“Better Than a Real Job,” the name of Mike Gardner’s latest DVD, was inspired by a question his dad often asked the comic.
“He always used say to me, ‘When are you going to get a real job,’” Gardner said by phone from his Indianapolis home. “He always advised me to get a real job like him. I compared what we made over the last few years and I’ve made a lot more than him.
“I’m glad I didn’t take his advice. I’m doing what I love and getting paid for it. That’s the best thing in the world as far as I’m concerned.”
Gardner, 35, laughed when asked why he doesn’t live in an entertainment capital on the East or West Coast.
“Everybody thinks you’re supposed to live in Los Angeles or New York if you’re a stand-up comic,” Gardner said. “But I read somewhere that I live within a five-hour drive of 80 percent of paid comedy. Sure, I have to fly to Seattle or Phoenix, but I can drive to Cedar Rapids and play all of these cool towns on the way. I would rather play Cedar Rapids than L.A. since the fan base is hungrier for comedy.”
Gardner will make his Cedar Rapids debut Friday (6/14) and Saturday (6/15) at Penguins Comedy Club. Expect him to poke at himself during his two-night run.
“I do autobiographical stuff,” he said. “I don’t divide the audience. I leave the political and religious humor to other comics. I admire the guys that can do that effectively. I was watching a clip of (the late comic) Patrice O’Neal, and he was great at delivering that kind of provocative material. But I’m a different kind of comic. I just want to take you away from your everyday life. I’m not going to alienate anyone.”
The person he is careful not to alienate is his 7-year-old daughter, Helena.
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“She means the world to me,” Gardner said. “I’ve been a single father for seven years. She’s at an age in which it’s apparent that I’m not going to be her best friend forever. She’s starting to like her friends more than me. I have to grow up. But it’s all good. It makes sense that I have a daughter,” since he grew up with a mother and six sisters.
“I talk about how it impacted me,” he said. “I grew up sitting down to pee. I approach relationships in a different manner than other men. I think I approach a relationship from a woman’s point of view, which is interesting when it comes to dating. I love to tell stories about my life. There’s no place like the stage. You never know what can happen.”
Gardner speaks from experience. A few years ago a woman ran onto the stage when he was performing in the Virgin Islands, and what transpired went viral.
“She was under the influence and thought that she could be funnier than me,” he said. “Well, she succeeded by tripping on the lip of the stage when she was coming up. Shaquille O’Neal said it was the one of the funniest things he ever saw. She didn’t mean any harm. She just wanted to have fun. But it would be nice if the people in Cedar Rapids just let do my thing onstage.”
Gardner has earned the approval of his father and his high school business teacher.
“He recently asked me to come into school to talk to his business class,” Gardner said. “He also asked me for tickets to one of my shows. I was more than happy to give him tickets. He appreciates the fact that I started my own business and that I’m funny. I love it.”