Albany Times Union (July 10, 2011) - 'Greg Aidala builds a comic career on laughs and conviviality' - By: Steve Barnes
Ten years ago next month, an Albany native and aspiring comedian talked his way into opening for the nationally known comic Colin Quinn at a local charity benefit before a crowd of 400.
Thus was born the comedy career of Greg Aidala.
"I sometimes can't believe what's happened to me over the past decade," says Aidala, now 37.
Not simply a comic who cracks funny on the foibles of contemporary life and does a wicked Al Pacino impression, Aidala has become a multitalented showbiz impresario. He performs at least once during 48 out of 52 weeks a year, produces and hosts his five-year-old Brew Ha-Ha Comedy Showcase at venues around the region, teaches comedy workshops, contributes to a comedy blog on timesunion.com and appears on television in commercials and public-service announcements. Times Union readers have voted him the best local comedian five years running. He is also a relentless networker who has turned backstage chats at comedy clubs into friendships and is widely liked and respected in the small world that is American comedy.
"Greg's reputation is spotless" among comics, says his friend and fellow comedian Jesse Joyce, whose credits include appearances on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" and "Last Comic Standing" on NBC and on Comedy Central.
"What really sets him apart is he's a phenomenal comedy businessman," says Joyce, who will headline next weekend's Brew Ha-Ha show in Latham. "Most comics are (screw-ups), frankly, but with Greg, you know the gig is going to be professional. You know he's going to promote you and have an eager crowd there, and you won't have to go chasing around to get paid. He's one of my favorite people to work for."
That Aidala has been able to build a career in comedy, a former hobby that now represents an estimated 70 percent of his income, is due largely to his drive and meticulousness.
"He's annoyingly organized," says Joyce fondly, describing a pattern of being booked for an Aidala show nine months in advance, receiving monthly reminder e-mails, then weekly e-mails and texts in the final month, then repeated calls in the last days before the gig.
"I want to say, 'Look, I've done comedy before. I'm going to show up,' but that's just how he is," says Joyce.
Wanting to have his hand in all aspects of a show -- Joyce appreciatively calls it "control-freak micro-management" -- has led Aidala to embrace the role for which he is perhaps best suited, that of host or emcee.
Local television anchor and reporter Benita Zahn has performed stand-up comedy since she took Aidala's class almost two years ago. "He's an encourager," she says, more coach than teacher.
"I've found that comics in general ... tend to get in their own heads (backstage) once the show starts. There's not the conviviality of doing a play," says Zahn, who has acted at community theaters for decades. "That's not Greg. He's very encouraging of every performer who goes out, whether they're a pro or a novice."
That concern extends to the audience.
"He's got his eyes on everybody," says Zahn. "He's making sure everybody has food on their plate and a drink, that the setting is comfortable, that everybody has a view."
During a recent performance at the Crescent Boat Club in Halfmoon, Aidala stood before the crowd four times: for a welcome, to introduce each of the evening's other two comics and to bid goodbye to the audience of about 70. He joked with boat club members by name, razzed the club for some of its traditions and said he admired the club's view across the Mohawk River to "the southern Adirondacks."
"Oh, wait," he said. "It's not the southern Adirondacks, it's a dump. Literally. That's a dump over there." The crowd howled.
"Some (hosts) are about themselves, their jokes," says Zahn. "Greg is about setting the stage, and he's very good at it."
Three or four years ago, when Joyce was looking for a roommate, he urged Aidala to make the jump to New York City.
"He could definitely expand his enterprise in New York or LA," says Joyce.
Aidala demurred. Part of the reason, he says, are his strong local ties; he's the seventh of eight children, and he still works part time as a jack-of-all-trades at Quail Auto Sales in Albany, founded in 1943 by his late grandfather.
More importantly, says Joyce, "He's got a good little empire there in Albany."