Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

It's kind of a funny story: Seasoned comedian Taylor Mason to perform at Bryant Conference Center


For most students, the college party scene is a way to escape from the stress of work and school, but for Taylor Mason, that’s where work began. Mason was at a party for his fraternity at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign one night cracking jokes when his talent for comedy was discovered.

“I was just goofing around,” Mason said. “But a kid from another fraternity came up to me and said he would pay me to perform at his fraternity the next week.”

From that moment on, Mason began to be famous for his stand-up comedy acts across campus and has spent the last 30 years supporting himself and his family as a professional comedian.

“I’ve never really had another job,” Mason said. “I’ve been thankful to have been able to stay in such a tough business so long.”

Mason auditioned for the premier theater and comedy school, The Second City, in Chicago after college. He wasn’t really expecting much, as auditions were competitive, but The Second City ended up being the launching point for his career.

“While I was there, a woman asked if anyone could play piano and read music,” Mason said. “She told me to play. I got hired and became the musical director on the spot for two years.”

Working as musical director at such a prestigious institution that launched careers for actors such as Chris Farley, Steve Carell, Stephen Colbert and Amy Poehler opened doors for Mason to begin comedy writing.

Mason said he comes up with most of his material off of the top of his head when he wakes up and draws from different topical issues, or political or pop culture events going on at the time.

“That’s the biggest drag of my life: writing new material,” Mason said. “I never met a phor I didn’t like. I’m always using metaphors. You will find that, especially as a comedy writer, it is a strength to help get you from point A to point B.”

He finds inspiration from classic stand-up comedians, such as Steve Martin and Jerry Seinfeld, but he also draws from The Muppets. Mason had been a closet ventriloquist from the time he was 10 years old and was reluctant to use puppets as a part of his act when he first started performing in college.

“My fraternity brothers said it would be weird and stupid,” Mason said. “When I first started, it wasn’t very popular. But now the two biggest entertainers in the world, Jeff Dunham and Terry Fator, are both ventriloquists.”

Mason said that in order to stay relevant, he has to change his act on a pretty regular basis. However, he has two staple features to his act that have been with him for decades. Their names are Paco and Romeo.

“Paco is a pig, and he’s also an attorney,” he said. “The funny thing is that Paco speaks Spanish, and I don’t. The other, Romeo, is a typical boy muppet, and he is a combination of all the bad stand-up comics and wannabe types I’ve worked with over the years. He doesn’t know who is he is.”

Mason said his puppets tend to draw in people of all ages and he has kept his acts family-friendly throughout his career.

“I work clean,” he said. “I don’t curse. I don’t change my act because I’m in Tuscaloosa or New York or a church.”

He said no matter where he is, he always gives his audience the benefit of the doubt and works hard to keep his jokes from creating cheap laughs. He prefers live comedy over sitcoms or films in order to have that immediate feedback from an audience and keep you light on your feet.

“The way I approach it is always work to your highest intelligence,” Mason said. “Give the audience credit for being smart enough or hip enough. With comedy you can think something’s really funny and no one laughs. One thing about comedy is that the laughs never lie, and people aren’t going to laugh if they don’t like you.”

Mason said a comedian must have thick skin in an industry where there is so much competition and you are constantly performing in front of live audiences across the world. He has performed acts in numerous countries and spent this summer in London, Scotland, the Caribbean and Scandinavia. No matter where he is, he tries to stay confident and make his acts universally appealing. The amount of travel he has to do was one of the most surprising parts of being a comedian to him, but he enjoys being outside of his comfort zone.

“One skill you need is to be a little cocky,” he said. “When you go up on stage as a comedian, you are essentially saying, ‘I am funny, and I am going to prove it.’ You need a little ego to do that. You have to persevere like any other business because you are constantly auditioning and being rejected. The rejections far outnumber the times you actually get a job. For every 10,000 there is one Jerry Seinfeld or Chris Rock.”

Mason will be adding Tuscaloosa to his list of travels for the first time this Tuesday. He will be performing at the annual Tuscaloosa Comedy Cafe at Bryant Conference Center from 6:30-8:30 p.m. in partnership with Youth For Christ. It is an event for those interested in supporting the organization, which is an outreach program that shares the love of Christ with high school students in Tuscaloosa County.

“This event [is] a great opportunity for us to raise awareness of what’s going on in the high schools of Tuscaloosa,” said Madison Pearson, a junior majoring in social work who works with the organization. “People who come will get to see how God is on the move, whose lives are being changed and what needs to be done in the future.”

Pearson will be speaking at the event and thinks that having a comedy act is a great way to show how joyful and fun the ministry is in working with high school students.

“We do a comedy cafe as a fundraiser for the ministry because it brings in a large crowd for a fun atmosphere,” she said. “We get to share our vision and raise donations while having a fun-filled night.”

Mason is excited about being back in a college town like his, where his passion for comedy and making people laugh all began.

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