The first time A.J. DeMello saw a major stand-up comedy set, he thought he would never be able to do anything like that. But the late George Carlin’s 1999 special, “You Are All Diseased,” provided DeMello with a framework and goal to work toward.
“It was the first special that made me laugh with my hand over my mouth,” DeMello recalled. “And I immediately watched it again. I was that into what he was doing.”
On Tuesday night, DeMello, a Half Moon Bay High School alumnus, taped his a stand-up special at the Cheroot Lounge in Modesto. Oddly enough, DeMello was not the only former Cougar involved. His brother Noel, a hip-hop music producer, worked on it, as did Dan Frank, with Upward Rising Development.
DeMello’s 30-minute set will be released on Amazon on April 20.
DeMello, 29, said he was a naturally funny kid going through school at Farallone View, Cunha Intermediate and Half Moon Bay High schools. He still has close ties with friends and former teachers. He began doing comedy formally at age 21, but he remembers bombing in front of his seventh-grade class at Cunha while running for class president. His jokes fell flat, and it was not the performance of his teenage dreams.
“I didn’t think of that as trying stand-up comedy, but, technically, that was my first time as a stand-up,” DeMello laughed. “And it did not go well.”
Gradually, he performed more gigs in the Bay Area. DeMello moved from Moss Beach to the Central Valley in 2012 in large part to care for his ailing father, who recently died. DeMello dedicated Tuesday’s special to him.
Now living in Turlock, DeMello has developed into a self-aware and adept comic. He’s a member of the Deaf Puppies Comedy group, solid comics based in the Central Valley. Much of his content comes from reality-based stories about himself.
“In my opinion, the best thing as a comedian you can do is to write about things you know or are happening to you,” DeMello said. “I’ve been writing about how I have carpal tunnel, how I have a bad back, I’m balding and how I look older than I really am.”
As DeMello explained, having a world-class joke is great, but part of the show in
stand-up comedy stems from the physical connection between performer and audience. The ability to establish relatability goes a long way during a set.
It’s not always the case, DeMello said, but for the most part, comedy requires personal insight.
“People want insight from you,” he said. “They don’t just want to hear funny ideas you can come up with for jokes. They want it to come back to you.
“In my opinion, that’s what takes an act over the top,” he said.