Last summer, I attended the wedding reception of my good friends Luke and Sally Hertz Gran. The whole evening was beautiful — I especially loved the traditional barn dance hosted by members of the Porch Stompers and Onion Creek Cloggers — but there was one moment in particular that really stuck with me: the toast given to Luke by his oldest brother Ben. Clearly at ease behind the microphone, Ben delivered a hilarious and warm toast that had the whole room laughing and buzzing.
Ben had such a good time delivering the toast that he was moved to try his hand at stand-up comedy. A few months ago he put on his first show at the Des Moines Social Club and he sold out the club. “I was worried there were gonna be like four people there and one of them would be my wife,” he said. By all accounts, he killed.
Energized by the enthusiasm for his comedy, Ben, a former speechwriter for Gov. Tom Vilsack, started booking more gigs, including one this Saturday night at The Space for Ames. (There will be an early show at 7, followed by a second show at 10).
Last week, Ben spent a few days in New York City on a non-comedy-related trip. But he used his spare time to find a few opportunities to get onstage and meet some other comics. A personal connection in NYC led to his inclusion in a comedy showcase.
Being relatively new to comedy, Ben wondered if his routine would match up to the professional comics on the showcase. But he found that he could hold his own. “I actually left feeling pretty confident, like, ‘I can actually do this,’” he said.
He did some networking while he was out there too. The highlight for him was meeting one of his comedy heroes, Janelle James, an up-and-coming comedian he follows on Twitter.
Ben started performing while he was a student at Iowa State, as a member of the long-running improv comedy troupe Grandma Mojo’s Moonshine Revival. Stand-up is a new medium for him but he’s all in. “I really have a goal of eventually making it to a point where at least a substantial portion of my income comes from comedy,” he said.
And he’s committed to pursuing that goal while staying right here in central Iowa. “You know, living in one of those bigger cities, like New York or LA, I’m sure there would be certain advantages,” he said. “But there would be disadvantages too. Like, there’s just so many people out there competing for stage time.”
Like many local musicians (myself included), Ben is ready to pursue his craft and his dream right here in Iowa.
For more on Saturday’s show at The Space, check out Ben’s teaser blog post on his website and this video he made: