Columbus Comedy Festival: Anthony O'Connell

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

He thought of the idea on Sunday and was on stage four days later.

Anthony O'Connell, who had always been funny, didn't think he needed to prepare anything before taking the stage at a local open mic. He thought he could just wing it.

He thought wrong.

"I went up and bombed horribly," O'Connell explained with one of his regular, jovial laughs. "I don't feel that they were angry. There were just crickets. I was very naive."

He learned the hard way, but he learned.

Then, like all successful comics, he went to work.

He used local open mics to hone technique and debut new material. Over the years he started bombing less and learning more about timing, editing and presentation. He befriended other comics, who helped him book shows and land stage time.

"Every comedian wants to make Columbus a better scene, and they want to improve comedy," he said. "It's just a really, really good scene. Columbus is about original voices and being your own comic."

Speaking of voices, O'Connell's is peculiarly high-pitched, so it's become a regular topic in his routine. When the lights went out during a recent show in Wilmington, he took the opportunity to assure the audience that he was, in fact, a dude.

"I've always used humor," O'Connell said. "Whatever you got going on, you got to use it."

Though laidback when not on stage, O'Connell is ambitious about making comedy a career. He booked his first theater show in March and this summer plans to tour Ohio with several comic friends. He's also working with sketch group Future Friend Comedy and doing crowd entertainment for "Cash Explosion."

"Killing in front of an audience is better than any high or drunkenness," he said. "It's the best feeling ever."

Tonight at the festival, he'll join four colleagues to perform "Comedy Revolver," which functions like "Mystery Science Theater 3000." Each does a short routine, while the other mic'd-up comics riff on its highs and lows.

"We are all good friends, and we all bust each other's chops anyway," O'Connell explained. "So I think it's going to be really, really good."