Latham Life (September 20, 2009) - FUNNY BUSINESS
LOUDONVILLE, New York — Greg Aidala doesn't have cavities. For many this might carry a certain amount of pride, but he actually lists it on his resume. In caps. Even so, for the comedian, pride goes far beyond his molars and well into the comedic community he's built up in the capital region.
A Loudonville native, Aidala attended South Colonie schools, Hudson Valley Community College and SUNY Albany. According to his website, prior to his stand-up career he had a presence in college plays, short film and as the lead in Chicken Little in fourth grade.
Having a few credits left over in college, he took some acting and theatre classes and with the encouragement and guidance of a professor, he decided to try comedy. "[My professor] came up to me and said I had a thing for [acting] and she guided me in some places. I wanted to do different things and that's how I broke into comedy, I always wanted to try it," he said.
In 2001 he got his chance.
Seeing an ad in Metroland looking for performs to open for Saturday Night Live alum Colin Quinn, he called to follow-up. For three weeks Aidala called the number from the ad, getting rejected the first two because he didn't have a tape, having never done stand-up before. Even giving the completely fabricated excuse "I only perform on Amtrak and Southwest and they don't allow me to tape" didn't work.
The third week Aidala called and said, "if you give me a chance, I will win the crowd. I gave him a gladiator line and I'm like, who am I?" Come to find out, the man with whom he'd been speaking was Quinn's cousin; two days after the gladiator line Aidala got a call back saying Colin was giving him 10 minutes, but that he better be f[reak]ing funny. "I was scared," he said.
For the next seven weeks, Aidala pulled together his friends and family to put together a 10 minute routine. With over 400 people in attendance, Aidala was the first to perform at the event and in describing his first 10 minutes of stand-up he said, "it felt good, it felt right. The host afterward asked me how long I'd been doing stand-up and I told him it was my first time and he said ‘no way.'"
Since his debut Aidala has performed in, hosted and produced shows from here to Seattle and back again; in 2005 he started his own company, Radial Gage Entertainment. Taking comedians who have performed nationally, and frequently have been seen on shows like The Tonight Show, Aidala produced his first major show at The Egg in Albany. "I planned it eight months ahead, which was my first big show with the company. I wanted to do a big theatre show," he said.
Driven to give back to his hometown, Aidala now hosts stand-up at Tess' Lark Tavern in Albany where he frequently brings well-known comedians for The Brew Ha-Ha and hosts Comedy on the Park for amateurs.
In January of 2006 Brew Ha-Ha started after Aidala was in New York City for a show, finding inspiration in a residential area. "I went to this club in NYC that I had never been to and I turned this corner and it was all residential brownstones and the idea hit me," he said.
After sitting down with the Lark Tavern, Channel 103.1 and Budweiser to tell them his idea, everyone was on board. "We all sat down and I said it's going to be the only professional independent comedy show in Albany and we'll do it monthly." For two years straight the shows sold out.
"I'm proud of those shows because those are the only professional comedy shows in the city of Albany," he said. "The thing about Comedy on the Park [is] when I teach workshops, I'm a very supportive person and I always tell people you never know who is in the audience."
In December of 2008 Aidala started Comedy on the Park as a place for his students to perform. After Brew Ha-Ha proved successful, the comedian approached the Knowledge Network with an interest in teaching a comedy workshop. After presenting to the organization, he started teaching classes in March of 2008.
With his fingers crossed for five students, the class ended up selling out. In total he's taught 70 students, not including his class going on this month. The idea for Comedy on the Park Sundays came after students began telling him they had no where to play.
"I went to Tess [at the Lark Tavern] with an idea for Comedy on the Park, Sundays from 8 to 10 p.m. and we'll do trivia and giveaways and I'll run it like my pro shows," he said. On average, 50 people attend each week.
For those trying to break in to the comedy community, these events are especially useful.
Recognizing how hard it is to get into stand-up, Aidala said, "most people I've met are really smart people like doctors, lawyers and professors and it's very difficult. Stand-up is very hard and in the entertainment business it's like the bottom of the barrel because you have to be persistent and strong."
Success won't happen overnight, he added, but the internet has proven an asset to comedians; an asset not available to him in 2001. "What I always say is it is show business for a reason," he said. "It's show, but it's a business, it's juxtaposed for a reason. You're your own entity so go out with professionalism."
When asked about teaching comedy he said, "I can't teach people to be funny, I can teach you the mechanics. [I teach] how to land stage time, how to setup a joke, how to time it. I give suggested readings and viewings, how to be a better listener [and] how to have better verbal skills."
Aidala does offer one solid piece of advice to those who are about to perform: "When [you] walk into a club, you may be granted seven minutes or 15. There's no crying or any of this nonsense, you have to grow up."
With his successes in the comedic world, Aidala still wants to make sure his audiences have a good time. "Even if you don't like me or my act, tell me that you liked the entire show. Most people love the show[s] and that's one of my biggest concerns. If it ended tomorrow, I could definitely say I left my imprint."