What do they say about New York City: There are eight million stories, and sometimes it seems as though eight million of the people telling them think they’re comedians? No, that’s not it. It is a fact, though, that America’s biggest city is also its biggest comedy mecca. Hollywood may be Hollywood, but New York City is where comedians are born funny, become funny or arrive to thrust their funny upon us. I think we should meet some of these people. This is a recurring feature, a mini-profile of newcomers, up-and-comers and overcomers of New York’s vibrant comedy scene. It’s called Meet Me In New York.
So many comedians who move to New York City try so hard to ingratiate themselves to the scene and the comedy clubs that you feel like you know everything about them except whether they’re actually funny. If you get caught up in that, you might just overlook the hard-working comedians who are busy actually performing for a living. Paul Hooper moved north a couple of years ago from North Carolina but spends more time on the road at comedy clubs across the country than in the rooms of Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens. Hooper’s not trying to make it here. He’s just trying to sleep in his own bed a couple of days a month. And then maybe a couple of shows or mics. Of course he’s trying to make it here! You make it here, you make it anywhere, right? A former finalist in the Seattle Comedy Competition, Hooper will put out a stand-up comedy CD later this year via Stand Up! Records. Hooper embraces the stage and audiences with a rigorous honesty and a refreshing sincerity that not only makes you laugh but makes you want to keep paying attention. Let’s get to know a little bit more about him.
Name: Paul Hooper
Arrival date: January 2011
Arrived from: Charlotte, N.C.
When and where did you start performing comedy? February 1998 at the Comedy Zone in Charlotte
What was your best credit before moving here? 3 or 4 comedy festivals.
Why did you pick NYC over L.A. or anywhere else? In 2010, I was really close to moving to L.A. I made a couple trips, enjoyed it, but as a road guy I had no idea how I could make a living from there. I met Tom Steffen at a gig in Minnesota. He was thinking of moving to NYC and over the course of the weekend managed to get me excited about the prospect of living in NYC. All of that combined with my desire to focus on stand-up brought me to NY.
How long did it take to get your first paid gig in NYC after moving here? 5 months
How is this scene better/same/worse than the scene you moved from? I never really had a local scene in Charlotte. There were a handful of comic friends in the area but most were scattered throughout the southeast. I never really knew what a comedy community felt like until I moved here. NYC is full of amazing comics that have moved here from all over the world. People have risked a lot to come here and do this. I think that makes it the strongest and most intense comedy scene you’ll ever find.
Can you describe an “only in New York City” moment from your experience here? My pillowtop mattress was destroyed in Superstorm Sandy. I was in the Bahamas but I still felt like NYC had a hand in it. I have a real problem with basement storage in this city.
What tip would you give to any comedian who moves here? To be braced for a seemingly never-ending battle of proving yourself.
Where do you see yourself five years from now? If good things happen, still in NY doing high-quality work in an apartment with central air, overlooking something with foliage.
If bad things happen. Traumatized in a cabin in Taos, New Mexico with a pet duck, writing a book that contains over 15,000 grammatical errors and a confusing yet offensive narrative.
You can catch Paul Hooper live on the road by following his tour dates. Or connect with him online via Twitter @paulhooper or his Paul Hooper Comedy Facebook page.
Here are a few bits of Paul Hooper from the road. These were taken during a show at The Joke Joint in Minnesota.
Which NYC comedian would you like to see me style and profile next for Meet Me In New York? Send your nominations to: thecomicscomic AT gmail DOT com