You submitted nominations for awards given to the Valley's emerging creatives and the results are in. Introducing our 2014 Big Brain finalists.
Mike Kennedy is too pretty for Tent City. At least, that's how sells it on stage, in between telling tales of ecstasy-fueled orgies in Reno, getting a DUI on national television, and relating to his half-Hispanic teenage daughter.
Video by Evie Carpenter.
Kennedy's career path to stand-up comedy hasn't exactly been a straightforward trajectory. The Wisconsin-born 44-year-old funnyman moved to Arizona shortly after college in his 20s. He majored in political science and planned to pursue the next logical step: law school. But, like many aspects of Kennedy's life, things didn't go as expected.
Between working for the man and ultimately working for himself, Kennedy stumbled through as many story-worthy situations as he did substances, ultimately finding a home for all of them in his stand-up performances.
"[The] biggest challenge with stand-up is finding out who I am," Kennedy says. "I think that's a problem outside of comedy too though. It's a continuing struggle for me."
That journey of finding himself led Kennedy through decades of various jobs, including working as the in-between guy for a repo man in the late '90s, catching shoplifters in department stores, driving a taxicab, and eventually getting licensed as a private investigator, a job that proved Kennedy had a knack for calling other people out on their shit.
"My jokes come from my life," Kennedy says, reflecting on his past experiences and, incidentally, the main source of his comedic material. "I've never really been interested in doing things the way I was told. I have lately been interested in finding out why people do things. Not what they tell other people, but the actual reason they do things. When I meet people, I can sometimes ask too many personal questions. I guess I'll always be a private investigator in that sense."
But it's that interaction with others that gets Kennedy the big laughs. He constantly puts himself in situations that most people only feel comfortable experiencing from a distance. Standing as a perfect example of this is a photo of Kennedy with Sheriff Joe Arpaio, which he uses as the main image for his Facebook fan page.
"A friend of mine asked me if I wanted to roast Sheriff Joe at The Phoenician," Kennedy says. "I had a DUI in 2005. So the idea of meeting him and making fun of him was really appealing to me. I spoke with him for 45 minutes backstage. I talk about it in my act."
That act is the ideal warmup for any traveling comedian performing at such local establishments as Stand-Up, Scottsdale! and Stand Up Live. And, despite having only started his stand-up career in 2007, Kennedy has quickly been evolving from crowd-pleaser to crowd-bringer.
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"Comedy seemed a natural extension of what I had been doing my whole life," Kennedy says. "I've always been a storyteller who wasn't big on whether or not something was accurate as long as it was interesting and/or funny."
Artopia will take place from 8 p.m. to midnight Friday, April 25, at Bentley Projects in downtown Phoenix. Tickets are $25 in advance and $35 the day of the event. See more at www.phoenixnewtimes.com/bigbrainawards.