The Ritz Theatre is to be turned into a comedy club at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 8 when the "Nobodies of Comedy" tour returns with a new lineup of little-known comedians. Touring since 2002, the show is produced by Michael Mills of Mills Entertainment, who selects comedians for the annual tour based solely on their talent.
"The result," says Mills, "is an incredible night of hilarious comedy."
The Tiffin performance is to include Matt Bergman, Phil Hanley, Erin Jackson and Andy Pitz. Although not household names, these young comics are seasoned performers chosen to appeal to adult audiences.
The Advertiser-Tribune was able to talk with Andy Pitz about his segment of the show.
A performer for more than 20 years, his material and delivery has landed him spots on "The Late Show with David Letterman" and "The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson." He has appeared at comedy venues large and small, with nearly 100-percent clean material. Any insults usually are directed at himself.
He is a featured performer on XM/ Sirius satellite radio's clean comedy station.
"I've been all over Ohio - Youngstown, Cleveland, Painesville, Columbus. "Four years ago, I did an audience warm-up job for the Ohio state lottery," Pitz said.
A native of Westchester County, N.Y., Pitz attended the State University of New York at Cortland. He and his wife, a journalist, lived in Brooklyn for 12 years. They have a 5-month-old daughter. Whenever the couple wants to avoid certain people or events, the baby is "a built-in excuse" for just staying home.
"It's our first child, and she's great," Pitz said.
While still in grade school, Pitz became interested in comedy, even though he was just memorizing material by Bill Cosby, George Carlin and Rodney Dangerfield.
Pitz learned the routines from his dad's comedy records and enjoyed the "big laughs" he got by imitating them. He did not yet understand the elements of humor or consider the possibility of a career in comedy. In high school, he started to "get it" and practiced on his classmates.
"Somebody took a picture of me at my lunch table. I was a junior in high school. ... and everybody is looking at me and laughing. I used to do impressions of my teachers and anything I could do to get attention," Pitz said.
Early in his career, he enjoyed the party atmosphere at the comedy clubs and college shows. When he started doing corporate events, Pitz had to omit swearing. He found that adult topics could be covered without profanity, and people were willing to pay more for a routine without four-letter words.
"I could make more in one show for a corporate entity than I could for a whole weekend in a club," Pitz said.
That is even more important now that he is a dad. He wants to spend more time at home and not worry about what he says around his daughter.
Unlike some comedians who only have "dirty" material to offer, Pitz said he still can do uncensored shows when the opportunity arises.
At a casino in Reno, Pitz said he recalled doing an uncensored show without knowing the audience would be mostly elderly. He worried about offending some of the retirees. After the show, he talked with some of the patrons and apologized for the language.
Pitz was relieved to learn they were not embarrassed by the words or the content.
"This old guy, about 80 years old, said 'I've seen everything.'... It was a good lesson," Pitz said.
He promised no swearing for his program at The Ritz.
"All of my favorite material now just happens to be clean," Pitz said. "I do a lot of jokes about technology - computers, cell phones, Internet and things like that."
A tech company in Massachusetts saw his clips online and invited him to open a three-day conference.
Another time, Pitz came up with a program of "foot jokes" to entertain more than 700 podiatrists at an awards ceremony. Pitz said people at such gatherings need to know he is a comedian so they can be receptive to him.
That is not an issue at a comedy club, where people know what goes on there.
"If it's a surprise, and you're not famous, people just think it's a weird show," Pitz said.
To illustrate his point, he described a gig at an onsite meeting for a group of employees of a daycare franchise. They had been told the meeting was mandatory, but not what it was about. The audience was anticipating pink slips, not a comedy show. They were "petrified" he was the "corporate hatchet man."
"Everybody thought there was going to be layoffs. You should have seen the look on these people's faces," Pitz said. "I wish I would have known that before I went on. ... People had no idea what was happening."
Matt Bergman has been performing at clubs and colleges since he was in college pursuing a degree in criminal justice. After graduating, he realized he was afraid of criminals and decided stand-up comedy was the way to go.
He has been the opening act for bigger names such as Dave Attell, Jeffrey Ross, Bill Burr and Jon Lovitz.
Recently, Bergman was asked to open for Mike Birbiglia on a leg of a Comedy Central Live Tour, which included stops in South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia. Since then, he has toured non-stop across the United States and Canada and recently filmed his first comedy special for Bite TV in Toronto last year.
In 2011, his first comedy CD/DVD was released on Good Charamel Records.
He is particularly known for a sarcastic style and absurd observations.
Having started standup comedy by performing at open mics around Vancouver, Phil Hanley discovered and honed his blend of material and crowd interaction - aiming to make no two of his performances the same.
Hanley's style is rooted in joke-telling. His performances at the 2008 Just For Laughs Festival in Montreal brought him acclaim. He also was named one of the Top 5 comics at the festival by The Hollywood Reporter and landed a segment on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno."
Hanley's other credits include appearances at the Halifax Comedy Festival, Global's Vancouver International Comedy Fest, CBC and XFM satellite radio and his own television special on the CTV and Comedy Network.
In 2007, he was named the winner of Vancouver's funniest comic competition.
One of Hanley's most cherished accomplishments is being a credited screenwriter for Don Knotts' final film project.
Since first making a name for herself at colleges and East Coast comedy clubs, Erin Jackson has garnered attention with performances on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" and Comedy Central's "Live at Gotham."
She also was a semi-finalist on NBC's "Last Comic Standing" and was a featured writer and performer for TBS's "Bitcom Series."
Jackson has made several appearances on "The Bob and Tom Show." She opened for Bill Maher at tapings for his latest HBO special and recently served as the warm-up comedian for BET's "Black Girls Rock! Awards" show.
She has appeared on "Byron Allen's Comedy TV" and can be seen in her own IFC "Comedy Moment Moment."