When Michael Palascak was a kid, his dad would start dinner by asking for a joke.
“I would get a joke book and read jokes until he regretted asking,” he says. Palascak parlayed that affinity for joke telling into a full-blown comedy career.
He’ll be bringing his act to Wabash on Thursday, April 23 as the final comedian in the Thursday Night Comedy Series. And for Palascak, the appearance will be a homecoming of sorts.
“I grew up in a small town in Indiana,” he recalls. “We moved to Wabash when I was 7. My parents loved Wabash, we all loved Wabash.”
And though he took to telling jokes early in life, it wasn’t until his college years that he set his sights on stand up. Palascak was home from his freshman year of college, killing some time in a Borders bookstore, when he came across a book about standup. He thumbed through it and discovered a listing of open mic venues.
He says he bought the book, went to one of the open mics and the rest is history. “I’m really lucky that I found that book,” he says.
His family would move to the Windy City while he was in college. He moved in with them after school, but he kept with the comedy. Inspired by comedians like Jerry Seinfeld and Bill Cosby – and ventriloquists, of all things – he took sketch and improv classes at iO, Annoyance and the famed Second City in Chicago.
Palascak carved a niche by making light of the slacker millenial lifestyle. His one-man sketch show, “Pursuing Happiness,” he describes as “a bunch of scenes about people that moved out of their parents’ house, got a real job and got married – performed by a guy who didn’t.”
In the last few years, Palascak’s star has been on the rise. He’s performed on every late night show except Jimmy Kimmel Live (though he hasn’t hit the NBC shows since Jimmy Fallon and Seth Meyers took their respective helms).
He was one of 12 comedians selected for the debut season Comedy Central’s The Half Hour. He’s won the Chicago region of Comedy Central’s Open Mic Fight and performed at The Comedy Festival in Las Vegas.
Most recently, he appeared on “Conan” in January. He says he’s been sending tapes to Conan for two or three years, but hadn’t gotten much of a response from the comedic giant. But after a show in Cleveland where he tried some new jokes, Palascak got a quick response from Conan.
“He replied back immediately,” he recalls. “He told me to put together a tape. I felt really grateful that he was really hands-on like that.”
“When you start out doing standup, I feel like that’s the dream: to do Conan,” Palascak says. “To get the opportunity to have him say my name and come over and talk to me!”
And though he’s well on his way to making it big in the comedy world, he can still find the time to get back to the small town where he grew up. This will be the second time Palascak has performed at the Eagles Theatre (“that’s where I saw the Ninja Turtles”) and he’s sold it out both times.
Yes, that’s right. I’ve just gotten word that the show sold out as I was writing this up. If you don’t have a ticket already, you’ll have to get by on the YouTube videos.