“I got infected with the comedy bug” - Former comedian and entrepreneur Vernon Thompson
Vernon Thompson asked me if I had kids. It was really rhetorical. I answered one son. He then asked if I ever wanted to kill him. Without hesitating for an answer he said every parent who has ever had a kid wanted to kill them at one time. If Ghandi had a kid at some point if you asked him if he ever wanted to kill them, he would answer, “Yes, but I didn’t ‘t. That‘s love!”
Standup comedy doesn’t really translate on paper like it does in person. Vernon would upon occasion relay a one liner from a bit or an improv line during our discussion this week.
A burly black man with a face that when animated lit up across the table. He told me how when he was on stage there was a request to always have a light on his face. Thompson is a comedian whose facial expressions and eyes deliver as much humorous effect as his words do. Some people tell a joke. Vernon Thompson makes it come to life.
Vernon is a guy with a dream that is close to my heart. He is bringing stand-up comedy to Jeffersonville. Thanks in part to his past and his wife’s current touring standup comedy careers he has a pipeline to comedians playing big cities like New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles.
His foray into comedy began rather innocuously when he was given complimentary tickets to sit in the audience for a live taping of a televised comedy show. After each taping the more he laughed the closer to the front of the audience he was asked to move. Something about that day got him hooked.
It was 2005 and he was in a dark place experiencing a divorce. His initial standup attempt ended in 2008. “I was a dirty comic.” His beloved mother gave him some of the best advice. ”You have got to tell the jokes like you talk.” It was around that time he attended the Comedy Institute where he learned the craft of writing a joke. One of the premises was the fact that shorter is funny. Fewer words and a kind of mental misdirection often lead to laughter.
He was reborn as a clean standup who told jokes relating to his everyday life such as a husband and a father that revived his career. Even then comedy was primarily a hobby that required a day gig to pay the bills. He had, however, fallen in love with the art of writing comedy.
While Vernon has quit touring he does still perform five or six charity events held by and sometimes for comedians such as the one for Big John Richardson whom many local fans recognize from his many performances as a house comic at the Comedy Caravan in Louisville. Serious health problems have resulted in members of the local standup family to help Big John with medical bills at the Refinery (formerly Kye’s 1) in Jeffersonville on July 7, 2019 at 8 o’clock. There will be a $10 cover charge and a “hat” will be passed throughout the evening for additional donations.
Currently every other weekend and every weekend in July Thompson has shows booked at the Sheraton hotel in Jeff under his banner; “Comedy by the Bridge.” Thompson does have a much bigger plan for the near future. He wants to open a “bricks and mortar” club that will operate full time in downtown Jeffersonville. He knows how much startup capital is required. All the connections are in place. Tom Sobel, the man who brought standup comedy to Louisville, is a friend and mentor. All the comedy connections are secured. It’s just a combination of time and money that are the variables. When I asked him on a scale of 1-10 where on the continuum he is now, Thompson says it’s an eight!
Thompson accepts his day gig as a State Farm Insurance agent while filling all of his free time booking, hustling, and selling his dream to anyone and everyone who will listen. In a little over an hour our interview was disrupted several times so he could conduct comedy related business.
One of those calls was from one of the Midwest’s hottest and most in demand comediennes, Miss Pat. The discussion centered on advanced sales and seating capacity for this weekend’s Sunday, June 30 at 8 p.m. show at The Refinery located at 500 Missouri Avenue in Jeffersonville (formerly known as Kye’s 1). Vernon did his sales spiel on me showing a You Tube video of her in one of her frequent appearances on the popular and nationally syndicated Bob and Tom radio show out of Indianapolis. Tickets for this Sunday’s show are $25.
Vernon will continue assisting his wife Adriene in writing new and current material for her standup act to perform around the region. There is that day job. And then there is his real passion which is bringing a standup comedy venue to Jeffersonville on a big time basis. For more information on current and future shows visit his Face book site; Comedy by the Bridge.
When it comes to comedy, Vernon has a simple mission statement for his future club, “I don’t want this to have an expiration date. You are never too young or too old for comedy.”
Lindon Dodd is a freelance writer who can be reached at email@example.com