Whiskey Bear Comedy Festival: Erik Tait

Erica Thompson

Local comedian and magician Erik Tait wants you to know that he's hilarious, and he has a diploma to prove it. He is a top graduate of the Comedy Writing and Performance program at Humber College in Toronto.

"They say they can't make people funny; they can only take funny people and make them funnier," he said.

Prior to attending the school, Tait honed his performance chops in Tennessee. As a kid, he received juggling lessons from famous juggling duo Scott and Joan Houghton, and went on to participate in the Atlanta Juggler's Festival. There's footage online.

"It's really bad," he said. "I'm like juggling to Mortal Kombat music."

But the training was invaluable.

"[Scott Houghton] helped me understand how a juggling routine has structure, like how it has a beginning, middle and an end, and how comedy works the same way," Tait said.

During his senior year of high school, Tait got a job at the Comedy Barn, which specialized in "old-school vaudeville variety" shows. He also did standup at night, and became a skilled magician, specializing in mentalism.

Equipped with a ton of real-world experience and his comedy degree, Tait took off for Los Angeles. He did open-mic nights and performed at the prestigious Magic Castle. He also got a job as a story editor, and did some work on the script for "The Joneses," a film starring Demi Moore and David Duchovny.

But he soon became "disillusioned" with LA. He moved to Columbus to work for his parents' manufacturing company, and was thrilled with the comedy scene.

"There's 10 comedy clubs in a 100-mile radius of Columbus. There's only three comedy clubs in Los Angeles and they'll never hire me," he said. "I got out here and made more money in the first six months than I did in three years in Los Angeles."

Tait also noticed a difference between the Columbus audience and those who watched his shows in LA. "The audience here is real people who come to see real comedy. It's not a dark bar … filled with actors who are just waiting to go to their next audition, or comics waiting to go on their slot," he said.

These days, Tait performs "close-up" magic shows at private parties, corporate events and at Camelot Cellars on the third Thursday of every month. He specializes in sleight of hand using a deck of cards.

When it comes to comedy, he does standup, hosts burlesque shows and performs with his sketch comedy group, We Know a Girl. His material includes observations, confessions and stories, like the time he "accidentally walked into a strip club in Atlanta."

"At the end of the day, all I want to do is make something that other people can enjoy," he said. He cites his inclusion in the Whiskey Bear Comedy Festival as confirmation that he is putting out a quality product. "They didn't just add me to the show because I'm a local and I'm their friend," he said.

In addition to being certifiably funny, Tait wants you to know that he is a nerd. "I've got a large comic book collection, I play video games ... I build Wordpress websites. My album is calledNerd is the New Black … and I thank God every day for the Marvel universe."

This article has been updated to correct the spelling of Humber College.