Downtown Publications article by Hayley Beitman
Long before musical comedian J Chris Newberg was writing songs for American Idol and touring with Dane Cook, the Bloomfield Hills native was a quiet and reserved student at Brother Rice High School.
Newberg was a bookworm, thespian and even homecoming king, but was never the class clown. Although he never strived to be the center of attention, it was apparent that Newberg had a natural ability to find humor in everyday situations.
It wasn’t long before he ditched the road to academia and ventured onto the stage for open mic night at Mark Ridley’s Comedy Castle. “I sucked. I didn’t know how to do it,” he said.
Unaware that he was actually doing it right, his first unsuccessful time on stage was humorous in itself. “If there are two people on stage and one wins and one loses, who’s funnier? Ultimately you want success, but it’s difficult to walk on stage and connect with the audience if you come off as perfect.”
Practicing and improving the learned talent of stand-up comedy, Newberg enjoyed sharing his dose of medicinal laughter and giving everyone a chance to unwind, including himself.
“It’s a pretty simple job to make people laugh immediately. Very few jobs are that single themed. You show up at 8:00, and at 8:01 when the lights go down, you have to be funny,” he said.
Everyday occurrences spark inspiration for his edgy and witty humor, which is why he uses Twitter as a drawing board for constant exploration.
“It’s like being on a blind date with 200 people every time you go on stage. One-third of them will probably hate you, one-third will probably love you, and one-third will be indifferent. If you go after hate or indifferent, you’ll lose everyone. You have to go up knowing most of the audience won’t like you.”
The unlimited power and potential in that moment are what motivate Newberg to succeed on stage. “If you have a good day at work, you could find a fortune in fame.” Which is exactly how he got involved with Last Comic Standing, America’s Got Talent, Jimmy Kimmel Live and the Tonight Show, just to name a few.
Of all of his many accomplishments, he is most proud to be one of a few who have written an original composition for American Idol. Having also toured with the Counting Crows, Oasis, and John Mellencamp, he briefly considered the music industry instead of comedy but stuck with his original passion. “Music’s fun, but I’m way better at listening to it than I am at playing it.”
Since gaining popularity, Newberg said he has been a “workaholic gypsy,” but would eventually love to get married and raise a family in Michigan. “Every girl wants a guy with a sense of humor, but no girl says she wants to date a comic.”
Though he currently resides in Los Angeles, the musical comedian, who lived in Oakland County for 36 years and once donned a “248” decal on his guitar, still calls the mitten his home. He finds time to visit Birmingham at least once or twice a year but unless he’s working, it’s unlikely you’ll find him at a bar or club on his downtime.
In the future he hopes to become more widely recognized than he is now, and since he’s currently working on three shows with Howie Mandel, his dreams may just come true.