Thomas Crone highlights the standup comedians performing at the "Last Laugh Comedy Stage" at LouFest. Today’s featured comic: Duke Taylor.
On Sunday afternoon, Duke Taylor spent his entire Sunday afternoon at the Funny Bone Comedy Club. Not performing, mind you. But drafting players for that venue’s fantasy football league.
“This is my second year with them,” he says. “I’ve played three years, overall. So not that long. They say that once you try, you become addicted. I shouldn’t have tried. Now I’m in five different leagues.”
With the NFL on the cusp of play, it’s a good time for Taylor to have his Sundays free. Luckily, for him, he’ll be performing at LouFest’s Last Laugh Comedy stage this coming Saturday, rather than Sunday, and he’s free in admitting that “I’ve never been to LouFest, period. To play it the first time I’m going there is pretty dope. I’m going to enjoy the whole experience. Just watching the headliners, checking out a little bit of the musicians and bands. I actually look forward to it. Now that’s on Saturday; on Sunday, it’s football.”
Taylor says that he’s digging the lead-up to the event including, yes, “the press and publicity. If you’re not known in your city… well, you gotta take over your city first, before you take over other cities.”
In the last couple of years, that takeover attempt’s been finding some traction. He won Funny Bone’s competition in 2016, finishing second at Helium’s competition a year later. In just the past few months, he’s shared stage time in those same rooms with folks such as Gary Owen, John Witherspoon, David Arnold and Jak Knight.
“It’s been a dope year, so far,” he says. “I want to get into more festival and comedy club competitions outside of St. Louis now. I want to branch out and hit shows in other cities.”
When he travels, his material travels, too.
“Personally,” he says, “I don’t write jokes that only St. Louis people understand. I stay away from the location and regional stuff. It should work as well outta town as it works here. The difference is in yourself. If it’s a completely new crowd, a place you haven’t been, it can bring a different mindset, I guess.”
Asked where he feels as if his growth is most-marked -- be that writing, performance, nailing down the business aspects of the craft -- Taylor feels confident in saying that everything’s feeling pretty solid these days. So, yeah, check all the boxes.
“I like my growth in every aspect you just named,” he says. “I can tell my writing’s tighter. My business savvy is still based in the same: you show respect. A lot of people act arrogant or entitled. You can win a contest, but you still have to work the whole time. What you do today doesn’t matter tomorrow and a win in one city’s contest doesn’t mean anything to the audience in another city. You gotta keep grinding, keep moving forward. I do notice the growth in my performance; some jokes are easier to tell, they’re more comfortable on-stage now. In between jokes, you’ll people say something (‘er,’ ‘um’) and not leave it dry. I can tell I’ve passed that point.
“I’m kinda figuring out who I am,” he concludes.
Well, he concludes by saying that he’s got a few small goals for the week leading up to LouFest and those’ll involve performance of the low-key variety.
“I’m gonna hit up a bunch of the open mics,” he says. “No major shows before Saturday.”
Like his fantasy football players, “I’ll get some practice in, some reps going. Then the show. And that’s it.”