David Young found his calling in the United States Air Force 17 years ago, and to date he’s visited or been stationed in 58 countries around the world.
An American who spent several teenage years in Savannah, Technical Sgt. Young is currently stationed at a base in Cambridge, England, part of an administrative unit called Command and Control.
The 36–year–old loves his military life, but he can’t ignore the fact that that he’s just a naturally funny guy, a quick–witted soldier who enjoys making his buddies laugh.
David Young’s career, Part 2: Standup comedy.
He’ll be in Savannah Saturday, Jan. 5, for the Wormhole’s monthly “Comedy Planet” show. Also on the bill: Spark Mann (BET Comic View, Comics Unleashed) and Savannah’s own Phil “Conquistadork” Keeling.
Although Young’s not a native, much of his extended family is in Savannah and the surrounding area. In fact, he says, he might have as many as 30 family members in the audience on Jan. 5.
With the exception of a pair of quick–hit Open Mic nights in Kansas a year or two ago, he has never performed in the United States before. Certainly not as a featured comic.
His major tours of duty have included the Netherlands, Panama, Hungary, Turkey, and Iraq during the Gulf War.
Dude, that’s serious business. How do you find time to be funny?
David Young: The people that are in the military tend to have a gallows sense of humor. A lot of times people will say “I don’t like this. I’m not going to do this any more” and just put it to the side. Whereas more often we’re forced to deal with stuff. So we just suck it up and do it, but while we’re doing it we’ll make fun of it or point out how stupid it is ... you know what I mean? It keeps you sane by having an outlet.
Early on, before I started doing standup, I would do these newsletters. I’d write these fake news stories that would be very tongue–in–cheek, making fun of policies or other things. Always a little borderline, always stirring the conflict a little bit. I did my first standup set when I was in Iraq. They had a talent competition called Ali Idol — because it was at Ali Air Base — people sang and did other things. I went up and did five minutes of standup and a five–minute parody song, and it went over really well. I won that, and I thought well, maybe I can really give this a go.
An air base full of soldiers is one thing, or a club in England, but how do you do standup in a city in, say, Hungary?
David Young: I got really lucky. I saw an advertisement for a new English–language comedy night in Budapest. I called up the guy who was doing it, a British guy, and he said “Yeah, I’m doing it for the ex–pat communities in these big cities like Budapest and Prague.” So he flies in comedians from the U.K., Ireland, Australia. He brings in a headliner and an opener, and they do each city once a month.
After I did five minutes, he said “You know, I don’t have a regular middle act. I can’t afford to fly somebody else in.” I became his go–to middle act. It gave me a chance to A, to get five minutes in front of a crowd, and B, I was working between established U.K. acts. So I started to talk to them, and pick their brains. I did that for about six months, and I got orders to the U.K.
I would imagine an American standup is kind of unique in British clubs.
David Young: I have to win them over. I mean, they’re excited about a U.K. act, and I think they do pay more attention. I tell the emcee not to tell them that I’m American. My first bit, I say “How y’all doing tonight? From my accent, I guess you can tell that I’m an ...” Somebody will yell out “American,” and I’ll go “Asshole is the word I was looking for, but American’s close enough.” Then I say “Yah, but at least I’m not French,” and they get a big laugh out of that.
There’s a lot of differences between the British and American styles. I’m a lot more fast–paced, jokes–per–minute sort of guy, and they’re more about storytelling and wordplay. Puns are massive, and they kill over here.
What are your plans for the immediate future?
David Young: The worst thing that could happen to me right now is somebody comes up and says “I loved your set — how would you like to do a sitcom?” I’d be like “Awesome ... but I can’t.” I’ve got two years and 10 months till I retire and I’m not walking away from the Air Force. So I’ve got to bide my time a little bit.
But I’m using that time to get better, to write more material, to network more. I’m deploying again in a month. I’m going to Qatar for six months — I won’t really be able to do any comedy. There’s not a lot of standup going on in the Middle East.
Basically, I’ll be writing. And I bought a bunch of high–end podcast equipment — I’m going to get over there and stay creative. More than likely, after my two years I’m going to come back to the States, go to school and do comedy. I want to finish up my degree; the Air Force G.I. bill is going to pay for that. I want to be doing school during the day, and basically find a comedy club that I can work at night. Sort of get my foot in the door.
Spark Mann, David Young, Phil Keeling
Where: Wormhole Bar, 2307 Bull St.
When: At 8:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 5 (seating starts at 7:30)
Admission: $15 (tickets at comedyplanet.bpt.me)
David Young Online: sophmoronic.drupalgardens.com
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I would love to work on something.