HUNTINGTON WOODS — Nathan Fridson may not have stepped on stage for the first time until he was a 21-year-old student at Michigan State University, but it hasn’t slowed the budding comic.
After making his rounds in the metro Detroit area following graduation, Fridson, a Huntington Woods native, moved to New York City to further pursue his dream of being a comedian. Still, he finds time to make it back to where he got started, and on Memorial Day weekend, he will return for a three-day headlining stint at Mark Ridley’s Comedy Castle in Royal Oak.
“It’s a huge honor to headline Comedy Castle because I think it is one of the best clubs in the country,” Fridson, 30, said. “They have top-notch talent, and some of the best comics that tour today play there because it has a great reputation, with Mark being one of the rare good guys in comedy. He’s very supportive and takes interest in developing young comics and has maintained a great club for over 30 years.”
Fridson will perform May 23-25 as the headline act, following the master of ceremonies and a feature comic. While he has performed there as both an MC and feature act in the past, this is Fridson’s first time headlining the Comedy Castle.
“Nate has paid his dues; it is no different than someone who does very well in Triple A baseball and then gets called up to the Tigers,” said Ridley, who has owned Comedy Castle since 1979. “I always watch the crowd reaction when he is one of the middle acts, and I feel confident he can headline for a minimum of 45 minutes. He has a really great personality on stage and connects extremely well with the audience.”
As a class clown at Berkley High School in the late 1990s and early 2000s, Fridson said he knew he enjoyed comedy at an early age. Still, he never got on stage and performed until a friend pushed him to do it in college.
Fridson earned his degree in English literature, but comedy was still his calling, he said, as he started to get on stage as many nights as he could in the Detroit and Ann Arbor clubs.
“I always thought (comedy) was the coolest form of expression. As I saw it on late night programs or on Comedy Central stand-up shows, I just thought it was an incredible thing,” Fridson said. “I kind of always knew I loved stand-up because I was fascinated by it and listened to stand-up albums and was the class-clown type in school.
“I always knew I wanted to do it someday; I just didn’t do it for no good reason. Once I did, I knew that was what I wanted to do.”
If a comic wants to make comedy a career, they need to move to either the West Coast or the East Coast, Fridson said. So, in 2011, Fridson moved to New York City.
While he has traveled for shows, he tries to perform once or twice a night at the various clubs in New York City. Being a comedian isn’t a lucrative career, but it is one Fridson said he wouldn’t give up.
“It is a struggle — you have to know how to live beneath your means and you have to take opportunities — but there aren’t many art forms that are cash cows,” he said. “There are not a ton of creative endeavors that lead to a quick buck, but I think that is a positive thing about comedy. If you get into it because you think you are going to be rich and famous, you are sorely mistaken. There are maybe five household names of the hundreds of thousands that are out there.”
Those who go to the Comedy Castle expecting impressions of Christopher Walken or Robert De Niro next week won’t get it from Fridson. He said impressions aren’t his forte; rather, he tries to pull from his own life for the laughs.
“I talk about my life, some observational things, some personal, and things I’ve noticed and things that have happened to me,” Fridson said. “I play on my interest in music and sports and touch on relationships, as well as people in my generation and what it is like to have friends that aren’t comics.
“Mostly, I feel my act is based on the jokes. I’m not a terribly physical performer and I don’t think I am particularly crude or blue. Some say my act is edgy, but I don’t know how I feel calling myself edgy.”
When Fridson is not performing, he is writing and listening or watching his old sets. Each show is a preparation for the next show, he said, and it is all about staying sharp.
“Comedy has always been an easy choice for me,” Fridson said. “If you have the thing that makes you want to do stand-up, you just want to do it all the time. There is no one event that made me want to do it; just doing it made me want to do it all the time.
“It is just an infectious thing and if it feels good, just keeping doing it.”
For more information on show times at Mark Ridley’s Comedy Castle, visit www.comedycastle.com.