up with the material and it all ties in together when I’m performing.
RD: Speaking of those jokes, what would you say is the inspiration for the topics that you use? From watching the videos you have online, it seems like you have some witty takes on everyday life.
BD: A lot of it is everyday life, they’re things that have happened to me or they’re things that I’ve observed. Social media has made that a lot easier because it’s not just the people you interact with every day, it’s also people posting on those platforms. I have a joke about the worst picture that anyone can post on social media and it’s themselves getting a pedicure because it’s just their foot and some poor person doing their job who definitely doesn’t want to be in the picture. After that, I was wondering if there was anything comparable I could do as a male, so I’d follow the joke up by mentioning an upcoming physical I have with a punchline to go with it. That punchline probably isn’t appropriate for this interview, but it was prompted by seeing that picture over and over again.
I also try to do current events stuff and celebrity stuff. It’s easy with the craziness that goes on with all the celebrities and elected officials in our world, but I don’t see a lot of Rhode Island comics doing that kind of humor. Most of it is personal observation type stuff, so I think in that way I’m a little bit different. I obviously know that there are other kinds of people doing that type of humor, but I try to work in a lot of current events that are happening on the national stage. Anything that’s funny, it ultimately doesn’t matter, if it’s something that I think is funny then I’ll try to work it into my act.
RD: Do you find yourself using social media more as a tool and a utility to promote your comedy these days than as a way to connect with others?
BD: I use it both ways and there’s definitely some crossover, some of the things I post on my personal Facebook page I’ll also post on my comedy page. In any creative endeavor with an audience, at some point you have to decide whether you want to set up a separate social media account for what you do. I know people who are way more experienced than me who haven’t yet and it surprises me because if someone comes up and says to me that they want to come out and see one of my shows then I can send them over to the social media page. It’s such a great way to connect with people and invite them to your shows. I actually had a show a couple weeks ago at Copperfield’s in Johnston for John Perrotta’s Comedy Factory and it was a daytime show on a Sunday that had a buffet and stand-up.
John was kind enough to book me on the show and I invited a bunch of people. I had a dozen former co-workers who I worked with in hospitals around Rhode Island come out to the show, so social media to me is key to getting people to attend and also getting your name out there. There are so many comedians today who have just blown up simply because of their social media presence and I think that’s totally critical to a comic.
RD: Yeah, I couldn’t agree more. With this gig that’s coming up at the Trinity Beer Garden in Providence, what can people expect when they attend?
BD: If you look at that setting, it’s great with the lights being strung across the trees and everything else. It’s the first time I’ve ever been asked to put together a show at the venue and I wanted to really have a powerhouse lineup. We have AJ Hapenny, who is really well-known around New England and he’s just hilarious. The other comics on the show are people I’ve either seen before or I’ve worked with who I think can really knock it out the park. What’s great about it is that there isn’t just bar service, there’s full booth service too so it’s a Friday night at the start of summer, the weather is going to be great and people can come out with their friends and have a few laughs. I’m going to do a set at the beginning and then I’m going to be introducing all the comics so it’s something I’m really looking forward to.
If I can just throw in a plug, in this state there are some people who’ve been around for a while and they’re established comics. I just want to give a thank you to Poppy Champlin and John Perrotta, they both have been doing stand-up for decades and they’re really generous with giving newer comics stage time, which is really all you could want. All you want as a comic is someplace you can go up and perform and the thing about stand-up is that the feedback is immediate. If you’re a musician, you get up there and you’re not very good, people are still going to clap, but if you go up there as a stand-up comic and bomb then you’ll know right away. You don’t have to wait for the social media comments and you don’t have to wait for people to text you, you’re up there for five, 10 or 15 torturous minutes when you don’t do well so stage time is critical to the craft.
I just want to give a shoutout to both John and Poppy because they’ve been very generous with me and I appreciate them for that.