Comedy is life

Leonard Ouzts returns to the Dayton Funny Bone

Photo: Headliner Leonard Ouzts

By Gary Spencer

Some comedians like to go for cheap gags and one-liners, while others weave elaborate tales full of lengthy, intricate stories that lead up to a punch line. Then, there’s comedians like Leonard Ouzts, a rising young star in the world of stand-up comedy, who doesn’t subscribe to either of those approaches. Instead, Ouzts’ jokes are more often than not simple anecdotes from everyday life, delivered with a slightly southern drawl that comes off like having a funny chat over drinks with a good friend.

“Honestly, comedy is everything—life is comedy,” Ouzts says. “My style is nonconfrontational, observational, conversational—I like to talk about whatever I’m going through, whether it’s relationships, my favorite strand of LA weed, my favorite snacks, what’s going on in the news or media. This is just me, expressing how and what I feel in that moment. I could even write a joke about this interview!”

Born in South Carolina and raised in Virginia by a Navy family, Ouzts credits this approach to his simple upbringing.

“Growing up in the country, sometimes you have to use your imagination to make things interesting,” Ouzts says. “You have a lot of time to reflect and be observational.”

For amusement, Ouzts relied on his quick wit and natural sense of humor to pass the time, and he thoroughly enjoyed making everyone around him laugh on a daily basis.

“I’ve always been funny—I’ve been always the guy that people wanted to listen to,” Ouzts says. “I always knew entertainment was what I wanted to do, [but] I didn’t know stand-up was what I was destined for.”

That all changed one fateful night when Ouzts, a teenager at the time, watched a comedy special on the BET network.

“I remember being in high school, watching an episode of Comic View, and (the comic) was like 19 or 20, and he got a standing ovation,” Ouzts explains. “I’d never seen anybody talk for an hour and a half, and at the end of every joke, you didn’t want it to end. It blew my mind. For some reason, I thought you had to be an old guy to do stand-up—but you didn’t. I learned that as long as you have a voice and have something you wanna say, you can do stand-up.”

Soon thereafter, Ouzts would make his first attempt at being an on-stage funny man. It didn’t go so well.

“My first time trying to do stand-up was my senior year of high school auditioning to host the school talent show,” Ouzts explains. “I froze. I couldn’t get any words out. I absolutely bombed.”

But that didn’t deter the budding young comic. Even though he was now a college student, Ouzts kept honing his craft in nonconventional ways.

“I used to practice my comedy on campus, like talking to girls in the cafeteria or at a party, just talking and giving my jokes, and got people laughing,” Ouzts says. “I got comfortable with hearing myself talk and the timing of it.”

During his first year in college, the comedic upstart had a second chance, and the results were a complete 180.

“The Alphas had a talent show. After five minutes, I got a standing ovation from a thousand of my peers,” Ouzts says. “From then on, I was like, ‘This is what I want to do.’”

Now that he had found his calling, Ouzts left school and pursued a career in stand-up comedy. With the help of comedy mentor pros such as Micah “Bam-Bamm” White, Bo Dacious, Angus Black, and Alycia Cooper, things started happening for the rising young star very quickly.

“Right when I dropped out of college, I got booked on BET’s Comic View,” Ouzts says. “I was just 19-years-old and got a standing ovation.”

Ouzts, now 24, has amassed a resume that would make an entertainer with twice his experience jealous. He became the first and only stand-up act to receive a standing ovation on Conan O’Brien’s late night show and has gigged at virtually every major comedy club and festival in North America, with appearances on MTV, Comedy Central, and Sirius XM Radio. This is Ouzts third visit to the Dayton Funny Bone, and, despite all his success, he keeps his modus operandi just like his comedy—simple and lighthearted.

“This is my first time as a headliner there,” Ouzts says. “I just come and enjoy myself, so come ready to enjoy yourself. We’re gonna talk about a little bit of everything, and we’re gonna have a blast.”

Leonard Ouzts performs Thursday, March 30–Sunday, April 2, at the Dayton Funny Bone, 88 Plum St. in Beavercreek. Cost is $40 for dinner and show or $10 general admission on Thursday and Sunday, $45 for dinner and show or $15 general admission on Friday and Saturday. Shows start at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday and Sunday; 7:30 and 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. For more information, please visit DaytonFunnyBone.com.

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Gary Spencer
Gary Spencer is a graduate of Miami University and works in the performing arts, and believes that music is the best. Contact him at GarySpencer@DaytonCityPaper.com

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