To be a success as a stand-up comic you need to be one-of-a-kind. Whether it’s your material, personality, looks, or even age, a comic must be unique. When you’re stand-up comedian Adam Norwest, you have all four going for you.
What makes Adam most unique is the fact that he is a headlining comic who has only been performing in the first half of his twenties. Audience members who have run into him before a show tend to mistake him for the MC instead of recognizing him as the headliner. However, in his short but successful career, Norwest displays the wisdom of old vaudevillian by using his most recognizable trait to his advantage. The 25-year-old Seattle native may appear young enough to be your son, but he’s talented enough to be “Youtube’d” by Bob Saget.
“Bob Saget Youtube’d me?” asked Adam to his agent. Before going on stage to open for Mr. Saget at a college show, Norwest’s agent told Adam the good news. “My agent was on-site and he goes, ‘Just so you know, Bob said he watched your videos on YouTube and thought you were really funny.’”
Not a bad vote of confidence for a young comedian who was recently selected as the winner of CMT’s Next Big Comic. On top of that, Adam was also the youngest comedian ever to be accepted into Seattle International Comedy Competition and is currently releasing his debut album appropriately titled One of a Kind. All of this came from starting stand-up at the age of 19. Adams history in comedy though, dates back even earlier.
Adam started out doing improv at age 13 for interactive murder mystery shows. With stand-up the furthest thing from his mind, Adam began to build his comedic skills through these live improv shows. “I never wanted to do stand-up. I was terrified of it,” Adam said. It wasn’t until a few years later that an improv colleague named Jim Calmer invited Norwest to perform stand-up with Him. “I wrote three jokes, and I did them at a couple of pool parties for like nine people. [My] full set was probably like a minute and a half.”
From there, Adam decided to attend an open mic and give stand-up a shot on stage. “I had a good first set thankfully, because otherwise, I would have quit. I never would have guessed what [my choice to continue stand-up] would turn into.”
Going forward, Adam would appear on Comcast On Demand, make his TV debut on the cable show Man Up, Stand Up, and perform on the TV show Comedy Brew. While living in Los Angeles, Adam pursued acting opportunities through casting message boards. Unfortunately, some of the audition notices seemed to be unrealistic. “I (would) get e-mails that [would say], ‘Audition for Becker!’ Becker was canceled seven years ago so, I don’t really know why you’re sending me this e-mail,” laughs Norwest.
Considering the Becker audition and even once being told he was right for the part of a 35-year-old Mexican housewife, Adam became skeptical of the opportunities via the message boards. However, one day while driving, Adam finally received a legit response telling him he was accepted as a contestant on CMT’s Next Big Comic. “I pulled over, and I downloaded it [on my phone], and I read the e-mail nine times to see exactly what it was. [Then] I called my mom and told her, ‘You won’t believe this!’” Adam said with amazement. His acceptance on the show was validation that starting at a young age and working hard to this point was finally paying off.
“When you start doing comedy, a lot of people get an opinion of you right away,” states Norwest, “and it’s hard to break out of that opinion. And that’s why people that are amazing from day one are always respected, but that wasn’t me.” Although performing stand-up for roughly seven years, Adam knew how much work it would take to gain respect and be considered credible as a comedian. “It took getting on stage five times a week at least,” he admits. “When I started, I had never seen comedy aside from George Carlin or the few Seinfeld clips on Seinfeld. So, I knew nothing about stand-up or how to do stand-up. I just did anything I could get a laugh. It was through trial and error that I found my voice.”
Adam’s strong work ethic was not only admirable for a young adult but proved he was wise beyond his years. Ironically, it was again through modern technology and social media that Adam received the good news about winning CMT’s Next Big Comic. “I found out via a Twitter notification. I woke up to a Twitter notification from CMT saying that I won,” Norwest says.
Initially, Adam was just excited to have his picture on a website that he had visited but now, he had outdone his own expectations. As he mentions, the entertainment business can be “full of maybes” so to him, being involved with the competition was exciting enough. However, as the competition went on, he knew what it could mean for his career to win and decided to turn things up a notch. Ultimately, his decision proved to be the correct one, thus helping him win and earn the respect he deserved. By winning Next Big Comic, Adam thought to himself, “Okay, here’s a little recognition of what I’ve been doing and maybe now I can get a little more respect.”
With respect and recognition in comedy comes new opportunity. The baby faced comic began to travel the country headlining various shows. Despite the challenge that looking young can bring, Norwest uses it to his advantage to win his crowds over. He is able to joke about serious or adult topics because of the humor he finds from his innocence or a least his appearance of innocence. Adam describes his audiences reaction to his material as, “It’s almost like watching a movie where you root for the underdog.”
Instead being angry with him, Adam’s audiences tend to feel sorry for the situations he describes himself ending up in. In his act, Norwest discusses the fact that he could never rob a bank simply because no one in the bank would take him seriously. He feels if a bank teller hit an emergency button, it wouldn’t call the police but rather his mother to pick him up. The robbery would end with him merely arguing with the teller over what flavor lollipop he gets. Adam also jokes on his album that he has something called “five-week shadow” and wants to be strong enough to scoop ice cream out of the container.
Appearing young and innocent isn’t the only aspect of what makes Norwest a great comic. He realized in order to be a headliner, a comic must have varying degree of material with a fresh take on it. At first, his act contained a lot of sexual related topics which had appeal to his age demographic. However, as Adam mentioned, he wanted to “broaden his horizon” and attract older audiences as well. So, one day, he decided to come up with new material by going on Wikipedia and finding information on new topics. According to Adam, that particular “topic of the day” was stingrays.
“I read it, and I was so fascinated by everything sexual about stingrays. And I was like, ‘My act is never gonna change,’” Norwest laughs. What’s unique about his discovery though, is the fact that he learned how to put a new spin on a popular and sometimes cliché topic. Adam says it’s important to him to be known as a smart comic, “I really make a point and try [to] make sure you’re (the audience is) doing some of the work. I think it’s funnier if I lay it out there and you discover why it’s hilarious. I think if you know exactly where it’s going, it’s not going to be quite as funny.”
For a young comic at the age of 25, Norwest has come a long way. His unique style of comedy is all his own because it’s based on his perspective, opinions, and personal experiences. Some could argue that one hasn’t experienced much of life by the age of 25, but Adam has utilized the surprise reality of being in your twenties for his comedy. “It kind of freaks me out. When I turned 18, I realized legally right now, I can get married if I wanted to. It’s amazing to me that the responsibilities that are all the sudden given to you because you are one day older than the day before when you weren’t able to do it,” he jokes.
With his new album One of a Kind being released on Tuesday, July 17, Adam is looking forward to the future. His goals are to come up with a new hours-worth of comedy based on the next set of events in his life, collaborate on a sitcom pilot, and artistically, work on something that allows him to be creative. Although he has experienced success at an early age, Adam is humble enough to feel something isn’t beneath him.“If someone showed up at my house right now and was like, ‘Hey, you want to host a game show?’ I’d probably do it.”
About the Author: Mike Sgroi is a comedian, writer, and film maker from the New York City/New Jersey area. He is also a hip hop music producer and a great American. @MikeSgroi21