The return of NBC’s reality show “Last Comic Standing” promises some extra fun for local residents and Penn State alumni in the form of one of its contestants, comedian Joe Machi. Born and raised in State College, Machi graduated from Penn State and tried his hand at a number of jobs before realizing he wanted to pursue a career in standup comedy.
In 2006 Machi moved to New York and soon began booking shows at comedy clubs around Manhattan. His career opportunities only grew after he started competing in high-profile comedy competitions. In recent years, Machi has made several late-night TV appearances and has a recurring segment on the Fox News satirical show, “Red Eye with Greg Gutfeld.” On the show, Machi plays a frightened news correspondent who shares his unusual fears with viewers while giving them advice on how to avoid whatever happens to be scaring him that week.
Now Machi is one of the 100 comedians competing against each other on the latest season of “Last Comic Standing.” Last airing in 2010, the returning competition sees contestants fighting for top spots by performing in front of a panel of judges including comedy icons Roseanne Barr, Russell Peters and Keenen Ivory Wayans. The winner of the competition will take home a cash prize and land a development deal to star in a TV series.
The Centre Daily Times spoke with Machi about his local standup performances, his comedic influences and the most memorable moments of his career so far.
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Q: Was a career in comedy something you had thought about pursuing from a young age, or was there a specific event, moment or even person in your life that made you realize it was what you wanted to do?
A: I remember being very intrigued by standup comedy when I was very little. My dad or older brother had a tape of Jack Benny telling jokes that I somehow got ahold of and I loved how someone could make strangers laugh every third sentence. When I was 12, I started watching “SNL.” The Weekend Updates by Kevin Nealon and Norm MacDonald really made me interested in writing and performing jokes.
Q: Before moving to New York, did you perform in State College or anywhere else?
A: There really wasn’t a place to do comedy in State College or Penn State, so I went to the open mics at bars once I turned 21. They had mics at the Rathskeller, the Darkhorse and the Phyrst. I think they were a little reluctant to have someone try jokes, and the audience was like, “What is this? I can’t think right now. I want to hear my friend cover songs.” I don’t think I got much out of it other than the fact that the hardest part of pursuing a dream is actually showing up.
Q: On YouTube videos of your standup and TV appearances, several people have left comments describing your comedic style as being intentionally nervous. Do you agree with this?
A: I’m not intentionally nervous, I just don’t fight being nervous. It works with what I do, anyway. Plus, does it really ever help when someone says “Don’t be nervous”?
Q: What has been the most memorable moment of your career so far and why?
A: It’s a tie. In May of 2012, I did a standup spot on “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.” The other is when I performed my first set on the 2012 New Faces, Characters and Unrepped Showcase at the Just for Laughs comedy festival in Montreal. I was happy to have even been selected. Then I had the best set of the night in front of a packed audience. Howie Mandel saw me and had me on his televised theater show. Agents and managers were trying to sign me the rest of the week.
Q: What are you most excited for people to see in the new season of “Last Comic Standing”?
A: As someone who isn’t a fan of reality shows, I’m still excited because, between all the extra stuff, viewers will actually get to see some great jokes from some great comedians.