Comedian Don Grey On The Funnier Side of Performing Better

May 10, 2017 by Michael Cordeiro

We all know that engaging our audience is a crucial part of having a successful event. The ability to properly use humor is just as much a learned skill as any other in our bag of tricks. But the fact is that some of us are just not as funny as we think we are. There is hope though. I sat down with comedian Don Grey recently to get his thoughts on how to effectively use comedy to make our performances better. It’s no joke: According to Don, comedy is serious business.

MikeC: Hey Don, I appreciate you taking time out on the ship to sit with me. How long have you been doing comedy for Carnival?
DonG: My pleasure. I started on Carnival back in 2008. I was doing clubs and the comedy circuit and this opportunity just opened up for me. It’s been great.
MikeC: How long are you on each ship?
DonG: The comedians work a little different than the other entertainers. We work half of each cruise so the guests have two sets of comedians to enjoy. One set at the start and one set at the end.
MikeC: So you just change ships in the middle of the Caribbean or some other port?
DonG: Pretty much. Carnival gives us a schedule of which ships we are performing on and takes care of the transportation.
MikeC: Nice. So how did you get started in comedy? Were you the class clown growing up?
DonG: Long story. I was born in New Jersey and moved to L.A. when I was small. I was heavy set as a kid and kind of self conscious and shy. I always had jokes in my head, but I would tell them to the class clown to act out. I was kind of the ghost writer for the funny kids growing up.
MikeC: When did you start to break out on your own?
DonG: In high school. I was a latch key kid and started focusing on my weight real serious. I dropped 50 lbs by my junior year and never looked back. That gave me the confidence to get out of my shell. I started doing some comedy on my own and went to watch all the comedians that I could. The club owners would let me sit in the back to watch and learn even though I was under age.
MikeC: So who was one of your biggest influences?
DonG: I have to say Michael Collier. Before he was famous. He would perform in the street for money and somehow end up with a huge crowd around him just by telling jokes and making fun of people.
MikeC: He inspired you to become a comedian?
DonG: Definitely. He was a major influence.
MikeC: Did you start performing in L.A.?
DonG: I did some shows there, but L.A. is so saturated with comedians that I decided to move to Atlanta. The East Coast comedy circuit was really hot at the time and there were better opportunities.
MikeC: How competitive is the comedy world?
DonG: Very. There’s a lot of great people, but also a lot of jealousy and pettiness. It takes a long time to get established and build a reputation. I played a lot of horrible clubs to get where I am.
MikeC: Sounds just like the DJ world.
DonG: I’m sure it does. I’ve seen some really bad DJ’s on the road, but I’ve also worked with some really great guys as well.
MikeC: Let’s talk performance. How do you prepare for a show?
DonG: I workout, meditate and go over my cue cards. I try to clear my head and run through my routine a few times.
MikeC: Do you have set routines that you do or is it mostly improv?
DonG: More of a routine or a set. Like you guys at events. I have a script of what I’m going to do, but I leave room for the unexpected or to just let the show take off on it’s own.
MikeC: How important is meditating before a show to you?
DonG: Very important. You have to clear your head of all the noise and be able to focus and deliver a great performance to your audience.
MikeC: What if an audience isn’t feeling your set or routine? What do you do?
DonG: Panic…Lol. Just like how DJ’s mix songs, I have to be able to changes jokes or punchlines to fit a crowd. What’s funny in Texas isn’t always funny in New York or L.A. The trick is to know your material inside out and read your crowd quickly.
MikeC: How often do you change your material up?
DonG: Often. Jokes have a short shelf life. You can only do the same routine so many times before every one has heard it. Especially with YouTube and social media.
MikeC: We go through the same thing.
DonG: Right, I’m sure you don’t play the same song list at every gig. You’re always adding new music or playing to the crowd in front of you.
MikeC: At least we have the advantage of being able to play old stuff and new stuff. Do you ever go back and use old material?
DonG: Sometimes. If I have the right crowd. It’s always nice to pull out an old favorite or part of an old routine, mix it with some new stuff and get fresh laughs.
MikeC: Define “funny” to me.
DonG: I would say it like this; anyone can get their buddies to laugh. A true comedian can get everyone to laugh, every time. That takes practice.
MikeC: Do you recommend training like Improv classes?
DonG: Definitely. Even if you have no plans of ever doing stand up, comedy classes will help you get out of your comfort zone. They’ll teach you timing and delivery. You may not become the next Eddie Murphy, but you’ll definitely be able to give your audiences a better time.
MikeC: What’s the deal with Comedy Fitness?
DonG: I’ve been a fitness guru since high school. I really am very health conscious and work out every chance I get. I think it’s just such a big part of being able to perform at your best. A healthy body, healthy mind; it all goes hand in hand. I started Comedy Fitness Podcast to give people a different way to work out and inspire them.
MikeC: How can we get the Podcast?
DonG: The website is www.comedyfitness.com and the podcasts are available on Itunes. You can follow me on Twitter @comicdkgrey
MikeC: What’s the best piece of advice you can give on performance?
DonG: You have to own it. Whether your show is fantastic or a flop, you gotta own it. That’s the only way you can improve. Be proud of your successes, but work your ass off to minimize your failures.

Michael Cordeiro Michael Cordeiro (44 Posts)

Mike Cordeiro is the owner of M.C. Entertainment. A small RI multi-op. Mike got his start in the entertainment field while stationed in Frankfurt Germany in 1990. He has a Bachelor’s degree in Entertainment & Event Management from Johnson & Wales University and has appeared on TLC’s Four Weddings, hosted an episode of Toddler’s & Tiaras, and does background acting for movies.


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