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IN Interview: Kyle Grooms

The Jersey Devil Visits the Gulf Coast
By Rob “Bubbs” Harris

Kyle Grooms is an old-school comedian in a new age of entertainment. Many view comedy as a dying art form, with stand-up sinking deeper into the underground and mainstream shows such as “Saturday Night Live” becoming increasingly unfunny with every season—but Kyle sees it the other way around. He believes that comedy is still as viable as it ever was—you just have to dig a little bit deeper to find good stuff.

The comic from the Garden State, whose craft has been featured on “ComicView,” “Showtime at the Apollo,” “Chappelle’s Show,” various VH1 “best-of” shows, NBC’s “Last Comic Standing” and more, is making his rounds on a run of dates that crisscross the U.S., with a stop here in Pensacola at the University of West Florida.

Mr. Grooms was good enough to sit down with the IN and chat about the state of comedy and his new album, “The Legend of the Jersey Devil.”

IN: It almost seems that comedy has slowly been going the way of the buffalo. Stand-up isn’t as much on the forefront as it was in the late-80s and early-90s, and some feel it is a dying art. Where do you stand on Mac and how did you get to where you are in a much more fiscal comedy scene?
Grooms: I don’t see comedy as a dying art form. Comedy is still a solid means of entertainment and some are making a pretty good living doing it. It’s been working out great for me so far. I’ve accomplished a lot of the goals that I set out to accomplish when I started doing this, but I still think there’s another level to work up to. Things have definitely gotten a little bit saturated, but the people still support it. Folks still fill out the clubs in some of the bigger cities, so it is definitely not dying.

IN: Aside from stand-up, you do a lot of writing. Of the two gigs, which one is your bread and butter, and how important is it to stay multifaceted?
Grooms: I’m a performer. I love to perform, but writing is cool because you get to do what you do, just in a different medium. It’s kind of like if you started out painting with oils and now you’re using gloss or something like that. You still get to be as creative as you want; it’s just a little bit different working with the material that you get. I really like to write and direct when I can, but stand-up will always be number one for me.

IN: How did you get chosen to do commentary on things like VH1’s “I Love the…(whatever)” or “Awesomely Bad…(what-have-you)” shows?
Grooms: When VH1 started doing those things, it was around 2005 or 2006, and the producers there in New York came out to some comedy clubs and afterwards asked comedians if they wanted to come and comment on these things. I had just gone to New York so I jumped right on it and was like, “Hell yeah, I’ll go up there and talk smack on TV.”
IN: Although we’ve come to the conclusion that stand-up is not a dying art, the fact of the matter remains that there are more and more comedy clubs shutting their doors each day in the U.S. Does this make it harder to set up tours, having to travel farther between cities than you used to?
Grooms: Touring, as a comedian, is never an easy thing. It’s not like we’re rock stars with major financial backing to just jump on a plane or jump in a bus and cross the country at any time we want. We really have to plan these things out, and you’re right, there are a lot fewer clubs than there were several years ago. Usually, comics just work their scene, whether it be New York or L.A., and save up to set up small tours in surrounding states. Being that there are a lot fewer comedy clubs than there used to be, a lot of comics, including myself, are doing a lot more university shows. The colleges have their own built-in crowd and the students usually support the arts pretty well. This new tour I’m going on will be like half-and-half. I’ll do some stops in a few clubs and a couple of university shows. The only bad thing about university shows is that they usually just promote within the school, and sometimes it’s only the students who are allowed to attend.

IN: You have a stand-up album out now. Tell us a little bit about “The Legend of the Jersey Devil,” and what made you want to release a comedy album in the age of downloads and pirating?
Grooms: I thought that’s what you had to do. When you’re a comedian, you eventually release a record. I already had a deal with Rooftop Comedy, and we decided it would be a good idea to put some of the older material on a CD. It’s cool because it’s some of my older material that I don’t really do anymore. Due to the fact that this is indeed the age of downloading and pirating, I sell most of my physical copies at shows. What I like about that is that the fans can come and see my new material and buy a CD with my older stuff. That way they get the best of both worlds.

IN: Thank you for your time, Kyle. Good luck on your current tour.
Grooms: No problem—thank you guys for the support. Come see me at the University of West Florida when I roll through there.

info@inweekly.net

KYLE GROOMS
WHEN: 8:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 13
WHERE: The University of West Florida, 11000 University Parkway
COST: $5.50 for the public; $3.50 for military and non-UWF students; free for UWF students
DETAILS: uwf.edu/cab, or kylegrooms.net