Comedian Andrew Hendrickson stepped into the spotlight on the makeshift stage at The Bread Box, a Long Island City eatery just off hip, bustling Vernon Boulevard. The restaurant was packed with locals and comedy junkies looking for a laugh and a chance to see the next “great one” before hitting the big time.
As a performer in the Laughing Devil Comedy Festival, Hendrickson was one of more than 100 comedians, hailing from the United States and Canada, competing for a cash prize and paid gigs at various comedy clubs throughout the city. The festival boasts several special guests at each show and a number of celebrity headliners.
Hendrickson performed in the Laughing Devil Comedy Festival’s sister event in Atlanta several years ago, failing to make it to the final round. He was determined to try again in New York – the city where stars are born and fame is just one great joke away.
Hendrickson was born in California, moving to various parts of the country during his childhood as a self-proclaimed “navy brat.” Regardless of his changing hometowns, comedy was always a major part of his upbringing.
“I’ve always loved stand-up since I was a little kid,” said Hendrickson. “I was living in Atlanta and I saw a news report about a guy who taught a stand-up class. When you ‘graduate,’ you perform for a live audience at the local club. So I signed up.”
Hendrickson developed his own material, compiling a five-minute routine that he performed at open mic nights. He then took his act on the road, working as an emcee and a middle act for bigger names. One year, he put nearly 40,000 miles on his car, driving from show to show.
“I know every gas station and rest stop in the eastern half of the country,” joked Hendrickson.
Now a 14-year comedy veteran, Hendrickson has developed his own style, employing conversational, dry and sarcastic undertones and methods into his routine. He believes there is no way to train to be a stand-up comedian, but a combination of relentless performing and writing can help a novice jokester find his voice.
Hendrickson claimed it took him 12 years to figure out how to be himself on stage.
“When people don’t laugh at my jokes it’s only because I’m being so subtle they miss it,” said Hendrickson. “After performing and writing for so many years, your mind starts to ‘think comedy’ constantly. It’s hard to turn off. You develop an awareness and look out for a funny perspective on just about everything. Most comics don’t know what’s funny until they bring it to the stage. Fortunately, for me everything I do is perfect and funny the first time I try it.”
As for his comedic inspirations, Hendrickson says they are not just the legends appearing on Comedy Central and filling thousand-seat venues, but his family.
“Everyone in my family is really funny,” said Hendrickson. “My mom is silly, my brothers are total smart [alecs] and my dad has a dark sense of humor. The family dog is the funniest of them all. He talks to me but no one else hears it. I get my best ideas from the dog.”
During his performance at the Laughing Devil Comedy Festival, Hendrickson ripped on Starbucks patrons’ ridiculous orders and his mother’s ability to leave him an entire story on his voice mail.
“I felt great on stage Saturday,” said Hendrickson. “The crowd was great. Who knew performing in a bread store would be so much fun. I felt really good about my set. I think I picked the right jokes for that round.”
Hendrickson took second place in the final round at the Laughing Devil Comedy Festival.
Up next in his budding career, Hendrickson plans to push around a sitcom script and gain more exposure on television.
He also has big plans for his love life.
“I want to marry a rich Hollywood starlet and live off her fame,” said Hendrickson. “I’m coming for you, Betty White.”