In a cozy basement theater with rough brick walls, up-and-coming comedian Mike Lemme stepped on stage for the first show of his series, which will be running from Nov. 10 through Dec. 4 at Under St. Marks. Lemme turns his personal experiences — the struggle of dating in your 20’s, New York City apartment living and his mother’s mental illness — into warm, lighthearted comedy. The show weaves multiple stories into a cohesive narrative, addressing difficult and occasionally dark topics with sincerity and hope. Lemme spoke with WSN about his voice as a comedian and his hopes for this series.
WSN: How would you describe your comedic style in your own words?
Mike Lemme: I basically take something true that happened to me and exaggerate it to make it funnier. It’s all a lot of personal stories and [then I] add punch lines to it. Since I started doing stand-up at such a young age, that’s how I found out how to express myself.
WSN: Who are your greatest influences?
ML: Comedy-wise, Mike Birbiglia is a big influence on me. Birbiglia said [to] find someone that you want to become, and do what they’re doing on a smaller level. I think that’s a great way to approach something in the arts.
WSN: Most comedians occupy a specific niche in comedy. How did you decide which style of comedy you want to do?
ML: The first couple of years you’re doing comedy, you’re trying to figure out your voice. But then, a couple years into it, you start realizing like … I like talking about personal stories, so I started doing storytelling and doing jokes about family members. It’s life experience too. You meet comedians that, when they get married and have kids, it just completely changes who they are. I think it’s just life and like, doing comedy as much as possible — you figure out your voice.
WSN: Why did you decide to do this series of shows, and how are they different from your past performances?
ML: I wanted to work on a longer set. In New York, you [usually] only get opportunities to do 7-15-minute spots. I wanted the challenge of seeing if I could get people to come out to 15 shows. Cause that’s the thing about New York — you want to take a shot at something when you move here. The city motivates you so much. You don’t want to sit in your apartment all night and hope that something happens. You want to go out there and chase it.
WSN: Many NYU students want to pursue careers in show business. Do you have any words of advice?
ML: You’re in NYC, you’re surrounded by all this inspiration, so just start talking to people. Whatever you want to accomplish, there’s probably already someone in this city that achieved that already. Just send them an email and if they don’t respond, find someone else and follow up. There’s so many people around you that are chasing their dreams and accomplishing them, so there’s really no excuse to be afraid of what you can do.
Email Jessica Tien at [email protected]