At 67, Gid Pool is stirring up laughter at Tampa Bay-area comedy clubs, restaurants and bars.
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"I'm sort of like the grumpy old guy," he says about his character on stage. "The old curmudgeon who talks about his ex-wife, how expensive grandkids are, and how addicted his wife is to Sam's Club."
But offstage, Pool is friendly, laid-back and outgoing. He admits being a jokester since high school. In between he served in the Army and Air Force, sold insurance, taught skiing and graduated from a Baptist seminary. Then, in 2006, he took a comedy class at McCurdy's Comedy Theatre in Sarasota, Fla. And the latent comedian inside was reborn.
Now Pool performs his act not only around Florida but on the seven seas, traveling the world with Celebrity Cruises (and his wife, Jane) and teaching comedy classes.
We sat down with Pool to hear more about his new life calling.
How difficult is stand-up comedy?
I talked to a guy about comedy one day, he said, "It's not rocket science." I responded, "No, it's harder." I've got to write a joke and deliver it in front of 250 people with 250 different backgrounds and 250 different views of life. Somehow I've got to get all of them into the same place so they'll laugh. When you go to a piano recital, after the performance, you're trained to applaud automatically even if it wasn't good. When you go to a comedy club and the comedian tells a joke that's not funny, no one claps.
Do you have any particularly favorable or unfavorable experiences to share?
I've had several standing ovations, but once I was booed by a woman in the front row of a comedy show at a church.
How did you prepare for your encore career?
I began to realize that stand-up comedy is an art form just like ballet or anything else. Just as there is a certain way that you do a move in ballet or a certain chord you play when you're playing a song, comedy also has structure to it; what you say, how you say it and what you do while delivering a joke. I started to study why people laugh, what's the structure of a joke and what's unoriginal, or as we call it "hack material." I found a training program that's very analytical. It states to be a headline comedian you must be able to get an average 18 seconds of laughs for every minute that you're on stage. As I started watching other comedians, and noting how many seconds they were getting, it became very obvious the analytics are correct. I have three punch lines that get a laugh track of 15 seconds each.
How frequently do you have to come up with new material?
It takes me about a month to write 2-3 minutes of material that's good enough for the stage. As you get better, you can write faster. I am, however, able to write jokes on current events on my way to the theater.
How do you find inspiration?
Susan Boyle has that song "I Dreamed a Dream." I just listen to that every day or two. I heard Sarah Brightman's song, "Time to Say Goodbye" when we cruised out of Venice, Italy. We were going down the Grand Canal and it was cool to hear it over the speakers. Part of this right now is sort of like living a dream that I didn't even know I had. You just want to see how far you can go before it's time to say goodbye.
You found your life calling at 61 and have been a success. What can you say to others looking for something creative to do?
My generation is the first generation to get a "do-over." All those things we wanted to try when we were younger, we can do now because we are the first generation to have quality medical care. Have a bad heart? We can fix it. Got high cholesterol? We'll fix that too. They're keeping us alive longer, and at a level that we can still function.
The other part of the equation is our access to information. You want to find out how to do something? Get on the Internet and find out right now. At almost every comedy show, usually someone will come up to me and ask, "Gee, I'd love to try this someday." And I look at him and I say, "Why don't you?" Then he starts with the excuses. It's much easier for my generation to follow their dreams today, and there are no excuses.
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