Comedian Don Friesen admits speaking in front of the public once “scared the daylights out of me.”
The former business major started his professional career in sales, not comedy, including a stint peddling Rainbow Vacuum cleaners. He didn’t sell much product, but a few listens to a self-help tape from Zig Ziglar made all the difference.
“One of the main mantras is to conquer your fears. If something scares you, do it,” he says. So when he toyed with the idea of becoming a professional comic he had some work to do.
“I was petrified doing stand-up. I couldn’t speak, couldn’t catch my breath,” he says.
Soon, those nervous moments began to recede and his comic persona took over.
Friesen’s new comedy special, “Don Friesen: Ask Your Mom,” debuts at 10 p.m. EST tomorrow (June 22) on Showtime. Taped in Glendale, Calif., “Ask Your Mom” finds Friesen pontificating on playing video games with his son, dueling (amicably) with his wife and processing what it means to be the father of two teenagers. His act also includes impressions you won’t see from most comedy club stalwarts, like John Lithgow and Charles Grodin.
On the surface, Friesen’s routines target the surreal world of being a husband and father, but he prefers to be the butt of his own jokes.
“It took me a couple of years running around doing open mics in LA [to find out] what was it about me that people found more than a little funny. You can get laughs in a million different ways,” he says. “And they were really laughing hard when I was making fun of myself.”
If Friesen’s stage act sounds rigorously prepared it’s no accident.
“I’ll have these bits that I wrote and hone and edit. I really work these things to death,” he says. But he always leaves room for on-stage tinkering.
“I don’t come up with the best punch lines until I’m up on stage,” says Friesen, who created his own improv group, Commedus Interruptus, earlier in his career.
Friesen doesn’t actively search for new material for his stand-up routine. Having a wife and two teen-age children does most of the digging for him.
“It just happens all day long,” he says. “Situations come up, and I say, wow, that’s funny.”
His act doesn’t include blue material like many of his peers, but he feels awkward embracing the “clean comedy” label.
“I want to be judged by a different standard,” he says. “It should be funny first, and clean second … sometimes when you hear ‘clean comedy’ you’re getting a campy, non-relevant version of comedy.”
Friesen’s penchant for using his home life in his act means he has to be … careful … about what he says on stage.
“Everything I do is going to be heard by the famly. I use discretion up front. If I have a borderline case, I’ll run it by them,” he says.
Now, Friesen has a partner in crime to come up with new comedy ideas. His teenage son enjoys bouncing ideas off of his old man.
“My son really likes bouncing ideas off of me … ‘yeah, what about this and that?’ He’s a real writer at heart,” he says. “Surprisingly, my daughter is very funny, too.”