Arts & Culture
6:00 am
Mon December 31, 2012

Comedian Finds Inspiration From Life In N.H.

Comedian Jimmy Dunn performs at a Heart Association event in Manchester
Credit Photo courtesy of P.T. Sullivan

Comedian Jimmy Dunn has some advice for wannabe comics in New Hampshire.

“If you want to make it here in NH, you have to get a car that you can drive a lot. The most important thing, you need a honda civic, because you’re going to be putting 300 miles a night on your car if you’re any good at all. My first year I had an old Volkswagen and I put 60,000 miles on my car."

Dunn has since upgraded to a Nissan pick-up truck, more often than not overstuffed with surf boards and kayaks.

But in the early days, in that VW of his, most of those miles came from driving to clubs across the region—no gig was too small, no open mic night too distant.  And that’s a good approach kicking off a comedy career in a state like New Hampshire, where a quick Google search yields all of a half dozen or so places in the entire state to catch a live comedy show.

"I went anywhere. I went to Albany to do six minutes. Just to learn, just to get on stage. And that’s what you have to do. You can watch all the videos, read all the books. Nothing compares to real stage time, even if there are only 10 people in the audience. So, that’s what you have to do.”

Dunn grew up in Beverly, Massachusetts but spent the majority of his weekends and summers on the New Hampshire Seacoast -- and now lives full time in Hampton.   But it was as a kid outside of Boston that he first realized what it meant to be funny.

“People always ask me if I was a class clown. And I was not the class clown, but I was the guy who sat next to the class clown and went, ‘Hey you know what you should do...’"

While still in school, Dunn would sneak off to the basement comedy clubs in Boston.  And as he watched the comedians perform and crowds erupt with laughter, he realized that’s what he wanted to do. 

“And, in school nobody every told you that you could make a living do that. They didn’t want to encourage that kind of stuff. You know, they wanted me to be a banker or work in computers or something but once I saw this and got into that world a little bit I was really intrigued and then when I found my way in, I said, ‘this is it, this is what I’m doing.’ And there was no looking back.”

Today, Dunn performs across the country.  He’s appeared at some of the best known comedy clubs in Las Vegas, Atlantic City and New York.

Dunn’s approach to comedy appeals to a broad audience and that’s served his career well, opening up opportunities for private corporate functions, fundraisers and banquets.  And, for several years, resident comedian on a cruise ship.  His new book, Boat Hack, is an un-authorized tribute of sorts to his time spent touring the world on the open seas.

“I spent 10 years working on cruise ships, telling jokes. And every night, at the end of the night, I would go up on the top deck and sit there with my notebook and I’d write some jokes or stories or whatever I found funny from that day. Knowing that some day I’m gonna walk away from all of this and I’m gonna tell the story of what I saw.”

And in some cases, stories of who he saw. Like a chance run-in with the famous Jack Nicholson in the port of Monte Carlo. Let’s just say, it was memorable enough to print.

The book reached number three on Amazon’s “Hot New Humor” list. But perhaps the highest acclaim, for Dunn, comes in the way of reviews from fellow comics.

“If I can make comedians laugh, it’s like cooking a meal for a chef. You’re not gonna impress him. And so when comics are telling me, ‘Hey it’s really funny’...I really dig that.

Since being back in New Hampshire, Dunn says that he finds material for his comedy everywhere and admits he composes most of his jokes while floating on a surf board. It’s a small surfing community in New Hampshire; an intimate one from which Dunn draws much of his comedic inspiration.

"We’re storytellers and everyday we’re looking at the world as material and we see things in a different way and kind of report on it. I kind of feel like I’m a reporter of the stupidity that goes on in the world, and that’s where the jokes come from.”

So, in sum: making it as a comedian in New Hampshire means never passing up a gig and looking for humor everywhere...including, the lakes region.

“Went on a whale watch last summer. You ever been on one of those? Three hours we go out. We didn’t see any whales and they wouldn’t give us our money back...(laughter). So, I vowed that I would tell everybody that I meet so that this summer, if any of you folks happen to go up to Lake Winnipesaukee, stay away from the whale watch...(laughter)”

“I love coming home here. It definitely keeps me grounded, keeps me inspired......yea, it definitely has affected my voice on stage.”