The first time I heard Haywood Turnipseed Jr.’s comedy was when he hosted weekly bingo nights at Kangaroo Boxing Club in Columbia Heights, back in 2013. Since then, I’ve seen him around everywhere; performing at open mics, hosting open mics and at various non-comedy settings around town.
When I conducted this interview, I just watched him perform at an open mic produced by Last Resort Comedy at Town Tavern in Adams Morgan.
He had the crowd laughing near crying and then he busted out a story about the time he met Rosa Parks. If you ever see him around, be sure to ask him about that.
How long have you been doing comedy in DC?
Eight full years and I’m in my ninth year now.
Okay, and how did you get started?
I just went up to a place.
Oh, what place?
Topaz [which is now closed]. I had always been interested in doing it. I was going through one of those quarter-life crises, like what am I going to do now? Getting divorced, don’t like the job I’m doing, what have I always wanted to try? So, I went to a show.
And at that show was Sampson, Seaton Smith, Aparna [Nancherla], Kojo [Mante] and Tim [Miller]. All these people were on that show. That was the first comedy show I ever did. At the end of the shows, you could go up and tell a joke and I went up and told a joke: My name is Haywood Turnipseed Jr. and that’s my real name. I got a snicker. I went back the next week and tried to get up [on stage]. And I got a time and a date and that’s what it was from that Thursday on. That was March, 2007.
So you’re coming up on nine years almost to the day and you’re still totally into it, right?
Yeah. Even more so now, because it’s fun. I love it. It has its ups and downs, but on a night like this, when you feel real good about getting off stage, it’s like yeah, haha.
You had a bomb set! You were going up and down the stage, looking really comfortable. And you had really good feedback from the crowd tonight.
Ah, thank you.
I think it helps for the crowd to get a little warmed up, like nobody wants to be the first comic, right?
Yeah, that’s a tough spot. I look at it like baseball, so the first guy is literally supposed to just get on base, if they can. The crowd is still getting their head; they’re buzzing. So when they finally get to the fourth, fifth or sixth comic, those are the sweet spots of any showcase show, because now the audience’s expectations are meeting their imaginations.
So, when you find that sweet spot, they’re like oh, this is what I expect comedy to be. If they think you’re funny and you know you’re funny, both things meet at the same time. You’re hearing a constant clash of ideas, like I can’t believe this person is saying something I don’t agree with. It’s shocking, but funny still.
Right, the dynamic of making a joke and reaching enough people with that joke to the point that, not only do they identify, but they also think it’s funny. It’s a whole thing, the language of the communication from performer to audience. It’s interesting and unpredictable.
It’s like being a swimmer: you need the water in order to do what you do. So we need the audience, but it’s not always giving.
Yeah, like there could be a rip current or something.
Yeah, like oh sh-t – I didn’t expect that. It’s not an Olympic pool I’m in. I’m learning out in the ocean. So, there’s that part of it.
Catch Haywood’s stand-up and signature laugh performing at various spots around town, with Underground Comedy and Last Resort Comedy shows.
He also hosts Attack of the Comics, a Tuesday night open mic at Solly’s on U Street and The Dark Side, a magic show on Monday nights at Madam’s Organ in Adams Morgan. Follow him on Twitter for show details.
Photo by Y & D Photography