Last Thursday, I was told there was going to be a stand up comedian doing a show here on campus; and my friend who knows of my interest in stand up thought it would be fun to go. Safe to say Derrick Knopsnyder exceeded my expectations for a comic I had never heard of before.
His show in the Simon Center was really funny and pretty unique compared to most stand up acts you’d see on streaming services. He was really interactive with the crowd and you could tell he was just having fun with all of us; and that’s truly what comedy is about.
After the show I was able to interview him and ask him a few questions about being a traveling professional comedian and some tips for career building and routines that are actually funny.
The first question I asked was if he liked performing. It sounds kind of stupid when I put it that way, I only asked to see if comedy was actually a passion or if he built his career around something simply because he was good at it. As I predicted, Derrick has been passionate about comedy almost his entire life. After going to a show with his father when he was seven-years-old, he knew exactly what he wanted to do with the rest of his life.
His father was a big influence on his comedical side, saying his dad was always a jokester with him growing up and that kind of instilled the funny in him. Then arriving on a college campus his freshman year, he said he used humor as a means of making new friends which then led to making strangers laugh and after his first open mic in the summer of 2010 he hasn’t looked back.
In regard to performing, it sounds like it’s one of the best feelings ever. That the live shows and getting the opportunity to make people forget about their problems for an hour or so and just laugh makes everything worth it. I couldn’t agree more; I was on the fence about going to his show because I’m a senior trying to pack in a majority of a major in about a year’s time to avoid becoming a super senior, but he achieved his objective of making me forget all about that. I got the chance to watch a bunch of other people get super awkward when he called on them and be thankful that I wasn’t called on; because I would have been thoroughly unprepared.
Then I asked him where he finds his best crowds, what types of audiences suited his routine the best. And he said it’s little towns just like our beloved Henniker. My first thought that came to mind was, well, that explains how he had heard of NEC. He said the small town crowds are much more laid back and are just there to have a great time, since most of those towns don’t have much going on. He was also born and raised in a small town so that makes it much easier to connect with that demographic. I can also say a small town is easier to make fun of, especially when it’s dreary and cold throughout the winter like just about any town in New Hampshire or anywhere in the northeast.
I asked him about his biggest crowd. Derrick actually performed at the OddBall Comedy Festival a few years ago in front of 2,500 people; and I don’t care how confident you are performing like that in front of a crowd of that capacity must have been terrifying. He claimed that he couldn’t describe how nervous he was.
I followed up with: how difficult is it to cope with stage fright when you go on stage and perform like that? His answer was practice. Like just about anything we strive to achieve in life, it takes practice to get better and to overcome obstacles that are thrown at you. Even after an ongoing career for the last ten years, Derrick said he still gets nervous and that it’s just a reminder that he loves what he does.
I also asked about style. Derrick said that it’s difficult for a comedian to define their own sense of style until they’ve performed a lot. The style I got to see is called crowd work; really engaging the crowd, talking to certain members of the audience one-on-one and making it funny. He said, “If people wanted to hear jokes you can just watch YouTube videos,” and I couldn’t agree more with that statement. It felt like the whole room was involved with that statement; and even though I didn’t know anybody besides my friend I attended the show with, it felt like I got to learn things I didn’t care to know about but it was still hilarious and brought the whole crowd together.
As someone who is interested in getting into stand up comedy, I asked Derrick for some additional tips for someone wanting to try the profession. I kind of took that shot in the dark but it turned out he was happy to help. He said it’s okay to be bad and that everyone starts out that way. I immediately agreed with him because at my first open mic performance, I felt like I did terribly. He said just keep learning how to adapt to audiences and just practice standing in front of crowds and doing as many open mics as possible. He said focus on jokes rather than stories, short and to the point, set-ups and punchlines. He said stick with the script and learn how to make people laugh with the material you come up with rather than working with crowds at first.
Another big piece is body language. As a comedian you should be up there to have fun and if you’re enjoying yourself your audience should react in a similar manner. He said to think about developing yourself as a character on stage. Like “if you were going to be a sitcom character, who would you be?” Then write material surrounding that character and that could be a stage persona.
One of the last things I asked him about was signature jokes. He said he doesn’t particularly have a signature joke or if he’ll even bother to create one. He said, “the best part about being an artist and what drives me is knowing that my best joke has yet to be written”; I think that statement should be put on a plaque. As an aspiring entertainer and writer I felt that as very motivational and something I’ll definitely carry with me throughout my writing career.
If you didn’t get a chance to see Derrick’s show here in Henniker, you can look up his web series called Laugh Treks and Henniker is actually featured in the first episode. Also, his Instagram account @dkcomedy_ has plenty of quality content as well.