Recent UNL grad has passion for stand-up comedy

Story by Maggy Lehmicke, NewsNetNebraska

Before Adrien Baumann even entered the coffee shop, it was clear that he had a passion for comedy.

“I may randomly give somebody a bunch of purple potatoes during the interview. Just a heads up,” he stated in a text message before the interview.

A recent graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Baumann said he was always bored in school. He grew up trying to entertain himself, he said. His boredom became his inspiration.

“I was home sick one day and saw Pablo Francisco on Comedy Central,” he said with a laugh. “I had never seen comedy that I thought was that funny before.”

Baumann, a history major from Nebraska City, had not pursued comedy as a hobby before he came to Lincoln.

Adrien Baumann took up stand-up comedy as a hobby during his undergraduate years at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln undergrad.

Adrien Baumann took up stand-up comedy as a hobby during his undergraduate years at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

His sophomore year he said he watched “Chewed Up” by Comedian Louis CK (Louis Szekely) and laughed so hard he cried.

After experiencing this kind of humor, he said, he decided to try it for himself. He gave it a shot December 2012 when an acquaintance mentioned the open-mike on Monday nights at Duffy’s, a local bar in Lincoln.

During his first performance, he said, he didn’t remove the microphone from its stand, completely blocking his face. He joked that he eventually discovered he could pick it up.

Baumann said his inspiration comes spontaneously. He said his topics range from heavy metal to Native Americans withstanding tornadoes.

“That was inspired by almost dying on a bus because we were driving under a funnel cloud,” he said. Baumann said he often preferred bits, comical pieces with one particular premise, over simple one-liners. He covered many other topics, he explained, often exhibiting his self-deprecating sense of humor.

“I made fun of how awful I looked because I did look really bad then,” he said. “I look really dorky and everything, so I never talked about my girlfriend.”

A bit by Patton Oswalt suggested to Baumann that you can’t do stand-up about a happy relationship, he said. According to Baumann, the key is playing with stereotypes; either go with them or go against them.

Baumann said his favorite compliment was hearing that his sets sounded unrehearsed. If you’re good, he said, people think you’re saying whatever pops into your head.

“It kind of seemed stream of consciousness when I was up there,” he said. “I didn’t think it had that quality, but they (the audience) did.”

Baumann clarified that all his sets are pre-written and rehearsed. Using notes is important, he said, especially for beginners. He said that the choice is a difficult one: either “use notes or suck.”

Because open-mikes are free, Baumann said he never got paid for any of his sets. Anyone is allowed to try it, he said, and this is made clear by some of the performances he’s witnessed. While a failed set is often called a bomb, Baumann refers to particular sets as “atomic bombing.”

He said he once performed an actual show at the Spigot in Lincoln with some comedians from Chicago, as well as some locals. All the while, he said, he had no intention of making money or becoming famous.

“It was all for fun,” he said.

A dampener was placed on Baumann’s fun when he was diagnosed with autoimmune arthritis.  The arthritis has induced some food intolerances that make it difficult to travel, he said. He said the only carbohydrate he can eat now is “goofy colored potatoes.”

Baumann used it to his advantage for a while by writing bits about his diagnosis, he said, but eventually had to take a break. His quality began to decline and he could feel himself becoming exhausted, he said. His final performance at The Bottomless Glass in Omaha, he walked off stage after about three minutes.

Before Baumann took a break, he said, he was beginning to find more people trying open-mikes in town. At least three people he knows have given stand-up comedy a shot after he told them about it. He said he’s unsure of how many others have tried because of him.

Baumann, who works at National Research Corporation, said it has been a couple months since he has performed. But he’s been writing down pieces of inspiration for future use, he said.

Now that he can feel his medication kicking in, he said, he’s “getting the itch to do it again soon.”


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