A love of the Grateful Dead, ’60s jam bands and sobriety make up the perfect storm in the head of comedy headliner, AJ Finney.
Finney won $2,500 and the title Best of the Midwest at the 2014 Gilda’s Laugh Fest after being sober only three months.
“Though the competition was strong, it was Finney’s high-energy, perfectly-polished material that helped him rise above,” said Dylan P. Gadino in Laughspin magazine.
Although sobriety altered Finney’s past material about wild, fantastical, drunken blackouts, he is now investing his creative energies in material that is more personal, insightful and accessible to audiences.
“I’m doing material now that is more personal, he said. “That feels like if the audience doesn’t like my material, that means they don’t like me and that’s really scary, but it’s really worth it.
“Comedy is the first thing that I’ve ever done on my own,” Finney said. “There was always somebody else calling the shots. No matter what happens, no one can take this away. People will die, relationships will fall apart, but comedy will always be there. There will always be a stage or a microphone or a place I can go. It’s like my life’s little safety net.”
Opening for Finney is Mark Chalifoux from Cincinnati, Ohio. Two years into his career, comedy took Chalifoux from the Midwest to New York City, but a baby brought him back.
“I was in New York for about four years and moved back to the Midwest last summer,” he said. “When my daughter started walking, we decided that a little apartment in New York wasn’t the best environment for her and we decided to move back to the Midwest.”