Last week, I had the wonderful opportunity to speak with stand-up Philadelphia comic Tyler Wolf about his journey in the comedy industry including the ups, downs, and all else between.
The first questions I asked Wolf pertained to how he got into the industry, and if it’s something he always wanted to do. He said it’s definitely something he’s always wanted to pursue, and grew up surrounded by loved ones with just as much interest in comedy.
“I think humor is the way that I kind of understand the world,” he said. “[Growing up] humor was the way to connect with others.”
He said his first memory of comedy was watching an Ellen DeGeneres special when he was 8 years old. He found himself laughing, even when the jokes weren’t fully understood.
His first performance on a stage was when he was a senior in high school when his friends (and fellow comedy lovers) signed him up for a coffee house that the school was organizing. He said this was the first “little nudge” that pushed him towards becoming a comedian and seeing himself in the industry.
Today, Wolf is a comedian and the co-producer of Next In Line Comedy, which was voted the Best Comedy Night by PhillyMag, according to their Instagram. Sometimes, Wolf said, being both a co-producer and comedian feels like having a bunch of stacked up jobs, reminding him of how busy life was before focusing on comedy. However, he tends to take a step back to understand why he’s doing all of this hard work in the first place.
“The selfish part is I built these brands because these places weren’t booking me,” he said. “Whenever that’s frustrating I think about the reason that I’m doing this is to perform in front of good crowds.”
Even though Wolf is still finding his own personal style, he said his work leans more towards observational with a hint of personal. He said, “I’m still learning but at this point, if something’s funny, I’m going to say it on stage.” Over time, he wants to lean more towards personal because it’s original, and “no one else can steal your jokes when you’re talking about your own life.”
Wolf’s ultimate goal is to be the main touring act people are going out of their way to see. “Ultimately it would be nice for people to come see me, to see Tyler Wolf perform.” One of his main motivators in the world of comedy aside from his favorite comedian Mike Birbiglia, is his younger brother, Jamie Wolf. When I asked who he envied in the industry, he very wholesomely said “It’s partial envy but also mad respect and love for my younger brother.” Jamie became viral on social media and is now touring the country with 100,000 Instagram followers. Tyler laughed as he said he prefers to not be famous at all, but rather be able “to bring people together, to make them laugh, to make them think and reflect and at the same time forget about their lives and enjoy a night out” on tour.
For people who are just getting started in the industry, Wolf’s main piece of advice is “you gotta get on stage. You gotta do it frequently. You gotta get comfortable with failing at it.” And even though I am very inexperienced in the world of comedy, we both agreed that accepting failure and being self-aware is vital when it comes to being successful. He suggested going to open-mic nights as a great opportunity to get comfortable on stage and learn what works (or doesn’t). Wolf often looks at his old sets and realizes how much he’s grown in short periods of time. He compared comedy to working out: if you put in the work and hours, you’re going to see progress.
“There’s no such thing as a true, overnight success,” he said. “You can’t go up once and have a bad set and sit and wallow on that for three weeks before building up the courage again.”
By Amena Ahmed