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.
Adam Wade told jokes and stories and played the guitar when he moved from New Hampshire to New York City after college. While working as a production assistant on Comedy Central’s Tough Crowd with Colin Quinn, Quinn heard Wade talking in the office and told him to ditch the music and focus on his stories. He has heeded that advice. He has won 20 SLAMS at The Moth, and seen on TV chastising Lena Dunham’s Hannah Horvath before she took the stage for The Moth on HBO’s Girls. Wade also has appeared in multiple seasons of Comedy Central’s Inside Amy Schumer, been heard on NPR, and profiled in The New Yorker.
Wade teaches storytelling now at the Magnet Theater, hosts a monthly show, “The Adam Wade from NH Show,” at the Kraine Theater in the East Village, performs regularly on other storytelling shows such as Nights of Our Lives at the UCB Theatre and RISK! at The Bell House. Last year, he released his first album of stories, “The Human Comedy,” and is now hard at work on a brand new show, which you can see this weekend at SOLOCOM at The PIT.
Adam sat down with me in a cafe near Herald Square before heading off to teach his storytelling class this week. Before and after we talked Boston sports, Wade filled me in on his own journey from New England to NYC.
Above photo of Adam Wade at Whiplash in August, 2016, by Mindy Tucker.
Name; Adam Wade
Arrival Date: May 1998
Arrived From: New Hampshire
When and where was the first time you performed comedy?
“It was actually the 20-year anniversary last month. I did an open mic in Keene, N.H., for Keene State College. I had my guitar and I played three songs. And I’d only been playing the guitar for about a month, so…”
This was his path up until 2015:
And this is the album!
What was your best credit when you moved to NYC? Or rather, your first credit?
“I had nothing! Virgil’s BBQ became my first credit. Well, I was a waiter there. No, I had no credits. I was a radio DJ at my college, if that could be a credit.” Well, what did you use then, when people introduced you onstage? “Here he is!” “You know, Eddie Brill brought me up at the New Talent Night at Carolines and said, ‘He plays everywhere.'”
Why did you pick NYC over Los Angeles or anywhere else?
“Growing up, the first book I ever read was ‘The Cricket in Times Square.’ I was just always fascinated with New York. Even David Copperfield, when he made the Statue of Liberty disappear, I’ve always been fascinated by the city. This was always the place I wanted to be.”
How long did it take you to get paid work in comedy after you moved to NYC?
“Yeah, probably about 10 years, at least. It took a long time. Oh, no! I shouldn’t say that! No, I’d say like four years. Roger Paul got me a gig at the Princeton Catch A Rising Star. So no, I’d say, maybe even three years. It was a long commute. Went from Fairview, New Jersey, into New York, then to Penn Station, and then to Princeton. It took four hours to get there.” Still counts, though! “Yeah, still counts…I was the host for Todd Glass, and that was great. He was very very kind. Very kind.”
How is the comedy scene in NYC better/worse/different from the storytelling scene?
“People have different opinions. For me, I’ve met a lot of nice people in storytelling. The people, especially when I moved here, there’s certain people who always book me on their shows, at least every three months. It was Sean Conroy and Eddie Pepitone on Hump Night, Patrick Borelli at the Gershwin, and Chris DeLuca and Julius Sharpe at the Blue Indigo. Then there was another show at the Gershwin, 1017, on Saturday nights. So those, and continually, each month I had one of those. Andrés du Bouchet, Tuesday nights at Rififi, but even before that, he was at a couple of different places. Under St. Mark’s, he was there, too. But those were the ones who would book me, and they’re all very nice. You know, a small compliment goes a long way. A lot of those people have been my friends for all of these years, but they always had something nice to say. I knew not to bug the crap out of them for spots. I would just wait every three or four months, and say, ‘Hey, if you’ve got something open,’ and then they’d book me for like two months later. So I always knew I had something coming up.”
How would you compare playing the comedy club crowds, though, versus the storytelling theater crowds?
“For me it used to be very difficult, because I had the guitar. When I stopped playing the guitar, it didn’t seem like as many people wanted to book me, and I understand as a producer of events, you know, the music does help. I was comfortable doing stories at The Moth, but I wasn’t comfortable doing stories at comedy shows. Where now, I don’t mind! I really appreciate joke-tellers. But I did a show last year. It was for Myq Kaplan’s birthday at Union Hall, and we’re totally different types of performers. But it made the night much more interesting. Here you have a guy who it’s all these terrific jokes, one after another, and then me. It almost — yeah, it was just very interesting.”
Do you have any experiences that you’d describe as “only in New York” to your friends and family back home?
“Just that people can identify with us. They ask, ‘Do they get you in New York?’ I think there’s stereotypes like snobs or whatever, but people can identify with me. And they’re not just from New Hampshire in New York. There’s a guy who comes to my monthly show at the Kraine. He’s from Argentina. And he’s in his mid-50s, and he comes every month, and the reason why he comes, he told me, he goes, ‘You remind me. You make me think of the memories I had growing up in Argentina.’ And that’s amazing.”
You’ve been living in Hoboken. How would you explain Hoboken to people who only think of NYC when they think of the city?
“My landlady is old-school Hoboken Italian. She’s 80. I do yoga at the Elks Lodge, and it’s very salt-of-the-earth, just very kind people. I have my local pub that I get my chicken Francese and turkey clubs. I think wherever it is, for me, what’s kept me here this long is the sense of community. I’m just fortunate that I’ve gotten to meet the girls at my coffee shop, and the person that cuts my hair, the girl at the laundromat, the guys at the bar, the guy at the yoga now, my yoga guy Joe, he’s a good guy.”
What advice would you give any comedian who’s thinking of moving here?
“You’re going to have to work hard. And know that it’s a process, not an event. Sometimes it takes only a few years, and you get a big break. Sometimes you’re working for 18 years and you’re still hoping. But what I’ve learned most is that it’s the journey. I’ve been very blessed. I wouldn’t trade my life for anybody in comedy, because I’ve had a lot of good experiences. I’ve had a lot of tough experiences, and you find out who your friends are. You find out there’s a lot of human kindness here. Whether it’s jobs, whether it’s in comedy, whether it’s in a temp job. I’ve just been very very lucky. I wouldn’t trade it.”
You put out an album. Where do you see yourself five years from now?
“I’ve been doing a lot of writing. I’m hoping to get into TV, whether it’s a TV pilot or something like that. I do a lot of teaching and workshops, with storytelling and public speaking, and I enjoy that a lot more than I thought I would. I’ve been doing it for seven years. That’s a thing, where I am a shy person, and I’ve gotten to meet a lot of quality people. Not a lot of jerks take storytelling classes, public speaking classes. And then, commercial auditioning and stuff like that. Just trying to do as many things as possible. And enjoying all these things. It’s coming at a good time.”
When I listen to your stories, I can definitely picture them as episodes in a sitcom.
“Good! Good, good, good. Tartikoff!”
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