Delmont comedian thrives on observational humor
Shaun Blackham does custom woodworking by day and makes people laugh at night. He has opened for a lot of big-name comedians and headlined his own shows. But the 51-year-old Delmont resident says the joke was on him when he was featured in a 2010 Tribune-Review story.
Question: What happened with that story?
Answer: I was out kayaking on Memorial Day weekend, and I found a 300 million-year-old fossil on the Kiski River. It was a slow news day when they had to come out to my house to do a story on me. That fossil got me more notoriety than my comedy.
Q: When did you start performing?
A: My first time was an open stage at the Funny Bone in Station Square in 1989.
Q: What prompted you to try that?
A: I had just gotten out of a relationship, and I was going through sort of a life change. One night, I just said, I want to try this. I was living at home, so I told my parents I was going to the mall. I didn't want to tell anyone what I was doing because I didn't know how it would work out.
Q: So you weren't the class clown?
A: I was very quiet in school. A few years back, I did a local show, and the guidance counselor from my high school was there. She came up to me and said she was amazed and shocked at how great the show was because I was one of the quietest people she ever met.
Q: How do you describe your comedy?
A: I do lot of observational humor. I talk a lot about myself being single, day-to-day life things, the difference between men and women and how they live. I don't get into politics.
Q: Can you give an example?
A: Women will spend hundreds of dollars on things for the bedroom that have nothing to do with sleeping. Me, I just have a mattress and box springs on the floor. I don't even have bedding, I just have a roll of paper mounted on the edge, like a doctor's office. If I have a visitor, I roll a fresh sheet out.
Q: Has anyone influenced your comedy?
A: Growing up, I'd watch the old Johnny Carson show, and I remember Buddy Hackett and Don Rickles. I liked Rickles because he just went in and didn't care what anybody said. I also liked the old “Saturday Night Live.”
Q: What about comedians working today?
A: Jim Gaffigan is phenomenal and so is Louis C.K. Jim Gaffigan is a devout Christian, and I don't know about Louis C.K. — he's very edgy and very blue, but he's very creative in his twist on things.
Q: Who have you worked with?
A: I worked with Drew Carey for years. I've worked with “SNL” alumni like Tracy Morgan and Adam Sandler, Michael Winslow from “Police Academy” and Pittsburgh native Billy Gardell, years ago at the Improv.
Q: Have you ever had a really tough audience?
A: I did a show for two people at Conneaut Lake Park. Two months prior, I did two shows there that were sold out, so I went up anticipating a great night. I get there and there's 12 people working and two in the audience. But the show must go on. I asked them, “Are you guys from out of town?” They said “Yeah,” so I asked where and they said Meadville. I said, “I guess you had to book a flight for that.”
Q: What gives you the most satisfaction in doing comedy?
A: I headlined a local show for about 300 people a few years ago. Afterward, a kid came up and I could tell he was military by his haircut and squared shoulders, and he shook my hand and said, “Thanks for making me laugh.” I said, “That's what I'm supposed to do.” He said, “You don't understand. I was in Afghanistan and Iraq; a lot of my friends died over there, and I have PTSD. I wasn't going to come out tonight, but my friends persuaded me, and it's the first time I've laughed in seven years.”
In the world we have now, there's daily tragedy and everyone has fears. If I can go into a room for 15 minutes or a half-hour and make people forget about those things, that's what I enjoy the most.
Shirley McMarlin is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 724-836-5750 or firstname.lastname@example.org.