Hoopla

Former law enforcement officer turned comedian Mike Armstrong coming to Cedar Rapids

Cop-turned-comedian Mike Armstrong will appear Friday (2/7) and Saturday (2/8) at Penguins Comedy Club in Cedar Rapids.
Cop-turned-comedian Mike Armstrong will appear Friday (2/7) and Saturday (2/8) at Penguins Comedy Club in Cedar Rapids. (Mike Armstrong)

It’s better late than never when it comes to comedy for Mike Armstrong. The former law enforcement official didn’t focus on stand-up until he was 48.

“I understand that it’s a young man’s game, but some comics made it when they were older,” said Armstrong, who will perform Friday (2/7) and Saturday (2/8) at Penguins Comedy Club in Cedar Rapids.

Rodney Dangerfield and Redd Foxx are examples of comedians who didn’t take off until midlife.

“It can happen,” Armstrong said. “If you can make people laugh, you can be a comic no matter what your age is or what you did in the past.”

It’s difficult to envision Mike Armstrong in his prior life as a policeman.

Whenever the back-to-basics comic delivers a joke or an amusing thought, he punctuates the sentence with his infectious laugh.

“I love having a good time,” he said by phone from his home in Louisville, Ky.

That goes for the stage and that’s the way it was for Armstrong as a cop.

“I had my share of laughs when I was a policeman,” he said. “I would have fun with people so they wouldn’t get a ticket and have their insurance go up. I remember stopping a teenager and I made him pee in his pants. He did it and I let him go.”

The unconventional Armstrong had drivers do 20 pushups or he would toss their keys and they would have to find them. The common denominator was that tickets weren’t written.

“I gave people some stories that they would never forget,” he said.

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Armstrong, 68, who was a policeman for 14 years in Kentucky, hung up his badge just before the turn of the century.

“I couldn’t have the kind of fun I had back then now, since everybody records everything,” he said. “Now if I do something goofy, it’s onstage.”

The self-deprecating humorist describes his comedy as “one step above a knock-knock joke,” but Armstrong is more sophisticated than that.

His apolitical humor can be unpredictable and Armstrong is adept at engaging the audience.

“The best is going back and forth with the crowd,” he said. “I get it. Everybody comes out for one reason, which is to have fun. What’s fun about me is that I ad-lib. I like living in the moment onstage, since it keeps your mind sharp.”

Armstrong will riff about his family. His second wife, who is also retired law enforcement, is a tough cookie.

“If she goes to Walmart at 2 a.m. I feel sorry for anyone that goes after her. I’ll be glad to be a witness for them.”

Actor-humorist Harvey Korman and larger-than-life comic Sam Kinison were huge influences for Armstrong.

“I admired both of them so much,” he said. “They were both brilliant.”

Armstrong did some open mic nights as a comic during the ’80s. What made him take the comedic leap in 2000 was his brother.

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“He was always miserable,” Armstrong said. “I didn’t want to be him. He was always working. He never had any downtime. One day his heart exploded, which I think was due to being constantly under pressure. It’s a shame he died. He didn’t pursue what he dreamed of pursuing, but I did.

“I went for what I dreamed about and it worked out. Nothing bothers me. I go out there onstage and just have a blast doing my thing. I don’t write jokes down. I remember them and funny stuff just happens during the show. I talk about my kids. I have five children, who are adults and four dogs. That’s a lot to talk about,” he said.

“I’ve had a great second act and I’m hoping I have many more years of it.”

Get Out

• What: Mike Armstrong

• Where: Penguins Comedy Club, 208 Second Ave. SE, Cedar Rapids

• When: 8 p.m. Friday (2/7) and Saturday (2/8)

• Tickets: $15 advance, $18 door; Penguinscomedyclub.com

• Artist’s website: Mikearmstrongcomedy.com

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We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

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