The military and comedy are unlikely bedfellows. Few cadets become comedians. However, Greg Warren, who attended West Point, is a veteran comic.
“It’s an unlikely but true story,” Warren said by phone from his St. Louis home. “I was recruited by West Point. A lot of people were impressed that I was going to go (there) and so I did. It wasn’t where I was supposed to be. I didn’t enjoy it.”
Warren, 50, dropped out of the academy along New York’s Hudson River, ending his military career.
“I saved a lot of lives by going in another direction,” he said. “But I did develop my sense of humor there.”
The corporate world was next for Warren, who worked at Procter & Gamble for a decade.
“I loved it there, but I needed something more,” he said. “I wouldn’t have been happy if I just worked for them. I would have looked back someday and knew that I could have done more than work at a company like Procter & Gamble.”
Much like the iconic Jeff Foxworthy, who toiled at IBM before breaking into comedy, Warren left security and stability for the unpredictable life of a comedian.
“I was doing well at Procter & Gamble,” Warren said. “It was a great company. But I started doing comedy at night after working during the day and I realized that comedy was my passion. When I decided to leave the company and go into comedy, my dad was less than thrilled.”
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However, 18 years after leaving the suits behind, Warren couldn’t be happier with his career move.
“I can’t tell you how satisfied I am as a comedian,” he said. “I’m returning to where it all basically started for me.”
Penguins Comedy Club in Cedar Rapids — where Warren will perform once Friday (4/5) and twice Saturday (4/6) — was where he made his debut after leaving Procter & Gamble.
“Penguins was the first club I started my new life with,” he said. “I have a lot of memories there. I feel so comfortable at Penguins. It really is a significant place for me. Every time I go back to Penguins I think of the first time I played there.”
Warren is so comfortable at Penguins that he’s doing an all-ages show Saturday afternoon, in addition to his evening performances.
“Why not do an all-ages show,” he said. “I’m a clean comic. Kids can come out. I won’t be doing anything inappropriate. There’s not enough all-ages show in comedy.”
Expect Warren to deliver observational humor and self deprecating stories.
“I’ll be more on top of things than when I played Iowa in the past,” he said. “A couple of years ago, I was playing Des Moines and I asked some farmers what they farm and they said, ‘Beans.’ I said, ‘Green beans?’ They started laughing at me like I was the dumbest person they ever met. They were farming soybeans. I didn’t think I was that ridiculous. It wasn’t like I said, ‘What, are you farming jelly beans?’ So I know I have to be on top of my game in Iowa.”
Warren will wax about the complexities of midlife.
“It’s difficult getting older,” he said. “Am I the only one who is not crazy about those MRI machines? When you’re in there it sounds like you’re being riddled with machine-gun fire. I feel like screaming, ‘I’ve been hit.’”
The silver lining is that if Warren feels that way, at least he’s in a hospital.
“That’s true,” he said.
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“It’s difficult growing older, but what keeps me young is doing something that I love. I sometimes think about what it would have been like for me if I stayed in the corporate world. I made the right decision. I can talk about all sorts of things. It’s cathartic and it makes me happy.”
WHAT: Greg Warren
WHERE: Penguins Comedy Club, 208 Second Ave. SE, Cedar Rapids
WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday (4/5), 3 and 8 p.m. Saturday (4/6)
TICKETS: $15 advance, $18 day of show for evening performances; $15 Saturday all-ages matinee; (319) 362-8133 or Penguinscomedyclub.com
ARTIST’S WEBSITE: Gregwarrencomedy.com