Being a professional comedian is tough, but being a "clean" comedian without relying on an assortment of potty and sexual humor is even tougher. That's the road Springfield native Andy Hendrickson is taking on his way up the comedy ladder.
"I'm not exactly squeaky clean, but in the comedy industry, if you can be funny and fairly clean, it's an advantage," Hendrickson said.
His formula is working so far. Hendrickson, alumnus of Lynbrook Elementary school and then Lee High School, Class of 1988, has taken his routine on the nationwide comedy circuit. As a kid, he had to sneak while listening to Eddie Murphy comedy albums. Although Murphy's comedy was anything but clean, Hendrickson considers him an early influence.
"I try to write clean," Hendrickson said. "You come out looking more clever. It opens up more opportunities."
Network television is the opportunity he's looking for. But for now, it's the circuit of driving from city to city, with a tape recorder for inspirational moments on the road, doing shows on a one-night basis. Those are known as "one-nighters" on the comedy circuit. Hendrickson's claim to fame traveling-wise on that circuit was one night in North Dakota.
"I drove from D.C. to North Dakota in one day," he said.
The one-nighters are a staple.
"You got to do those to get to the good ones," Hendrickson said.
The good ones that Hendrickson talked about start at The Improv, a nationwide comedy club that has some status on the circuit. Hendrickson hasn't been the "headliner," the main show, at The Improv, in Washington, D.C., yet, but he's been on stage as a master of ceremonies and a featured performer.
"I'm starting to headline at some smaller venues," he said.
Improv manager John Xereas remembered Hendrickson, even though they have many comedians trying to strike it big there.
"I think he's very funny," Xereas said. "He has a lot of good energy."
As far Andy’s route being cleaner than some comedians take, Xereas noticed that as well.
"It's always easier to get dirtier," he said.
Getting on stage at The Improv is a route many well-known comedians take. Drew Carey, Tim Allen and Roseanne Barr were just a few Xereas could rattle off the top of his head. Xereas also had a Georgetown student who's gotten his start at The Improv.
"He's just filmed his first Comedy Central film," Xereas said.
Hendrickson has also played "Wise Acres" in the Tysons Corner area.
A FUNNY SENSE of humor is a combination of heredity, outlook and surroundings. Hendrickson pointed back to one experience at a piano during a Springfield party where he made up songs as he went along and got laughs from everyone at the party.
"I don't think I realized at the time that I enjoyed the attention," he said. "I was definitely a goofball."
His mother, Sidney Hendrickson, supports his efforts. She still resides in Springfield.
"I never would have dreamed this, he used to crack us up," Sidney Hendrickson said, even when Andy's act includes imitations of her.
"Imitations of mom leaving messages on the answer machine that go on forever" was one of them, she said. "This is his dream that he wants to pursue."
Even when Sidney Hendrickson is talking to friends around the neighborhood or co-workers at Long & Foster Realtors, where she works, people remember Andy. For the show at Tysons, Sidney arrived with about 30 fellow employees.
"They [neighbors] can't believe it, when they find out he's doing that," she said. "They're surprised."
Hendrickson's topics, aside from his mother, include experiences at the dry cleaner, ordering food, college, smoking, family and ex-girlfriends. He has a routine about a trip to the DMV, but nothing about Springfield yet.
"Give him time, I'm sure he'll come up with Springfield things," Sidney Hendrickson said.