“I was nerdy and awkward,” James Huessy says causally about his childhood. The boy that was constantly laughed at. “I was that kid. I had a Palm Pilot because I was like ‘I need technology, that will make me cool.’ And like, I would quote British TV that no one had ever heard of.”
The scene today remains vaguely the same, but Huessy, now a 21-year-old Northeastern history major, expects and controls it. He’s a stand-up comedian who found a way to survive adolescent mockery and channel his quirky childhood into a fresh, sarcastic and lightheartedly self-deprecating onstage persona.
“I love sarcasm and I’m a wisecracker,” he says. “And I love talking about how I constantly make situations needlessly awkward.”
The Essex, Vt., native got into comedy after freshman year of high school. He was cajoled into his first performance by his best friend Mike at the Vermont ECHO Lake Aquarium Science Center, where he spat jokes alongside six other comedians–and won the 25 dollar grand prize.
“It was the first time I ever did stand-up…and the only time I ever won money,” he said.
His James Bond jokes–the event shortly followed the release of Casino Royale–sold the crowd on him that night, although Huessy today describes the cracks as sub-par. But he’s much more confident with his material now, and much more refined. He currently performs once or twice a month to keep his acts sharp and his jokes fresh, mostly at open mike nights at local colleges such as Massachusetts College of Art and Design and Wheelock College.
To prepare for shows he practices diligently, stating that repetition is key.
“I’m not good at ranting,” he says. “I decided to wing it one night and there was nothing. No laughter, no booing. Just silence.”
This particular rant took place at Grandma’s Basement, a comedy club near Fenway Park, and was a recount of a time the fire department visited Huessy’s apartment at 7 a.m.
“It’s funny believe me,” he affirms. “But just not in the way I’ve ever told it to anyone in my life.”
The success of his most recent performance drowns that failure out, though. In October, he scored an opener spot for comic genius Sarah Silverman. While working the event as part of his duty as the general manager/president of Northeastern’s WRBB radio, he cracked an off-hand joke about being the opening act. Coincidentally, Nick Swardson–who was supposed to perform that night alongside Silverman–got food poisoning, and the event coordinators needed an additional act.
“They came up to me with a camera and were like ‘How would you feel opening for Sarah?'” he says. “I said yes, of course. They thought I was going to like freak out or something–which I didn’t. Well, I peed a little. But don’t tell them.”
Huessy made his mark on the crowd with his awkward anecdotal humor and snarky remarks. An audience favorite included a recount of a classroom encounter where he was wearing German paraphernalia and jumped out of his seat yelling “see ya” when the professor stated he was Israeli.
“[The Germans] are a good industrious people,” he adds in the privacy of the WRBB radio room. “Nazism ended a while ago…but people love those jokes.”
He would know–his parents sent him to Germany for his freshman year of high school because he holds dual-citizenship, and his parents wanted to immerse him in German culture.
Offstage, Huessy, whose ideal mythical pet would be a cat-dragon, wants to be a history teacher. He wants to find an occupation that will keep him financially stable and will allow him to pursue standup on the side.
“I’m going to keep writing and performing at whatever level is available to me,” he says.
His life seems to embody that of a sitcom character. History buff and high school teacher by day and joke-writer and performance comedian by night. His girlfriend of four months, Tabitha Fitzsimmons, an art history major at MassArt, occupationally acts as a human statue in Harvard Square and on Newbury Street. Huessy has embraced the quirkiness that has followed him from his adolescent years and has channeled it into a successful start of a career, and a life motto.
“Live every day like a TV show,” he says. “That’s my advice to people.”