Newton native to present stand-up comedy at First Avenue Speakeasy
To comedian Ben Gran, Facebook was a barren wasteland — a place to violate the sanctity of friendship. It was in this cyber space that the Newton native was reintroduced to the craft he began honing while preforming sketch comedy as a student at Newton Senior High School.
“I started writing jokes on Facebook,” Gran said in a phone interview Wednesday. “I was writing bitter, off-color jokes with the idea that I could alienate people so much they would de-friend me.”
But then came the hits. More and more, Gran’s jokes began to catch on.
“But people started telling me they love my jokes. Some of my friends told me, ‘You’re the only reason I log on to Facebook every day,’” he said.
Gran began using social media to follow other comedians, including Los Angeles-based comic Rob Delaney, who had over 400,000 followers on Twitter, and was exclusive to the social media platform. Gran said he had never seen the comic on Comedy Central or publicized with tours, but then the Twitter comic spontaneously booked a show.
Gran decided he and his wife Amanda had to travel to Omaha to see Delaney’s stand-up routine.
“I literally bought tickets that very night,” Gran said. “I told my wife, ‘We’re going to get child care, and we’re going to his show.’”
The success of Delaney’s show was the final push Gran needed to start his own on-stage stand-up act, booking the Des Moines Social Club in March. In recent years, Gran became a father to two boys, which also made him realize telling his story on stage is where he thrived.
“I missed being on-stage in front of a crowded room of laughing people,” Gran said. “Parenting is the most amazingly awful experience, but there is always an underlying sweetness.”
Well before his solo debut performance in Des Moines this year, Gran began his love for comedy performing in the NHS sketch comedy group “Graffiti.” After graduating in 1997, he went to Iowa State University and performed in the campus’ sketch comedy group “Grandma Mojo’s Moonshine Revival,” which preceded his involvement in an improvisational group at Texas’ Rice University.
After college, Gran took a job teaching English in Japan and eventually became a speech writer for then-Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack. After he announced his first show, Gran said his friends from the Vilsack administration started a Facebook group in support of his burgeoning comic career, and some attended the event.
Returning to Newton Saturday night for an 8 p.m. engagement at First Avenue Speakeasy with fellow Newton comic and voice of the Iowa Rollers Chuck Utech, Gran will bring his candid outlook on parenting to his hometown stage.
The comic’s parents still live in Newton, his father is a lecturer at DMACC and his mother a teacher at Berg School. Gran said that his parents won’t be able to make the show Saturday, but the comic believes he’s dodged a bullet with their absence.
“That’s actually OK,” Gran said regarding his parents’ inability to attend the Speakeasy show. “I’ll be saying things that no parent should have to hear their child say. I’m going to tell stories of my attempt to get a vasectomy. I talk about frank topics but always with charm and humility, I hope.”
Cover charge for Gran and Utech’s show is $10 at the door. To see more of Gran’s bio or stand-up clips, visit www.bengrancomedy.com.
Mike Mendenhall can be contacted at (641) 792-3121 ext. 422 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.