Rob Maher has always wanted to see his name in bright lights, to taste a slice of fame. But, unlike the average Joe, Maher decided to take steps to make his dream into reality. He became a standup comedian.
For the past five years, the 28-year-old Sterling resident has been learning the craft of stand-up comedy, performing gigs at open mikes in the D.C. area and working his way up the east coast comedy ladder.
And, in the past 18 months, Maher has achieved a modicum of fame as he has performed regularly at the area's hottest comedy club: The DC Improv. Maher has performed with nationally known comedians Dave Attell, Lewis Black and Mitch Hedberg. Over New Year's, Maher hosted for Tony Rock — Chris Rock's brother — at the club.
"It was great," said Maher. "It went really well. We played to a packed house every night and had fun crowds. That's why you become a comedian — to play in a club like that."
MAHER HAS ALSO taken another step toward his goal of becoming a household word. He's become a TV personality on WNVT's MegaHertz, a music video show on the local cable channel that comes into 5 million area homes. Maher, who's been on the show for three years, delivers movie criticisms and interviews celebrities for the program.
Recently, Maher interviewed Chris Rock for the show, who was in town promoting a movie at NBC.
"It was very cool to interview him," said Maher of Chris Rock, a comic idol and influence of Maher's. "It was interesting to see my favorite comic of all time. It was intimidating but fun."
Maher also interviewed Jaime Pressly for the show, who starred in "Not Another Teen Movie."
Moreover, Maher has shot a pilot for another show on WNVT-TV, called "Future Flixx," in which he and other local celebrities engage in a humorous and entertaining session reviewing trailers of upcoming movies.
"It's a fun show with myself and four guests," said Maher. "Usually another comedian, a musician, an athlete and a politician. Right now, we're looking for sponsors so we can get the show on the air soon."
Maher also performs standup at clubs up and down the east coast. A few weeks ago, he played at Gotham's Comedy Club in Manhattan and then at Thoroughgood Inn at Virginia Beach.
"Those are good clubs," pointed out Maher. "You have to gear your material so that people in different areas can relate to it."
JOHN XEREAS, manager and owner of the DC Improv, said Maher's comedy is observational. "He's more on the dark, clever, sarcastic side, which I like," said Xereas. "He's very funny and he does a great job. I think he has a good shot at making it in the business."
Mike Payne, who performs at Wiseacres Comedy Club at Tysons Corner, points out that Maher's comedy tends to be blue. "A lot of people, when they hear the word dirty, automatically label that as something smutty and low-caste. But, in Rob's case, it's actually dirty humor that has a universal appeal. People wind up laughing at his humor almost involuntarily. He strikes some real chords and he's very witty."
Maher started off practicing his comedy on his friends at a band practice and then he performed at an open mike at a Holiday Inn in Front Royal. His first few times went smoothly. So, he started honing his act on open mike night at Wiseacres in the Best Western at Tysons Corner.
Now, he does feature performances at the club. But he still shows up on open mike nights to keep his act sharp and practice new material.
In fact, Maher observes that working new material into his act is one of the difficult aspects of being a comedian.
"Sometimes, you might not present new material well because you're not used to telling it as much," he said. "So you've got to allow yourself to give it a few chances before the material works. You've got to have the confidence that if something doesn't go well, you'll still stick with it. It's a pretty personal rejection when you don't get laughs."
MAHER HAS ALSO learned not to live and die with how he does on each performance. He notes that in the early days if he didn't perform well, he felt bad about his act. Or if he did really well, he might even feel over-confident. Now, he looks at the larger picture and knows that sometimes he won't get a laugh even if the material is good and he delivers it well.
That's just comedy.
Maher explains that one of the best parts of being a comedian is when he's honed a new bit until its sharp and then he steps onstage and does well with it.
"It's instant gratification and approval of your work," he said. "It's a real rush making an audiences laugh. It's fun knowing than you can do that."
One of Maher's most memorable performances was the first he did at the DC Improv. He was nervous and was appearing in a 10-minute unpaid guest spot before an audience of 300.
"It went about as well as I could've hoped," remembered Maher. "I had done better before but since it was my first time at the Improv and I was nervous, that's the happiest that I've been after a set. I knew then that I belonged on that stage and that meant a lot."