Life-altering moments at high school reunions are relatively uncommon. However, comic Steve Kramer’s career unexpectedly changed after reconnecting with some high school mates in Kansas City.
“I wasn’t cool back in high school,” Kramer said by phone from his Kansas City home. “I was on a television show with (fellow comic) Frank Caliendo called ‘Hype’ (which ran in 2000-01). So I went back for a reunion in 2000 and thought people would see it and treat me differently. Nobody saw the show and I was treated the same way I was in school.
“But toward the end of the reunion these guys came up to me and said, ‘Aren’t you Steve Kramer?’ I said yes and figured they saw me on the TV show. They didn’t see ‘Hype.’ They said to me, ‘You were the best drawer in the fifth grade.’ It hit me that if my art from way back then could have such an impact on people, maybe I should draw again.”
Kramer started sketching again and discovered a new form of comedic communication — animation.
“I couldn’t have been happier about being able to animate my material and I’m completely self taught,” Kramer said. “With the help of animation software, I figured it out.”
Film and TV producer Barry Katz (“Whitney,” “Last Comic Standing”) recently asked him to animate his podcast with Kevin Hart.
“That was very cool,” Kramer said. “When somebody like Barry is down with your animation, that’s an amazing thing.”
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Fans can experience some of Kramer’s animation when he performs Friday (9/27) and Saturday (9/28) at Penguins Comedy Club in Cedar Rapids. In one instance, he spoofs the transition from Donald Trump to Arnold Schwarzenegger for “The Apprentice.” “Stanford’s Comedy Club” is a take on the first venue he played in his hometown.
“Three ... brothers owned the local comedy club,” Kramer said. “They all had this distinctive way of speaking. It was an easy one to do.”
Kramer also does impressions. He said it’s difficult impersonating contemporary actors since they’re much more homogenous than actors from back in the day, like Jimmy Stewart and Cary Grant, who were so identifiable.
Al Pacino, Gilbert Gottfried, Tracy Morgan, Regis Philbin and Sean Connery are just some of the celebrities he impersonates.
Kramer also riffs about relationships.
“I enjoy talking about dating and how things have changed in that world,” he said. “It wasn’t that long ago that people freaked out about dating online. People were reluctant to do it. Now people only seem to date online. Good luck trying to pick up someone in a bar. I miss how it was back in the day with dating, since it was real. Today people post their picture with eyes from anime and you don’t really know what they look like until you meet them, and you’re often disappointed.”
The versatile Kramer also will pick up the guitar.
“I can come at you in a number of different directions,” he said. “I don’t think it’s ever boring at my shows, since I do so many things. I love doing everything I do, but I really enjoy the animation. The crazy thing is that if I didn’t go to that high school reunion, I probably would have never have done animation and the show you’ll see when I come in would have been pretty different.”
WHAT: Steve Kramer
WHERE: Penguins Comedy Club, 208 Second Ave. SE, Cedar Rapids
WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday (9/27) and Saturday (9/28)
TICKETS: $12 advance, $15 show day; (319) 362-8133 or penguinscomedyclub.com
ARTIST’S WEBSITE: stevekramerentertainment.com/