Aaron Kleiber grew up in the projects of Pittsburgh as “the white kid at the table of black kids, making them laugh.”
What was social-survival skill then is a career skill now, one Kleiber will be bringing to Rob’s Comedy Playhouse on Saturday for a pair of stand-up performances at 8 and 10 p.m.
Kleiber, 33, launched into a full-time acting and comedy career in his late 20s after earning degrees in theology and adolescent ministry (warning: “I don’t want people thinking I’m some clean church comic, because I’m not”) and owning a landscape construction company.
He did well, landing a handful of movie gigs and network TV show roles, and touring with brand-name comics like Bob Saget and Jim Breuer.
In a recent interview, Kleiber dished on building his career from Pittsburgh, where he and his wife are raising their 6-year-old daughter and 4-year-old son; keeping perspective on his big-name boosters; and pondered the political correctness of doing a joke in Buffalo about what happens to the Super Bowl T-shirts of the losing team.
Question: You dove into an entertainment career a little later than most people. Why?
Answer: I started stand-up when my wife was pregnant with our first child and I had my first mortgage. That’s crazy. My mom always said, “If you want something, you have to work for it and go get it.” I’ve been working my whole life, since I was 10. The experiences I had early in life prepared me to go into business for something I really love, which is making people laugh. I’m pretty blessed that I can talk about poopy diapers, and people laugh at me, and then they give me a check.
Q: How have you managed to do it from Pittsburgh?
A: People always ask me, “Why aren’t you in L.A.?” I have a mortgage, I have two kids and a third child on the way in February. Pittsburgh, similar to Buffalo, is a pretty decent travel hub, especially for the East Coast. I know so many people who live in L.A. and 85 percent of their gigs are east of St. Louis and they’re paying for a $500 ticket every time they go out for a weekend. It really helps that I can play 40-50 different cities and clubs that are east of St. Louis, and the cost of living here is pretty decent. I make it work from where I’m at. I have to.
Q: You’ve developed a pretty good relationship with a lot of big-name comics. Do you ever find yourself flipping channels, coming across a “Full House” rerun, seeing Bob Saget and thinking, “I actually know this guy”?
A: I was at the gym one day with my wife and Bob, Dave Coulier and John Stamos were all on Ellen. I know Dave Coulier, too, and I looked at my wife and said, “Two of those three guys are buddies of mine. That’s stupid, that’s crazy.” But they’re normal people. I’ve always tried to be like that; not be stars truck or be a fan. Not treat them special. It like, “I’m trying to do what you’re doing. I own a bakery; you just own a bigger bakery.”
Q: When you’re here this weekend, are you going to do your bit about what happens when the Super Bowl losers’ T-shirts are sent to a poor village?
A: Oh my gosh, dude. You just reminded me of that.
Q: I just found it on YouTube and was laughing pretty hard.
A: Honestly, I have not done that joke in two or three years, and I forgot about it. But yeah, dude, thanks, I probably should. But here’s my question: I’ve always wondered, is that a thing? Has that joke been done in Buffalo? I’m sure there are a lot of jokes about the Buffalo Bills losing four times.
Q: People have a good sense of humor about it. Just don’t use the phrase “wide right.”
A: Oh yeah, I don’t. I don’t say that.
Who: Aaron Kleiber
When: 8 and 10 p.m. Saturday
Where: Rob's Comedy Playhouse, 1340 North Forest Road, Williamsville