by Steven Sanchez
On Tuesday, January 16, stand-up comedian Quincy Johnson II rolled into Clovis to do a set at Di Cicco’s Italian Restaurant in the heart of Old Town for their Just The Tips Tuesdays where well established career funny raconteurs either from LA or out of state come to perform for tip money, generously donated by attendees. Hailing from Los Angeles, but born in Chicago and raised in Texas, the actor/comedian has made appearances on television shows such as Community, Black-ish, VH1’s Walk of Shame, and Real Husbands of Hollywood. I met up with him after the show to pick his brain about his comedic style, approach, and what words he has to say to up-and-coming comics.
KRL: So, how long have you been doing comedy?
Quincy: I’ve been doing stand up for nine years. I’m an actor by trade as well. I got all my degrees in theater. But when I moved to LA to pursue acting, I fell in love with stand-up comedy and I’ve been doing it ever since.
KRL: Sometimes there’s a pattern where comedians do have a background in theater and performance, do you approach comedy the same way you did with theater, or are they different?
Quincy: Performance is performance, no matter what it is. The way you hold a pause for a monologue to achieve a dramatic effect, you can do the same with comedy but get a bigger laugh. You can take certain techniques from that and apply it to stand-up like improvising by using scenarios on the top of your head, or if something happens in the crowd, you can use that at your disposal to keep the comedic effect going.
KRL: Most people say “tragedy is comedy,” is there some truth to that quote?
Quincy: There’s both comedy and tragedy, but from an audience member’s perspective, as long as it’s not happening to them that’s what makes it funny. All of my tragic stories are tragic to me, but it’s hilarious to the audience listening because they are going along for the ride, but they’re not experiencing it. The thin line between a good joke and a great joke is saying “isn’t it funny when this happens,” or it’s funny because it happened to me, and the more truth there is behind it the funnier it is and easier for the crowd to identify with it.
KRL: When it comes to formulating jokes, some write them down, some improv, some rehearse, what’s your method?
Quincy: I write every day. Morning, afternoon, and night. I write to flesh out the joke, to get to the meat of what it is that I’m trying to say instead of wasting time trying to remember.
KRL: How would you describe your comedy style?
Quincy: Observational. I people watch. I take notes of scenarios that have happened in my life and see if I can make it funny by trying it out in front of an audience to see if it works.
KRL: Is any subject off limits?
Quincy: No subject is off limits as long as it’s funny. But no comedian can define if their joke is funny or not, that’s up to the audience. Whatever you write, be fearless, talk about whatever you want, don’t let the PC culture block you. For me, I can talk about race for fifteen minutes because I’ve worked on my material, and I know it’s funny by how I present it, and how I can get to the line but not cross it.
KRL: What subjects do you like to touch upon in your set?
Quincy: My view on whatever particular topic is relevant at the time whether it be politics, sex, my kid—he’s a major part of my life and is always going to be at the forefront of mind when it comes to my comedy. I don’t talk about marriage. Relationships I will do, but not marriage, because I have no roots in that particular subject. It’ll be disingenuous to bring it up so I only talk about what I know.
KRL: Do you have any advice for those that want to pursue stand-up comedy?
Quincy: Don’t be afraid to bomb. That’s my number one rule. Figure out what it is that you did bad and correct it. The minute you are afraid to bomb is the minute you’re afraid to take a risk of not being funny. And if you’re not willing to push your own envelope, you’re going to be come stagnant in your growth as a comedian.
KRL: You’re no stranger to comedic scenes in certain cities. Fresno doesn’t get that kind of attention, but what does the Central Valley need to do in order to spark the people’s interest for them to see that this place is a good location for comedic talent and entertainment?
Quincy: It’s about consistency. Danny Minch, the comedian and promoter who puts on these shows at Di Cicco’s and Groggs, just needs to keep doing what he’s doing: having the right venue(s) no matter what size it is. It’s the idea that as the show and the scene gets bigger, local businesses and local community theater need to see it as a growing market and support it.