Humor and policing are typically mutually exclusive. Funny is not the usual adjective when a cop pulls someone over.
But if the officer is Mike Armstrong, it could be an amusing experience.
“When people from out of state would get pulled over in Kentucky where I was a policeman, they would be freaked out,” Armstrong said by phone from Louisville.
“They saw ‘Deliverance’ and they watched hillbillies dance with snakes. So I would mess with them. I would go up there at night and pull them over with dark sunglasses and talk in my thickest hillbilly accent and say, ‘Where are you from, boy?’ A guy said, ‘Pittsburgh.’ I said, ‘Well if that’s true, why does your license plate say ‘Pennsylvania?’
“I would let them go and they would have a story that they could talk about for years.”
It’s not surprising that the constantly wisecracking Armstrong became a comic. Every 30 seconds during a half-hour conversation, Armstrong delivered a joke and laugh.
Armstrong’s joy is infectious. He laughs constantly while reminiscing about his police work, which ended during the late ’90s
“Being a cop is humorless,” Armstrong said. “I get it. You have to act like you’re in control. But I look at the big picture. People are petrified when they see blue lights.
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“I tried to do the opposite with people when I pulled them over. If they were doing something minor, I would try to calm them down.
“I remember pulling over this car full of ladies who were speeding. I said, ‘Are you gals late for a shoe sale?’ I just let them go and told them to be careful.”
A driver Armstrong once pulled over left the scene richer.
“Younger cops tend to give out more tickets,” Armstrong said. “A partner and I had pulled a guy over and I noticed he had a Purple Heart symbol (on his license plate). I told my partner, ‘This guy gave blood for his country. Are you really going to give him a ticket?’
“I told him to not give him a ticket but slip him $20 for lunch, thank him for what he sacrificed for his country — and he did. It’s a story that guy will tell forever.”
Armstrong will deliver anecdotes like that when he performs Jan. 25 and 26 at Penguins Comedy Club in Cedar Rapids.
But there’s more to the amusing family man. Armstrong will joke about his children, his first and second marriages and his pets.
“I have five kids and four dogs,” he said. “That’s enough for entertainment. I’m glad I found this second act.”
The reason Armstrong left the force after 14 years of service was simple.
“I tried comedy and I made a lot more money,” he said.
“People liked what I did onstage and it’s worked out, since I enjoy this more. Life has been better in general for me midlife.”
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Armstrong, who divorced his first wife after 32 years of marriage, is happier with his latest bride.
“I’m not trying to put my first wife down, but she was very corporate,” he said.
“She was always trying to change me. My kids said, ‘Mom, if you change Dad we’ll lose everything. He’s just a goofy guy. Let him be.’
“My second wife is a lot like me and she gets me. We’ve been together for three and a half years and she doesn’t mind if I act like a redneck because I am a redneck. And she doesn’t care if I joke about her in my act.
“But I have to admit that I’ve always had a good support system, which is what a comic needs. My wife, kids and my dad, especially, have been so supportive.”
When Armstrong toyed with the idea of becoming a comic, his father backed him up.
“My dad said, ‘I’ll pay all of your bills for a year if you give it a shot,’” Armstrong said. “My dad said, ‘You were always funny, now go for it.’ That blew me away, since most parents don’t want their kids to even think about becoming a comic, but I’m lucky. I had the support, the drive and the material.
“I still have lots of material. My family gives it to me every day.”
WHAT: Mike Armstrong
WHERE: Penguins Comedy Club, 208 Second Ave. SE, Cedar Rapids
WHEN: 8 p.m. Jan. 25 and 26
TICKETS: $18 advance, $20 show day; (319) 362-8133 or Penguinscomedyclub.com
ARTIST’S WEBSITE: Mikearmstrongcomedy.com