What’s this? Another Cincinnati comedian is appearing on national TV? It’s becoming almost commonplace, as the Queen City’s Dave Waite makes his television debut this week on Comedy Central’s Live at Gotham.
Cincinnati’s own Josh Sneed got him the slot at an audition held at the Columbus Funny Bone. Batting fifth and doing a mash-up of “greatest hits,” Waite impressed the Gotham scouts. Of the 19 comedians that performed, only he was chosen to go to New York, which actually surprised him.
“There were a lot of talented people,” he says.
He describes the taping of the program as a “whirlwind” and a bit unsettling at first.
“I was so nervous about being on TV,” Waite says. “Cameras everywhere, they put makeup on you.”
Once he hit the stage though, he quickly calmed down. “There was one joke I told that got a really big reaction and that put me at ease. ‘Alright, it’s like regular set, just because there are cameras here it’s not a big deal.’ I didn’t say that, I just thought it.”
Waite started doing stand-up about five years ago after taking the comedy class Jeff Jenna hosted at Funny Bone on the Levee in Newport. From there he started performing at Go Bananas Wednesday Pro/Am nights and other places around the town. Two years later he quit his day job.
“I was working in an office doing clerical work and stuff like that,” Waite says. Data entry. Opening mail. I gave it all up for this."
Despite what we see on The Office, the mundane work existence that Waite was in never really provided a lot of comic fodder. It did, however, offer something else that helped his budding comedy career.
“It definitely amped up the drive to do this,” he says. “I wasn’t on any sort of corporate track, I was just at a job. It wasn’t a career and I had no idea what I wanted to do. Once I started doing comedy, I was like ‘Oh, this is what I want to do,’ and I actually started to work hard at something.”
Up until now Waite has mostly been featuring for other comics (featuring is stand-up-speak for “opening”). He's starting to headline more and more, though. It’s a slightly different mindset between the two slots.
“It seems like the expectation level is different (when you headline),” Waite says. “You’re the star of the show. People will accept what you do a little bit more, whereas if you’re in the middle spot they still can make decision on you — yes or no — because they know there’s another guy coming.”
Headlining means more material, of course, and that’s an area that’s challenging for any comic.
“Writing material for the first couple of years I did comedy, I had a job, outside stimulus,” Waite explains. “Stuff that would happen during my day. Writing becomes more difficult once you don’t have a ‘normal’ life.”
Perhaps that’s why Waite is looking inward and to past experiences for bits.
“It’s weird, the longer you do comedy the more mature you can be about talking about your life,” he says. “You can open up and start talking about yourself. With high school, I have enough perspective on that now that I can talk about it. The shit that’s happened to me this year I can probably talk about it in, who knows, a couple of years?”
Local fans can catch Waite during Christmas week when he co-headlines Go Bananas with another area favorite, Ryan Singer.
“Hopefully, friends I haven’t seen in a while will be in town and come out,” Waite says.
DAVE WAITE performs on Comedy Central’s Live at Gotham Friday at 11 p.m. The show repeats at 8 a.m. Saturday.