Comedian Aaron Kleiber says PGH is a Booming City for Comedy
Comedian Aaron Kleiber sees movies before other people see them, and then gives an honest review on his podcast, “You Can’t Handle the Truth.” On February 12, Aaron and the blog’s co-host, Sean Collier, sat in a movie theater eagerly waiting for “Fifty Shades of Grey” to start so they could take pleasure in judging it. But soon after it started, Aaron got a call that made him rush out of the theater. His wife was about to give birth to their third child.
Sure, he’s a family man, but he’s also Pittsburgh’s favorite comedian… And he’s getting ready to headline an entire weekend for the first time ever this March!
Aaron has made quite a career for himself since he was voted Class Clown of Steel Valley High School in 1999. He’s long been a staple of the local comedy scene, hosting several open-mic nights, headlining two sold-out shows at the O’Reilly Theater, and was voted “Best Local Comedian” by Pittsburgh Magazine in 2012 and 2013. The past six years have been groundbreaking for Kleiber’s national stand-up career. Last year, he toured with notable comedians Bob Sagot, Jim Breuer, Harland Williams, and John Witherspoon; however, his solo accomplishments speak for themselves. In 2013, he made his national stand-up debut on AXC TV’s “Gotham City Live”, and his act made the “Best of Season 2” episode. Shortly after, he appeared on “Stand Up and Deliver” on NUVO TV, and placed fifth in the October 2014 Big Sky Comedy Festival judged by the top comedy industries.
Aaron has breached far beyond stand-up as an actor, writer, and producer. He played a guest starring role on the Nickelodeon series, “Supah Ninjas,” co-starred in the movie, “Help Me Help You,” with Sabrina Bryan (“Cheetah Girls,” “Dancing with the Stars”), and appeared on “Warrior,” an acclaimed drama from Lionsgate films starring Tom Hardy and Nick Nolte. He also helped write, produce, and acted in a pioneering independent film (followed by a web series), “Captain Blasto,” as well as a Star Wars Mockumentary, both of which won multiple awards at film festivals nationwide.
Some of his smaller personal projects that are equally entertaining can be found on his website. He produces a hilarious YouTube video series called “Watch It For You,” where he recaps a movie in about five minutes through a variety of impressions and cleverly construed details with little disregard to spoiling the ending. Thanks to him, you’ll never have to actually watch the movie.
We had the opportunity to interview Aaron while he was on the road driving through Delaware. See what he has to say about the development of his career and the booming comedy scene in Pittsburgh!
Jenna: You’re a Pittsburgh native— do you still get a warm fuzzy feeling every time you perform at the Improv?
“I guess now, it’s more like home. It really does feel like home. I’ve been in that room so many times. All the servers there are my friends, and the managers are some of my best friends. So I guess it’s a warm and fuzzy feeling in that I feel comfortable. It’s my home club. I feel good there, like I can just have fun and mess around and try new jokes out.”
Jenna: You seem to have a pretty off the cuff sense of humor. Would you say most of your jokes are improvised while you’re on stage, or do you typically work it out with pen and paper beforehand?
“I started with improv and sketch comedy. I was doing improv comedy years before stand up, so my first skill and first love is improv. When I started doing stand up, I tried writing jokes, but I sounded like an old casino stand up, like “Yea, airplanes are great…” and I was like, “What the hell am I doing?” So I did this movie with this pretty big comedic actor who was on Mad TV, and he was like, “Hey your whole background is improv, you need to try that on stage when you do stand up.” Now, I write down an idea, like, “telling my kids Santa brought all their presents is stupid. I hate that.” That’s all I write down. Then I go on stage like it’s improv, and I keep adding little bits, and it builds into a bigger and bigger joke. I can formulate one idea that’s 30 seconds long, and over a year, it could build up to a 7…8…9-minute joke.”
Jenna: In the past six years, your career has really exploded. Can you point towards a specific big break that you think made this possible?
“Well, number one, my wife is crazy supportive. She’s always been like, “Oh, you’re gonna do this? Okay, I trust you.” The other thing is honestly having [the] Pittsburgh Improv. The fact that we have an ‘A’ club with movie stars and TV stars every week really helps us open the scene up. From the Pittsburgh Improv, I’ve gotten to know guys that I’ve opened for and toured with like Jim Breuer and Bob Sagot. I wouldn’t have met those guys and made a career, toured nationally, if it wasn’t for Pittsburgh Improv. People think that comedy is all about you just being funny, but a lot of it is the people around you, people that support you, and people that give you shows. And that’s how it works. Right now, I’m performing in Delaware with Matt White, a huge, funny comedian in Pittsburgh, and he’s my opener. It’s the circle of life, know what I mean?”
Jenna: You’ve appeared in movies and on television for big names like Nickelodeon and Lionsgate, but you also produce a small scale video blog in your own home. Is the blog just for fun? It seems like your work and play collide pretty frequently!
“Honestly, I don’t want to give the business answer but part of it is that, like, I want to do something funny on the internet because I don’t live in New York or LA, you know? So, it’s really just providing content. And I found something fun to do. Years ago, my buddy hadn’t seen any episodes of Lost. And he was like, “Tell me about Lost as fast as you can.” And so, I pretty much told him about Lost in five minutes. He videotaped it and put it online. It blew up on YouTube and people were like, “Dude, that Lost thing you did was fucking hilarious.” It’s funny because people were like, “You should do that for movies or TV shows all the time.” And that’s where [Aaron Watches It For You] came from… And it is fun. I love goofing off, it’s different than stand up. And if it makes people laugh? Cool.”
Jenna: What’s the biggest tip or best advice you can give aspiring comedians, especially in the Pittsburgh area?
“You just need to do it as much as possible. Right now, Pittsburgh is one of the biggest, booming comedy towns in the country. And people don’t realize that. They don’t know it. I mean, we have a dozen open mics a week. A dozen. And two or three showcase shows, which means you have to get booked to be on. I travel all over the country and see all these comedy scenes in different cities—Pittsburgh is bangin’. The fact that our city has a black box comedy theater (Arcade Comedy Theater) that sells out every weekend is bananas. There are only a handful of cities that have the shit that we have here. We have a lot of open mics, a black box comedy theater, an internet comedy club, so yeah, get out and do it. There is no excuse. If people say they want to start comedy, you can go every single night and do it. There are a couple nights where you can go to two different open mics. That’s crazy. There’s probably only 10 cities in the country that have that many open mics. It’s pretty awesome to be part of the comedy boom in Pittsburgh.”
We could go on for days about Aaron, but we think you get the point – he’s awesome and worth seeing. There are six shows from March 12-15 at the Pittsburgh Improv (the same venue as his first ever stand up show) to make a heartwarming full circle, but bigger and better. Opening for Aaron is Sean Collier, his partner-in-crime on his movie review podcast.