Steve Gillespie seems a little more anxious than usual.
"You shouldn't even fucking watch this set," he said self-effacingly prior to taking the stage at Acme Comedy Club.
It's the night of Acme's weekly open mic and, after featuring for a weekend at Rookies Comedy Club in Sioux Falls, S.D., Gillespie needs to work out some new material. If you've attended Acme's open mic more than once, you probably remember seeing him. Seven years into his career, the wild-eyed Wisconsin native and Acme emcee is one of the more engaging and genuinely hysterical members of the Twin Cities comedy scene.
"OK, that premise isn't quite thought out all the way," Gillespie admitted after one of his punchlines evoked more groans than laughter halfway through the notably stiff set.
This Saturday, flanked by local stalwarts that include Isaac Witty ("Late Show with David Letterman") and Kjell Bjorn ("Live at Gotham" and feature comedian at Acme), he'll be headlining the Comedy Corner Underground to promote his debut album, "Stever Fever," which was released by Rooftop Comedy earlier this year.
Most nights Gillespie can't stay still. He spends the majority of his sets pacing the stage - sometimes frantically - bouncing between one sordid punchline to another. It's just one of many things that distinguishes Gillespie from his peers, and a key element of his comedy that's lost on his album.
"People will say 'We listened to your CD, but we kind of wish it was a DVD because we've seen what you're like live," Gillespie said in a recent interview.
That's not to say "Stever Fever" is a dud. It's an album that effectively showcases the his twisted perspective and intrinsic knack for timing and delivery. Gillespie has been performing full time around the country for three years. And while his album - recorded at the Skyline Comedy Cafe in Appleton, Wis. - isn't catapulting him to fame or fortune, he stressed how it's helped with exposure.
"The big thing for me is it's on Pandora, it's on Spotify, it's on satellite radio," Gillespie said. "At least once a week someone will come up to and tell me they found my album online and decided to come to the show."
Despite burgeoning success, Gillespie, who holds a graduate degree in social economics from the University of Minnesota, hasn't entirely avoided pitfalls. Earlier this year, he received a call-back audition in New York for Montreal's prestigious Just For Laugh's festival. He didn't get accepted into the festival, but, like most comics, he hasn't let it discourage him entirely.
"Every week when I'm driving, it's so easy to get in your head that I could just make a decision not to do this anymore and maybe I would be a lot happier," Gillespie said. "But where are you going to find that rush that standup gives you. You're not getting that. There's nothing else in life that's even fucking close."