Tooele resident Jamie Maxfield has been a big fan of stand-up comedy since he was a child. That’s why in 2008, he decided he’d try it out for himself.
“I’d never had the courage to do it, so me and one of my best friends set a goal to do an open mic, and we set a date so we couldn’t back out,” he said. “Four years ago this month is when I did my first stand-up.”
Maxfield, 38, said he was nervous for his first open mic, but he spent two or three weeks writing material and rehearsing it over and over.
“I went to the open mic, did my three minutes, and realized I didn’t die,” he said. “It was fun, and it just got into my blood at that point. I wanted to write more material and get on stage as much as I could.”
Since then, Maxfield’s hobby has turned into somewhat of a comedy career. He is usually on stage two or three times a month, and he travels quite often to do shows. He has only performed once in Tooele, at Tracks, in 2010.
“You have to pay your dues in the world of comedy, and I’m still working on that,” he said. “I’ll be Los Angeles in April, and I have a couple of local shows coming up. I’ve done Wiseguys [in Salt Lake City], which is my home club, and I’ve performed at Planet Hollywood and Mandalay Bay in Vegas, and in Los Angeles at Flappers and the Comedy Store, as well as a few other places in Arizona.”
When Maxfield goes outside of Utah to do a show, he said he has to change up his act quite a bit to fit the different markets.
“A funny story was when I went and did the show at Mandalay Bay, the producer came up and asked if I was a dirty comic,” he said. “I told him I was a PG-13 comic, and he said, ‘Good, we want to keep it clean,’ because there were a lot of high rollers there and he didn’t want to offend anybody. I went up and did my thing, and then the next four or five comics were just horribly filthy. I asked the producer what he meant by clean after that, and he said ‘I didn’t mean for you to keep it that clean.’ But in Utah, that wouldn’t have been clean. It’s a lot different outside of Utah.”
Maxfield said after four years of doing stand up comedy, he has learned to trim up his writing and get to the punch lines faster.
“When you’re first starting you try to fill your time so you stretch out your set ups, and as you get more experience you learn that you don’t want to just fill time, you want to fill time with funny jokes,” he said.
Maxfield said he’s learned how to get rid of jokes that aren’t funny or don’t work well for his audience, and he is constantly writing new material or rewriting old material. He said his favorite part of doing stand up comedy is writing his material.
“I get my material from stuff I relate to and things that I find funny,” he said. “A lot of times I’ll write a punch line before I’ll write a setup. Whenever I have an idea of something I think is funny, I’ll write it down and then come back to it and structure it like a joke.”
Growing up, Maxfield was a big fan of comedians like Eddie Murphy, Bill Cosby and Johnny Carson. He said now he has a few different comedians he enjoys listening to, but he tries to stay away from listening to any comedian too much.
“I try not to listen to them because you start to absorb their mannerisms and personas,” he said. “You start to emulate the people you look up to.”
When it comes to his jokes, Maxfield said one of his most popular jokes is the one he tells about getting spanked as a kid.
“I talk about how things have changed and you can no longer spank your kids, and I talk about how when growing up there came a time when spankings quit hurting, they were just funny,” he said. “I tell the audience to think of the first time they laughed at their mom. Then the punch line is, ‘I remember when that happened to me. My mom got mad and I got embarrassed because my kids were there.’”
Maxfield also tells a joke about how so many people mispronounce Tooele in most of his Utah shows.
“I got that just from living out here and getting to know the culture,” he said. “One thing you learn about comedy is that there is always a price to pay, either for somebody else or yourself, and it’s a lot more fun to make fun of yourself.”
Maxfield, who has lived in Tooele for 11 years, said he gets a good response from people when he tells his Tooele joke because most people in Utah understand.
“It’s obviously relatable,” he said. “I used to love when I’d go to the movie theater here and they’d have commercials for places here [in Tooele]. You could tell they were produced somewhere else because they would mispronounce Tooele in the commercial.”
Maxfield said over the last four years he’s had moments at shows when there have been nothing but crickets in the audience, but he considers it a good thing.
“I’ll try to sneak new material into open mic shows or occasionally during a weekend show,” he said. “If I get nothing at all, I’ll try a couple more times to reword it or change the timing, and after a while if it’s not working, I’ll drop it. If you’re going to open mics and not trying to bomb, then you’re not trying hard enough.”
When Maxfield isn’t on the comedy stage, he works for an information technology company based out of Salt Lake City called VLCM selling IT equipment to corporations and universities. He and his wife have six kids, ranging from age 19 to 8.
Maxfield said his kids like that he’s a comedian, but they will use it as an excuse for getting away with bad behavior.
“They’ll say something or do something they shouldn’t and we’ll tell them not to do it, and they’ll say ‘Well, I’m the son of a comedian,’” he said. “They think it’s a free pass.”
Maxfield just released his first comedy CD last month, and is selling it for $10 at all his shows, online at cdbaby.com, amazon.com and iTunes. For the CDs he sells at his shows, he will donate $5 from each sale to the Huntsman Cancer Institute.
“My dad passed away from cancer a couple of years ago, and I have some friends who are going through it,” he said. “It’s just one of those things that everyone has been affected by, and it’s one of the charities I feel very strongly about.”
For now, Maxfield is happy with his comedy career being a hobby, but he is looking to do more with it in the future.
“Right now I’m just trying to get more road work,” he said. “That’s the main thing. I’m also doing a lot more comedy-related video shorts.”
Maxfield said he’s never had a revelation where he’s realized he’s funny, and he’s not sure if he will ever get to that point.
“The funny thing about comedians is that we’re the most confident, insecure people you’ll meet,” he said. “It takes a lot of confidence to get on stage and perform, but the reason we’re performing is because we want that applause and laughter from people. I don’t know if I’m there yet [knowing I’m funny] or not, or if I’ll ever be. You just set goals and keep trying to move forward.”