For a comedian who has made a living as a geek humorist, John Roy is a pretty cool dude.
During a recent chat, the Chicago native waxed eloquently about the world of music and pop culture.
“Metallica wasn’t the same after (bassist) Cliff Burton died,” Roy said by phone from his Los Angeles home. “Metallica just became another metal band like UFO after Cliff died. I love music. I’ve always been passionate about it. There’s nothing like going to concerts. I love live performance.”
The stand-up comedian isn’t on a level with his heroes, Pearl Jam, but Roy, who will perform Friday (11/29) and Saturday (11/30) at Penguins Comedy Club in Cedar Rapids, has a strong fan base.
His quirky but relatable material about gaming was inspired by classism.
“Now nerdy things are cool,” he said. “I was in Chicago. The city put out these chess boards — they’re made of stone. People play chess in the park all day long. I went down there to see who was playing, expecting to see a bunch of pale, nerdy clones of myself. It was all cool, middle-aged black guys. I went to New York, they had chess boards too. There were black guys, but then there were Jewish guys from Russia.
“Both groups have had a long history of oppression. Maybe to them chess looks a lot like how life works. You start all the way in the back. An entire country stands against you. You only get one move at a time. If you mess up even once, you die. White Christian people heard that, and we’re like, ‘That’s not how life works.’
“Life works like my favorite game, Monopoly,” he said. “You start out with a ton of money. You drive around blowing it on (expletive). And if you mess up, you use your get-out-of-jail-free card.”
Roy, 45, mixes geek humor with material inspired by his recent marriage.
“I talk a lot about my wife and our relationship,” he said. “That’s all new stuff for Cedar Rapids, since the last time I was at Penguins was three years ago.”
The energetic comic waited until midlife to get hitched for the first time, just like Yankees icon Derek Jeter.
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“Don’t compare me to Jeter,” Roy said. “Nobody would compare my career baseball stats in Little League to his.”
Roy jokes about growing up a Cubs fan and how his wife came of age rooting for the rival White Sox.
“We solved that by moving to Los Angeles, and we both became Dodgers fans,” Roy said. “My wife likes baseball and she loves playing video games. She and I play Overwatch. My wife is ranked. The amazing thing is that people actually come to venues to watch gamers play.
“Maybe NFL players who play the Madden video game will figure out that they could just play Madden inside a stadium in front of a packed house and not get concussions or break their femurs. It’s funny how gaming went from being a realm of nerds to cool people, like jocks, playing video games.”
In his standup show, Roy will talk about stereotyping, homophobia and pop culture.
“What I won’t do is mention people by name or do anything else that will date what I’m doing as a stand-up,” he said. “You look back at comedians from the ’80s, and some of George Carlin’s stuff is amazing, but the minute he talks about Ed Meese, who was part of Ronald Reagan’s administration, your eyes start to glaze over. It’s not that I’ll be reaching back for a lot of comedy I did in the past. Much of my show is new, but I just don’t want to look back at some of the things I did and see how dated they are.
“I like to keep it as current as possible,” he said, so fans won’t look at his material from five years ago on YouTube and see that it’s dated.
• What: John Roy
• Where: Penguins Comedy Club, 208 Second Ave. SE, Cedar Rapids
• When: 8 p.m. Friday (11/29) and Saturday (11/30)
• Tickets: $13 advance, $15 door; penguinscomedyclub.com