20Q: Catching up with comedian Pete Lee


Anthony Wahl

Editor's Note: Kicks presents 20Q, a feature that introduces readers to people involved in the area's arts and entertainment community. Compiled by kicks Editor Greg Little, each piece will include a short bio, photo and answers to questions that provide insight into not only that person's artistic interests but also his or her unique personality.

Pete Lee

Born in Janesville and a 1995 Craig High graduate, comedian Pete Lee has gained national attention for not only his stand-up shows but also various TV appearances.

Lee made his television debut in 2005 on Comedy Central's “Premium Blend,” after which he moved to New York City. Soon after he was selected to perform at the Just for Laughs Comedy Festival in Montreal, where he was voted a standout performer.

In 2008, Lee made his network television debut performing on NBC's “Last Comic Standing,” where he finished as a semifinalist. That same year, he made his television acting debut on the CBS soap opera “As The World Turns,” appearing in two episodes.

At the end of 2008, Lee shot his own Comedy Central half-hour special, which earned him a cult following at comedy clubs and the opportunity to perform at nearly 500 colleges across the country over the next four years.

In 2010, Lee started producing and editing his own online shows, which led to him getting his own show, “New York Minute: 30” on MSN.com. His shows attracted the attention of TV talent scouts, and in 2012 he was hired as a writer and cast member for Fuse TV's “Video on Trial” and the NFL Network's “Top 10s.”

In 2013, Lee signed on as a writer and cast member on VH1's “Best Week Ever” until it was cancelled. He currently is a writer and cast member on TruTV's “Best Ever.”

To learn more, visit PeteLee.net.

1. What's the greatest hazard of being a stand-up comic? Definitely driving thousands of miles a year. Even though I fly to most tour dates, I wind up driving a ton, too. Sometimes I feel like a truck driver who is just hauling jokes.

2. Has a heckler ever really gotten to you or come up with something to which you didn't know how to react? At this point in my career, hecklers don't bother me at all. They are usually just nice people who want some attention, and they settle down once I've poked fun at them. But when I first started, I didn't know how to talk to them. I remember my fifth time ever doing stand-up, I was walking on stage and a heckler said, “You suck!” I responded by grabbing the microphone and saying, “Oh man, this is only my fifth time on stage. You're right!”

3. What do you consider the highlight of your career so far? Doing stand-up on “The Late Show with David Letterman.” I grew up loving his show, so it was really cool to do stand-up while he watched from his desk 15 feet away. I'm getting ready to do stand-up on “Conan” and the Colbert show soon. Those will be special experiences, too.

4. How does one prepare to become a professional comedian while growing up in Janesville, Wisconsin? I don't know if people realize it or not, but Wisconsin people are really funny. I'm not sure if it is a cultural thing, or if it's because we drink so much booze. But I definitely have a unique way of looking at the world, and it comes from being from Wisconsin.

5. Do you attend class reunions? I have never been to a class reunion. I'd like to attend one, but I get booked to film TV gigs every time my class schedules one. It's almost a good luck charm. Maybe if they schedule weekly class reunions, I'll get my own sitcom.

6. Who makes you laugh? My brother Rob Lee makes me laugh so hard. He's without a doubt funnier and smarter than me. I can call him any time of day with any problem, and he'll find a way to make me laugh tears out of my face.

7. Do you collect anything? I've been trying to collect money, but I keep selling my collection for rent and groceries.

8. What is the best advice you've received about standup? Who did it come from? Lewis Black once told me, “Do stand-up because you love it, not because you want to be rich and famous.” At the time, he said, “I've been doing stand-up for 22 years, and I just signed a TV contract for a million dollars. But if you average out that million over 22 years of struggling, I would make $4.32 an hour.”

9. What's your sign? I was born at 11:59 on the day between two signs, so I am technically a Leo and a Virgo.

10. You performed on “The Late Show with David Letterman.” What do you most remember about that night? I was so nervous to perform on that show, but it went really great. At the end of my set, David Letterman walked over to me, shook my hand and said, “You really cracked my egg, Pete. I don't always find every comedian funny, but you were great!” I said, “Dave, I've loved you since I was 10 years old, and you don't even want me to tell you how much that means to me.” He jokingly said, “You're probably right, Pete,” and walked away.

11. Ever been in a fistfight? This question might as well have read, “Do you have brothers?” Yes, I've definitely been punched in the face a bunch. As far as how it went, I think it turned me into a comedian.

12. Where was your first comedy performance? Acme Comedy Club in Minneapolis on Martin Luther King Day in 1998. I had been writing jokes for two years leading up to my first show. I was so surprised that I got so many laughs. It was amazing.

13. People would be surprised to learn that I: Was a sponsored skateboarder growing up. I rode for Alva skateboards and Vision Street Wear. I even got to be on MTV once as a little kid.

14. In past performances, you've joked about your own name. If you could change it, what name would you choose? Jerry Seinfeld.

15. Is there a word or phrase that is a guaranteed laugh? Fond du Lac. That town name always makes me laugh, and I get laughs saying it on stage every time. I'm not sure why it's so funny. It's just a silly word.

16. Where is your favorite place to perform? The Comedy Club on State in Madison. Best crowds. My other favorite clubs are the Comedy Cellar and The Stand in New York City; you get to perform with the greats. The other night, I went on stage after Louis CK, Tracy Morgan and Chris Rock. I couldn't believe how well I did after them. Such an honor.

17. Can a person ever laugh too much? Yes, but only if you have a really full bladder.

18. Have you ever told a joke that failed miserably? I was on tour in Asia, and I jokingly said to the mostly white crowd, “You look like the people who supervise the children who make the iPhones.” Nobody laughed, and then one guy politely raised his hand and said, “We didn't laugh at that because that's what we do for a living.” He was telling the truth.

19. Do you have any big projects on the horizon you can talk about? I'm on a TV show on TruTV called “Greatest Ever” that airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. Central Time. We just got renewed for a second season.

20. If you could place a “Pokemon Go” character anyplace, where would it be? Across the street from The Italian House. That's about the only thing that could ever make their lines short. Their food is seriously THE BEST!

Know someone involved in the local arts/entertainment community you think would be a great subject for 20Q? Email kicks Editor Greg Little at glittle@gazettextra.com.

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