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College News interviews: Comedian Ken Barnard

Janelle Vreeland

Chicago comedian takes on Los Angeles and the world of reality TV by auditioning for “Last Comic Standing”

“I got my start in the biz like most other comedians: At open mics, by slogging it out in front of small, drunken, disinterested crowds at bars and coffee-shops, with the occasional good show peppered in.”

As Chicago comedian Ken Banard explains it, his story is very similar to most of his colleagues on the stand-up circuit. Unlike other comedians, however, the 25-year-old  Barnard has been given a chance to break onto the national stage, with the help of the reality TV competition show “Last Comic Standing.”

Barnard flew out recently to audition for the program, and such an opportunity comes after spending the last seven years doing stand-up.

“Basically, I think that live comedy should not be limited to just the written word; if I can do something strange, visual and memorable, then that’s more exciting to me than set-ups and punchlines,” Barnard said to College News.

Citing Andy Kaufman and Steve Martin as his biggest comedic influences, Barnard isn’t afraid to dwell on the absurd, as long as someone finds it funny. “The beauty of comedy is that, as long as the audience is laughing, anything is fair game.”

Chicago audiences have embraced Barnard’s singular form of performance comedy, thanks in part to his “Best Bits” shows at the local Lakeshore Theater. Nationally, his career took a big step forward in the middle of March, when he flew out to L.A. to try out for the latest season of the NBC reality show, the goal of which is to reward a comedian with a development contract to NBC.

“My audition took place on Sunday at 11 a.m. at The Improv,” he told me. “An early slot assured me that the judges had not seen hours of comedy, so I knew that I had an excellent chance to make a good impression.”

The judges for Barnard’s set included fellow comics Andy Kindler, Natasha Leggero and Greg Giraldo. Each comedian was given two minutes to perform their set. To some performers, that time allotment can be extremely limiting especially when you consider that one of Barnard’s bits, his piano performance, is 12 minutes long on its own.

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