Touring stand-up comedian and nine-time Emmy winner Rory Albanese always had aspirations to make people laugh.
As a former executive producer for The Daily Show, the New York native never had the opportunity to fully commit to stand-up. In 1999, he joined The Daily Show with Jon Stewart as a production assistant and eventually worked his way up to executive producer. Though he did stand-up on the side, it wasn’t until 2013 when he left the show to fully pursue that career.
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Albanese is currently touring around the country and will be at the Comedy Club on State in Madison April 12-14.
He said when he was 35, he decided it was more important for him to do the thing he had always been passionate about: stand-up.
“I sort of had that moment where I looked in the mirror and I said, ‘Look, you’re going to do this or you’re going to wonder your whole life,’” Albanese said. “Unless you go all in on something, you don’t really know what you’re capable of. And I never had gone all in on it. So I said, ‘Well, let’s just go all in and see what happens.’”
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But much of his inspiration for his stand-up came from writing for The Daily Show, Albanese said. He also found he had a keen sense of making jokes about things happening around the world.
His overall inspiration for comedy, however, comes from the “luxury” of making people laugh, he said.
“The weird thing about stand-up, it’s like there are sometimes you just have something in your head that you think is so funny and you’re like, ‘I don’t know why nobody else likes this,’” Albanese said. “Sometimes my favorite joke will be a joke that doesn’t even do well, but I just really liked it and in my head I’m like, ‘I know I’m not going to get that many laughs at this, but I really like it so I’m just gonna keep saying it until I get sick of people hating me.’”
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Sometimes he doesn’t know what kind of audience he’s walking into.
There are shows where he’s on stage for 15 minutes or an hour. Albanese said it’s his job to work with the energy of the crowd. The dream is for every time he takes the stage, people would be cheering for him, but that’s not always the reality.
“Sometimes you walk into a club in New York, like The Comedy Cellar, and it’ll be like completely sold out,” Albanese said. “And then we’ll go to another club and it’ll have like 14 people from Germany. OK, I’m going to try to make 14 Germans laugh. And it works sometimes and sometimes it doesn’t. It sort of becomes part of the job.”
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As a comedian, though, he won’t “cross a line” or become a different comedian to make people laugh. If people want to see him crush watermelons with a sledgehammer, he said people should see someone else, because he won’t change his style of stand-up for a laugh.
The best thing about stand-up, he said, is he gets to say controversial things out loud. As a college student, students get to hear controversial viewpoints different from their own, think about them and talk about them. Stand-up gives college students a way to do that, Albanese said.
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“You gotta lean into it and you gotta be true to yourself,” Albanese said. “Sometimes it takes a little while to figure out who you are. But the thing is, I think when you’re coming out of college or even in college you’re trying to figure out ‘Who am I? What do I like?’”
As for performing in Madison, Albanese said he’s excited to come back.
Albanese will be performing this coming Thursday to Saturday. You can buy tickets here.