A love letter written in the Acme parking lot on State Road altered one man’s life forever, giving him a chance at stand-up comedy in the Big Apple.
Raised in Stow and now residing in New York, Brian Mitchell, 33, once bought a notebook at the Cuyahoga Falls grocery store and used it to compose a letter, expressing love for the girl he was dating. He dropped off the letter at her house, but didn't hear from her for two days.
When she did respond, he learned his love had gone unrequited.
Mitchell says he then used the notebook to write jokes.
“I wrote in it and went to the Funny Stop [Comedy Club in Cuyahoga Falls],” Mitchell said.
Eventually, with the encouragement of family, Mitchell moved to New York to do sketch and improvisation.
To pay the bills, Mitchell found a job as an IT help desk person for a school, using his University of Akron education and the professional experience he gained in IT during his formative years. He performs comedy in the evenings.
Both jobs allow him to help others, an important part of his personality.
“I found that when I fixed computers, I saw a smile on their face and made them happy,” Mitchell said. “With comedy, you allow people to leave whatever happened during the day at the door and make them laugh.”
He's now been living in Brooklyn for the past five years and is a member of Laser Baby, a New York City-based sketch team that has been selected to perform at the 13th-annual Toronto Sketch Comedy Festival March 2 and 3 at the Comedy Bar, 945 Bloor St. W. in Toronto, Ontario.
The invitation to the prestigious festival is the first for Laser Baby, he said.
“Other sketch teams submitted but didn't get in,” Mitchell said. “It's really cool to be picked for that. It's a pretty big festival.”
Laser Baby has six writers and six actors, forming a sketch team under the Boogie Manja umbrella, which models UCB's Maude sketch program and has monthly shows at The PIT loft, 154 W. 29th St. in NYC.
“They put a group of strangers together, but we clicked immediately,” Mitchell said. “My confidence changed. They had my back, and I could be myself.”
Mitchell says the specific sketch program starts with a suggestion, and actors begin to build a world from that suggestion.
“You're writing a sketch on your feet,” Mitchell said. “But when you have a combination [of other actors] you are comfortable with, you can anticipate their moves.”
Mitchell credits his work ethic to his parents. His mother, of Munroe Falls, encouraged him to go to New York.
“I remember when I told everyone I was going to do stand-up, they told me I wasn't funny ... [that] I couldn't do that,” Mitchell said. “You have to work really hard and persevere. You're going to have a bad show, but even though it failed, you can make it better. You can challenge yourself. But have fun and understand it takes time.”
Being one of a few African-American students in Stow schools could have been overwhelming, but Mitchell said his fifth-grade teacher was also an inspiration.
“He had me read about Booker T. Washington, and it changed me,” Mitchell said. “I didn't have to be put in a box.”
Mitchell said that initially, he thought he found his career path at Stow High School, working on the Stow Student News.
“Media was what I wanted to do, but I didn't know how to do it,” Mitchell said. “When I got the [IT] job at the University of Akron, I thought I was done. I found [even] more in comedy. I love it.”
Mitchell added that his dream is to perform on Saturday Night Live or have a comedic role in a movie or television show.
Reporter Laura Freeman can be reached at 330-541-9434or firstname.lastname@example.org