When you want something badly enough, few things can stand in the way of a determined mind.
That may be Drew Lynch’s story, who has overcome the obstacles of brain damage and a serious stutter to become one of the most like-able comedians under 30. Now, he’s headlining a weekend at the Houston Improv.
“I had originally moved to LA to do acting, right after I did high school,” the 27-year-old recalls. “In my first year of being there, I had kind of gained a little bit of traction, just because I was getting some
small roles and some medium auditions in my first year. I had taken a job at a comedy club, just because it was the perfect night job to help have my days free so I could do that. And the comedy club had a company softball team, so I was the short stop! One day when we were playing, a grounder had taken sort of a bad hop and bunted me in the throat and I’d fallen and hit my head. So I had a concussion from that, and ultimately a brain injury and going to sleep on that concussion forced me to realize that by the next day, I had lost a lot of the functionality of my motor skills.”
Because of the difficult of booking work with his speech impediment, Lynch says his agents dropped him – which ended up opening the door to stand-up. “That’s what kind of forced me. I was still working at the comedy clubs and all the while, documenting my experience and trying to write down my feelings about the way this came about. About how new it was and how uncomfortable it was and people told me to go on stage to talk about it. And that’s how it kind of came to be.”
While the experience of sharing his story became positive, Lynch is quick to correct the notion that it was natural. “Its NEVER comfortable to be that honest!” he laughs. “But when you have the feeling that you’ve got nothing to lose, its much more easy. [To think] how vulnerable and sensitive I was the very first time I went on stage to even address my stutter at the time and it was just so palpable for other comedians in the room. So I couldn’t say the stuff I was saying was just SO funny and people just bowled over laughing. But I think more than anything, it was just resonating with them because they understood that it was something I was very much going through.”
Fast-forward to 2015, when after only three years as a stand-up, Lynch knocks it out of the park on his audition for Season 10 of America’s Got Talent. But as a comic from those shows can tell you, standing out in the briefest of moments in a whole other skill. How did he do it? “In a format like America’s Got Talent where everyone has got two, two-and-a-half, maybe three minutes to show who they are and what they have to say. Not to pull this card, even with my particular situation – it made it even MORE challenging. Word economy is something that is so important!”
He continues: “I think its just about, for me, when I first did America’s Got Talent, I opened my audition by obviously addressing my stutter and trying to do it in a way that was strong enough to advance me, but also transparent enough to say: here is my situation. And at that time, it just kind of becomes a situation where you kind of need something to talk about and that’s safe enough to rely on to advance you. You don’t want to put anything out there on the line with the potential to offend or that can be misinterpreted and all I knew at the time was I have this problem, this obstacle and let me try to be self deprecating with it. Let people know that I’m OK with being human.”
One of Lynch’s big advocates on the series was comedian Howie Mandel, who ultimately used his “Golden Buzzer” on the young comic to automatically advance him to the quarterfinals. “This sounds so cliché, but when a generation gets passed down to a new generation, I feel like [Howie] sees a little bit of himself in me. Someone who has had his own fair share of struggles and public tribulations, demons he has had himself and had to battle. So he sought refugee in comedy and he’s articulated to me several times that there’s nothing that can really help you escape yourself quite like being with an audience and seeing what can happen in that moment. For him, I think he saw a bit of himself in someone and for me, I saw someone who finally understood what I was going through.”
While Lynch prepares to go back on AGT’s stage as part of America’s Got Talent: The Champions, in many ways, the comic has moved on from discussing his stutter in his act. “Since then, I have obviously deviated from talking about my speech or any of the situations that are kind of surrounding it. But at the time, that was me trying to leave a mark. Even if people didn’t know my name, they might associate it as “there’s the guy who made a joke about his stutter!” Eventually, hopefully, that can just fall away and it can be, there’s that guy who is funny and happened to have a stutter.”
Performances are scheduled for 8 p.m. on Thursday, January 24, 7:30 p.m. and 9:45 p.m. on Friday, January 25, and 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. on Saturday, January 12 at Houston Improv, 7620 Katy Freeway. For information, call 713-333-8800 or visit improvhouston.com. $20-30.