The Comedian’s Struggle for Laughter

By Mary Rodack
Jambar Contributor

Two young comedians, Joe Anastasia and Tim Wolfe, are trying to find their voice within the comedy industry.

Social media makes it easier to reach the audience a comedian already has, but makes it harder for a comedian to break through the saturated market.

According to Washington Post writer Elahe Izadi, the golden age of comedy reigns supreme with streaming services like Netflix and Hulu. Social media platforms allow anyone to become a comedian, according to the article.

Dave Robich, owner of the Funny Farm Comedy Club in Youngstown, said he remembers when comedians such as Steve Harvey would perform at his comedy club for only $250. He loves that he is able to see the progression of comedians going from unknown to the world stage.  

Anastasia, a senior organizational communication major at Youngstown State University, actively started pursuing comedy in 2017. He started doing open mic events, eventually began performing at small venues in Pittsburgh, Youngstown, Erie and New Castle.

“I’ve always enjoyed stand-up comedy since a young age,” he said.

His interest began at a young age with the popular “Saturday Night Live” shows. Cast members like Chris Farley, Adam Sandler and David Spade caught his eye. Anastasia said he would do impressions of characters for his sisters who would find him hilarious.

Anastasia learned comedy from his family. He has two brothers and two sisters who helped him learn about humour and good chemistry.

“It’s such an amazing thing that one person can make a whole audience crack up laughing,” he said.

When received a positive response from his family, Anastasia said he thought about comedy as something he could possibly pursue.

He said he should be doing more with his comedy career than he is at the moment. As a full-time student with two jobs, finding time to devote to his passion is limited. After graduating from YSU this spring, Anastasia plans to move to Los Angeles to follow his passion for comedy.

Wolfe, 32, officially started comedy in 2012.

“A co-worker of mine who was a comedian signed me up for an open mic without telling me,” he said.  “I showed up with only a few jokes and nothing much to say, but I got enough laughs that I decided to keep doing it.”

Wolfe said sometimes stand-up can be difficult because many times comedy can be self-deprecating focused on weaknesses rather than strength.

“It gets laughs and it can be cathartic, but eventually it can take a toll on your mental health,” he said.

Robich said many people do not understand the work many comedians put into their craft to get people to laugh.

“Things like music and film are collaborative mediums where you can rely on the talents of many people, whereas stand-up comedians are solely responsible for the writing, performing, and marketing of their own act,” Wolfe said.

Anastasia said he wishes people knew comedians work and practice their skills constantly. He describes his stand-up as a performance and not just telling jokes.

“Comedy [is] really specific,” Anastasia said. “Everything written has a reason. Every movement is there for a reason.”

Robich suggests new comics perform as much as possible to practice their jokes and skits.

Wolfe said new comics should record every performance to understand why a certain joke might not work and to not be afraid of failure.

“So keep writing, keep performing and don’t get discouraged,” he said.