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Ohio-bred comedian coming home to perform stand-up

Photo courtesy of Jennifer Ward

“Honest, raw and uncensored. Not your typical comedy club fare. In fact, most comedy clubs don’t want anything to do with me.”

Matt Ward is independent producer and performer of comedy shows, and he knows his comedy is anything but mainstream.

Ward, a comedian from Lancaster, Ohio, will be performing stand-up comedy at Wild Goose Creative June 22 at 8 p.m.

Ward lived in Columbus for eight years and helped introduce comedy to Comfest, an annual Columbus community festival, in 2007, where he will also be performing this year.

“I talk about the stuff that people deal with in their everyday lives, and then some stuff people are afraid to talk about, like drugs and alcohol and sex,” he said.

Ward said he has developed an underground revolution of comics in the Southeast that are not relying on booking agents or the old comedy industry.

“People are now all communicating and swapping shows and putting on shows for each other,” he said. “It’s a rapidly expanding network of comics that are helping each other.”

Ward said this communication is drastically different from comedy in previous decades, which was solitary and competitive. He’s connected comedians from Chattanooga, Tenn., Austin, Texas, Cincinnati, Ohio, and Louisville, Ky., among others.

In his own performances, Ward said he handles his comedy like a band. By building a group of lifelong fans that will travel to see him perform, he avoids mainstream and restrictive comedy clubs.

“I need to harvest a fan base, nurture a fan base and expose myself people who don’t go to comedy clubs,” he said. “Being able to do these independent shows in environments that don’t force people to buy two drinks, I mean, it’s a big deal.”

Ward said he worked at Verizon Wireless as a corporate employee for six years, but after dedicating himself to comedy full time, he is his own person again.

“The amount of happiness I’ve been able to gain from the freedom of it is immeasurable,” he said. “To be able to wake up in the morning and watch foxes run across my yard, while I sit on my back porch and smoke a bowl and talk on my cell phone, you can’t defeat that.”

Lu Brammer, who describes herself as a fanatical volunteer in the Columbus community, said Ward’s comedy is fresh, current and relevant.

“That’s one thing with comedians: I think they get so set in their material, and if it’s not a fit for the audience they end up having to bail,” she said. “Matt, by nature, just kind of rolls with it.”

Brammer said even if the audience doesn’t understand Ward’s comedy, he can take that fact and turn it into humor for the show.

“Honestly, I’m a fan of comedy. I support comedy in Columbus, and it’s been a long time coming,” she said.

Brammer said there has been an underground community for comedy gaining steam for the past several years, and Ward has developed that in other areas of the country as well.

Brad Criswell, a 2003 Ohio State alumnus, said that Ward makes each bit of comedy his own and changes it depending on the crowd. Criswell has seen Ward perform in Columbus and North Carolina.

“He works with the crowd to see what’s good and what’s not,” Criswell said. “Even after the show, he’ll talk with you and turn it into something humorous.”

Criswell said Ward is relatable, down to earth and modern. Even though Ward’s comedy can be off-the-cuff, Criswell hasn’t experienced anything profane.

“I haven’t found anything offensive. I would say I guess it’s more modern,” he said.

Whether discussing marijuana or performing for cancer survivors, Criswell said Ward plays to whatever role he needs to.

Tickets are $8 are the door and $7 in advance through his website, www.wardcomedy.com.

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