ORLANDO – There are a lot of things that can make people feel better about their lives – a winning lottery ticket, for example, or a big raise at work that you didn’t expect.
But for Neil Bernard, another guaranteed possibility may be learning that …. well, some folks truly do have it worse off than you do.
Consider, for example, Whoops MacGee, a guy whose life is so miserable that just about anyone is likely to think they have it pretty good by comparison.
Or, at least, that’s what Bernard is hoping.
“I’m playing a character named Whoops MacGee, and you’ll find out why he’s called Whoops when you see the show,” said Bernard, an Orlando resident who wrote and performs in this one man play. “It’s a fictional story about his life, and rejection, and the horrible, horrible dating scenarios he goes through. He is such a miserable, depressed person that you feel good about life afterwards – ‘Hey, my life is not so bad,’ “ he said.
Bernard is bringing his unique brand of comedy, and this one-long show, to The 1st Annual Orlando Comedy Festival, which kicks off tomorrow night at Sleuth’s Mystery Dinner Theater at 8267 International Drive in Orlando. Admission to the show is $10.
Bernard will perform in the Garden Venue, and there will be two performances, on Friday at 8 p.m. and Sunday, Oct. 2 at 7 p.m.
“The character does get pretty vulnerable towards the end,” Bernard said. “He starts drinking and it gets all messy. It’s definitely different.”
In a festival that mainly serves as a showcase for stand up comedians, Bernard’s performance will be a little bit different because he has a script and plays a character.
“I got into the festival because I’m not doing stand up,” he said. “It’s acting, but with comedy material. I packed it with as much comedy material as possible.”
Bernard, 22 years old and originally from Toronto, came to Orlando four years ago to attend Valencia Community College, where he studied film production and theater. But even before he got to the Sunshine State, he was getting up on stage to try his hand at making audiences laugh.
“When I was a teenager, I really got into comedy a lot,” he said. “I’ve always been into comedy and laughter. I started writing comic strips as a kid, and then I started writing more than drawing, and when I was about 15 or 16 I wanted to do stand up and I started going out to open mics. And I started doing it more and more in my late teens. I’ve got tons of material.”
As time when on, Bernard said, he expanded and began writing one man shows. He’s twice performed at the Orlando International Fringe Theater Festival, including this past May, when he did “Everything You’ll Ever Find On Television! (almost)”.
“I could impersonate every TV show every made – almost,” he said. “That was a lot of fun. A lot of people liked my Fringe show.”
Bernard is hoping to take an entirely new production, called “The Neil Bernard Show,” on the road, to every Fringe festival in the United States and Canada. But first he needs to raise the money to pay the entry fees. He’s started a fund-raising campaign on the web site Indie Go Go for anyone who wants to make a donation to this effort.
“It’s raising funds for a comedy tour,” he said. “I’m going to be traveling to each Fringe Festival in the U.S. and Canada, and the application fees are really expensive, so I need to raise $9,000. I figure if 4,500 people give me $2 each, I can do it, so I’m trying to get the word out there.”
“The Neil Bernard Show,” he added, is “a one man, multi-media sketch variety show with all kinds of characters, puppets, and animated sequences on a video screen.”
To make a donation to this fund-raiser, log on to www.indiegogo.com/theneilbernardshow.
Bernard said doing stand up comedy is both exhilarating and nerve-wracking, depending on the audience.
“It’s a cross between the scariest thing in the world and the most exciting thing in the world,” he said. “Audiences want to see the most entertainingly funny show ever, so I try to make people stay on their toes. You’ll get one audience that is great, then another audience that is quiet and doesn’t understand what you’re doing.
“But I’ve gotten comfortable on stage,” he added. “I love being on stage. I could sleep on stage – that’s how comfortable I am. I’ve been doing this for eight years, and I’ve developed a style I really like. You can’t be afraid and be a comedian. You have to just go for it.”
Tickets for “Whoops” are available online at http://www.orlandocomedyfestival.com/friday/whoops for Friday night’s show, and http://www.orlandocomedyfestival.com/sunday/whoops for the Sunday show.
Contact us at FreelineOrlando@Gmail.com.