Being silly when riffing about serious issues is Joe Fernandez’ calling card as a comic.
It’s not surprising that while growing up in Texas during the ’90s, Fernandez idolized the late actor-comic Chris Farley, who made a living out of being silly.
“I was a huge fan of Chris Farley,” Fernandez said by phone from Chicago. “There was no one like him. Go back and watch Chris Farley do the Chippendales sketch on ‘Saturday Night Live’ and you just can’t help but laugh. He was so incredibly silly and hilarious. There aren’t enough people out there in entertainment that are like Chris Farley.”
Fernandez, who will perform Friday (12/6) and Saturday (12/7) at Penguins Comedy Club in Cedar Rapids, received the Chris Farley Scholarship for his creativity and positive use of humor at Marquette University in Milwaukee.
“Who says being funny can’t help you in college,” Fernandez said. “I sent a clip to the school (of Communications) and they really liked it and so did the Farley family. It was a great honor to receive the scholarship.”
While attending the Jesuit school, Fernandez focused on theater and appeared in a number of productions. After graduating, he moved to Chicago and was part of several improv groups. However, he became enamored of stand-up.
“I have fun both ways,” he said. “I like the group feel of improv, but I really love being up there by myself.”
Mitch Hedberg, George Carlin and Phil Hartman each inspired Fernandez to focus on stand-up. The common denominator is that each of his heroes is no longer with us.
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“It seems like there is a trend,” Fernandez said. “They’re no longer here but their work lives on. I absolutely love Hedberg. He was a genius. I loved how absurd he was. I’m absurd, as well. I think people today are ready for absurd humor considering what’s going in the world today. I don’t have an angle. I don’t have a slant. I don’t try to be political. I don’t try to be cultural. I just go out there and have a blast being silly.”
Fernandez is a huge sports fan, and realizes how significant professional athletics is today.
“It’s a massive deal,” he said. “If the (Dallas) Cowboys (quarterback) Dak Prescott gets hurt and is out for the year, and then the President gets shot, you know which will be the top story. It’s Dak. People are that obsessed with sports. It’s a weird world. I love sports.”
Like many Millennials, Fernandez is a video game player and jokes about his love of gaming. He is obsessed with “NBA Jam.”
“Even though it’s a competitive game, it’s a way for me to relax,” he said. “I rarely lose when I play ‘NBA Jam.’”
Fernandez laughs when talking about beating fellow comic and Chicagoan Hannibal Buress, who has become a prominent humorist, in “NBA Jam.”
“That was a lot of fun,” he said. “We ran into each other and we played the game. I have nothing but respect for him. He’s a great comic. He loves sports, as well.”
But sports takes a back seat to comedy. Fernandez, who has been a stand-up for more than a decade, has performed at comedy festivals, including Chicago’s TBS “Just For Laughs Fest,” the Boston Comedy Fest, the Memphis Comedy Fest and the Chicago Sketchfest where he was a finalist for the Andy Kaufman Award.
“I just want to get out there and work on my craft as much as possible,” he said. “We live in a world where there is a lot of pressure and craziness, and I try to take people away from all of their troubles for an hour.”
• What: Joe Fernandez
• Where: Penguins Comedy Club, 208 Second Ave. SE, Cedar Rapids
• When: 8 p.m. Friday (12/6) and Saturday (12/7)
• Tickets: $13 advance, $15 door, Penguinscomedyclub.com
• Artist’s website: Joefernandezcomedy.com