In many ways, Andy Woodhull is just a comedian with a degree in geology and a dream. Yet he’s come a long way from juggling his 9-to-5 lab job and the demands of being a comic always on the road. Andy’s garnered some considerable cred as a comedian, appearing on Comedy Central’s Live at Gotham, performing at the renowned Montreal Just For Laughs festival, and winning the Best of the Midwest competition at the 2011 Gilda Radner-honoring Gilda Fest. Rooftop is happy to announce the release of Andy’s second album, Lucy, showcasing his ventures into manliness, dating, and more. We recently chatted with Andy about the Chicago comedy scene, his writing process, Butterfinger’s sneaky corporate loopholes, and more.
Rooftop Comedy: What was it like getting your start in the Midwest?
Andy Woodhull: Well I started in St. Louis, right after college at The Funny Bone there. I took a couple comedy classes and then moved to Chicago about a year later. I went to some of the open mics in Chicago, but I got most of my stage time at Zanies in downtown Chicago. I did a couple clubs in the suburbs and I would go back to St. Louis a lot and I just tried to do comedy as much as I possibly could. I was working in a laboratory—my degree is in geology—so for the first five years I was in Chicago I was working in a lab and then trying to be on the road as much as I could. It was crazy. Sometimes, I would drive to gigs and then drive back to Chicago, sleep in my car in the parking lot, and then work in the lab. Then I would drive to the show again the next night.
RC: I imagine that lifestyle reached a breaking point after a certain time.
AW: I did it for about five years and eventually it got to a point where I was on the road a lot and I was getting super drained from all the driving. It almost comes out to be two full-time jobs when you’re doing it that much. The last year I did it I was on the road probably 45-50 weeks a year, somewhere in there. I was working almost every weekend.
RC: The past few years have seen an influx of stand-up clubs into the improv/sketch-heavy city of Chicago. Do you think this is affecting the comedy community there?
AW: I think that lately there have been a lot of successful comedians coming out of Chicago, like TJ Miller, Kyle Kinane, Kumail Nanjiani, and Hannibal Buress. All of these guys are coming out of Chicago and then at the same time, Chicago is the third-biggest city in the country and there has been only one club downtown for maybe 30 years. So I think it makes more sense that more stand-up clubs are moving in. I think it’s going to be great for comedy in Chicago too.
RC: Was there a specific moment or show in your career that really pushed you to pursue comedy full-time?
AW: I think I wanted to do it fulltime from the beginning and that was always the goal to not have a job and just to do stand-up. It was just so fun and I loved it right away out of St. Louis. I didn’t quit my job until I won the Butterfinger comedy competition in 2008, where I wrote a joke about candy bars and ended up winning this contest. I quit my job right after that. They gave me 365 Butterfinger coupons and I was like, “I don’t need to work anymore”.
RC: Have you redeemed all the coupons?
AW: Yeah they’re all expired—the ones I didn’t use. I don’t even like Butterfinger that much, but I gave a lot of them away. The funny thing about the coupon is that you still have to pay tax. So each Butterfinger wasn’t exactly free—it was 9 cents.
RC: Last year you won the “Best of the Midwest” title at Gilda Fest. How was it performing at that event?
AW: It was very cool. This year was a lot bigger than it was last year. Last year, when I won it, I really didn’t hang out that much. To give some levity to my win, when I won, the Best of the Midwest was on a Wednesday and I had a show in Sioux Falls, South Dakota on Thursday. After the contest, after I had won, I got in my car and drove overnight to Sioux Falls—13 hours in the car or something like that. That’s a good way to not get a big head about a contest win.
RC: Your new album is titled Lucy, after your beloved black Labrador. Do you think Lucy appreciates the honor?
AW: She has always been a big fan of my comedy. She used to come out on the road with me sometimes. Maybe it was overly sentimental to name the album after her, but I’m not really good at making up names. I knew I’d never be sick of that name and also I have a joke on the CD about Lucy.
RC: That one is a stand-out for sure. Listening to it, you get the sense you’re having a lot of fun telling the story, adding embellishments and tags here and there to fully paint the picture.
AW: That’s kind of how all my bits evolve. I’ll write something or I’ll have an idea and I’ll do it once and then they’re pretty fluid. I don’t normally have jokes that are done and then they’re always that way. I have a couple short ones that are like that, but the longer jokes I’ll often try to add to and take them in different directions—it keeps them kind of fun.
RC: Why did you want to release an album now?
AW: I guess it’s because you kind of want to graduate material—for me, anyway. It’s probably different for everyone. You also want to make that money! I started having jokes that I wasn’t wanting to tell anymore. When you get to that point, I like to make a CD or an album or whatever, because then those jokes serve a purpose. They’re there forever. They’re not just forgotten—if that makes any sense.