When Tony Boswell talks about riding a Greyhound bus, you can tell he's been on one, and probably more than once.
"If you ever find yourself in the situation where you have to take the bus, here's my advice," the standup comedian says in his act. "Before you get on that bus, re-evaluate every major life decision that brought you to that point - and then stab yourself in the eye with a fork.
"And then you'll find that you fit in much better with the other people who are already on the bus."
Boswell who'll deliver the laughs at two shows this weekend in the Wormhole's Comedy Vortex series, follows this with a string of deadpan observations that close the deal on the road-coach experience.
Not to give it all away, but he follows with "Here are some things you'll never hear on a Greyhound bus:
" ‘Can I read the financial section when you're done?' ‘Pardon me, sir, can you break a fifty?' ‘Pardon me, do you have any Grey Poupon?'
"No, you're going to hear things like: ‘Are you gonna eat that?'"
With 25 years as a professional comic, and more than 3,000 shows under his belt, Boswell has a natural, conversational stage presence, and the enviable ability to make you believe that everything he talks about has actually happened to him at one time or another.
He called us from the road - he was driving through Florida in his trusty 1993 Fort Escort.
So, the life of a road comic must be pretty tough, huh?
Tony Boswell: First of all, you're your own boss. You're not in the same place every day. I know some guys burn out on it. There's certainly times when I wouldn't mind being at home, but I still enjoy getting out on the road. I guess it suits me.
You're driving as we chat right now, but do you fly to shows a lot?
Tony Boswell: Yeah. I guess it depends on where it's at. If it's within a comfortable drive, a day's drive, I'll do that. If it's more, I'll fly. Ever now and again, you're in a place where an airplane just doesn't go. Those smaller markets.
But I would avoid the bus at all costs now.
Were you always funny? A funny kid?
Tony Boswell: I started right after the comedy boom. When I was a kid, there was not this comedy club circuit. Steve Martin kind of came along and that exploded everything. But as a kid, I memorized Monty Python sketches, and George Carlin albums, and lived for Saturday Night Live every week. It wasn't until the ‘80s that I realized it was even something you could make a living at. Once I did it for fun, the first time, I was hooked and there's been no looking back since then.
You started by doing improv in Chicago?
Tony Boswell: When I was going to school, and hating what I was going to school for, my friends were all taking classes at Second City. I was watching and hanging out there so much they said "They're paying for this - you can't hang out and watch any more." Improv was the first year or so, and then I started doing open mics as a solo act.
Improv is a terrifying prospect to me. Isn't it like jumping off a cliff and hoping there's a trampoline down there?
Tony Boswell: I think there's so much bad improv; the really good ones are few and far between. But when you see really good improv, it's like "Wow, that was amazing." My roommates in Chicago were the founders of the Upright Citizens Brigade; they're one of the premier improv groups.
Did you suck when you started?
Tony Boswell: Of course! Everybody does at improv. But when I approached standup I was really methodical. I knew I was gonna do it and I took a long time writing my first set. Re-writing it, and editing it, and going and watching the open mics. Making sure that I wasn't repeating anything that other people were doing at the time.
So I was really prepared the first time. I didn't just jump in. You know, you see a lot of guys go to open mics because their friends at work told them they were funny. And they don't take the time to write jokes. They just up and say "Hey, how about that airline food. Pretty bad, huh?" And they wonder why they don't get any laughs.
I'm writing all the time. And what's different now is, I don't try to write what I think the audience will find funny. I write what's funny to me. If I believe in it, then it's almost always gonna be successful.
In one bit, you tell the audience about your some of your experiences with alcoholism. Is that a true story?
Tony Boswell: It's all true. I re-wrote my act entirely four and a half years ago when I got sober. It's not preachy - I don't want people to think it's going to be some 12-step show. It's only a small part of my act, how it affected me. But it definitely made me more dedicated to writing, and being good.
Where: Wormhole Bar, 2307 Bull St.
When: At 8:30 and 11 p.m. Saturday, July 2
Tickets: $15 (early show), $10 (late show)
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