In high school, Brian Giles was voted loudest in his class. Now a professional comedian, Giles is furthering that reputation by hosting occasional open mic nights at the University.
Straight from Woodland, Maine, a place Giles calls “Redneck, America,” the USM sophomore has lived in Portland since his high school graduation. He’s performed at the Comedy Connection in both Portland and Boston, and even opened for Elvis impersonator Jack Smink at the Cumberland County Civic Center in August of 1999.
This year at USM, Giles decided to combine his interest in comedy with the student community. On Wednesday, Jan. 31, Giles will host his fifth open mic night. Giles said 35 people came to his last one, a major improvement from his first open mic night.
“The first time, I had an audience of four,” Giles said. ” And I rounded them up from the Luther Bonney computer room.”
Giles, an easygoing 23-year-old with blond hair and blue eyes, has made a name for himself on the local comedy circuit. He lives on the West End with his girlfriend, two cats named Charlie Chaplin and Salvador Dali, and a fish named Tom Waits.
For a young man who took his time figuring out what to do with his life, Giles has still managed to jumpstart his stand-up comedy career.
He didn’t start college right away.
“I was working at Subway when I was 19,” Giles said. “I thought, `I could do this for the rest of my life.’ Then one day I woke up and said, `what am I doing?'”
Giles spent the next three years soul-searching, and hitchhiked around the country. He remembers getting rides from a religious fanatic, and the occasional pervert. He spent two summers with the Maine Summer Dramatic Institute and also studied improvisational comedy with Yale’s “The Purple Crayon.”
Giles has interned and performed for Portland Stage Company, and became a member of “The Farm” an improvisational comedy troupe in Portland.
Acting classes aside, he learned the most about improv from some little kids he once worked with.
“They had no inhibitions,” Giles said. “It’s just play time.”
Giles gets a lot of material from his childhood, and said he has “the number one most dysfunctional family.” However, he said his family doesn’t mind that he makes jokes about them onstage.
“They think it’s a hoot,” he said.
Giles began doing theater and stand-up comedy in high school, and has been addicted to the stage since. Some of his influences are Bill Cosby, Steven Wright and George Carlin. While he doesn’t make much money from doing comedy, he hopes his local exposure will pay off someday.
He has other interests and ambitions besides comedy, and is majoring in anthropology at USM with a minor in English. He’s thinking about minoring in philosophy or teaching as well. He said comedy is not far from the field of anthropology.
“Comedy is purely observation,” he said. “And using language to the absurd.”
Giles said he enjoys attending USM, and finds the college experience makes great material for his stand-up act. His most vulgar joke is about a poster he once saw for the graduate studies nursing program.
“The poster said, `looking for males 20 to 25, paying $15 for a study.’ I called and they said all I had to do was get a rectal and testicular exam.” Giles’ punch line for the joke is, “I usually make at least $50 for that.”
For Giles, comedy is a poetic license to do anything he wants.
“I get to mess with people. I can make fun of Republicans, and they’ll laugh with me.”
Now a regular at the Portland Comedy Connection, Giles works with local funny guys such as Bob Marley and George Hamm. Three or four local comedians and friends of Giles will probably perform at the next USM open mic night, he said.
Anyone else who wants to show their talents on stage can sign up at 6:30 p.m. on Jan. 31 at the Woodbury Campus Center. The show, sponsored by Portland Events Board, will start at 7 p.m.
Giles said there will be free coffee, cookies, generic brand soda, and possibly popcorn as well. The event is free.