Baltimore native Larry XL is ready to deliver large laughs as he returns to Rob’s Comedy Playhouse for two shows on Feb. 20.
A journeyman comic who currently lives in Philadelphia, Larry XL has opened for acts like John Witherspoon, Ralphie May and Jim Florentine. Now a headliner with three albums to his name (the most recent, “Go Huge or Go Home,” is now available on iTunes), Larry XL talked about his career and inspirations during a recent phone interview.
Question: How did you come up with the name Larry XL?
Answer: Larry XL sounded way more showbiz than my regular last name, Nichols. Larry Nichols sounds like an accountant. I started in 2001-2002, so this was like when people had really bizarre showbiz names, so I started using it. When I started performing in clubs and I just never stopped (using the name). It’s a name that sticks with you.
Q: Were there any comedians that inspired you growing up?
A: The first comedy album I bought was Bill Cosby’s. That was when I was a kid, so once I got older I started getting Eddie Murphy, Sam Kinison and Martin Lawrence. But the comedian that really made me decide I could do this was Chris Rock. Chris Rock came at a time when most black comics who were blowing up were into the Def Jam thing, and Rock was the first guy I saw that was like, “OK, you can be cerebral, edgy and insanely funny at the same time.” Not that those comics weren’t, but there was a lot of playing to the audience. Chris made his audience come to him. He didn’t pander. That’s the kind of comedy I appreciate.
Later on, guys like Ron White and Patton Oswalt I really connected with, because those guys are really great storytellers. They’re not your typical set-up joke/punchline guys.
Q: You’ve opened for a lot of famous comics and now you’re headlining. What would you consider your breakthrough?
A: Comedy is one of those things where you can keep doing it and one day you wake up to reach a plateau in your career. I don’t think I’ve had a breakthrough yet because I’m a very working-class comic. But if you’re talking about going from open mic to emcee, then to feature and headliner, I would say that my breakthroughs come when people recognize that … a lot of comics ask to be bumped up to the next level, but a lot of times other people will say to you, “You’re ready to do this now.” When I first started out emceeing, and started getting just as big of a laugh as the feature (act), comedy clubs will try you out because you look like you’re ready for it. When you’re putting heat on the comic who’s coming after you, that’s when people start taking notice and moving you up.
Q: Do you write your jokes offstage or develop them when you’re performing?
A: I don’t really have a set process. A lot of comics make a point of sitting down and writing for an hour a day. I don’t do that. A lot of things I talk about on stage are things I’ve observed in my travels and seen happen to people. A lot of stuff just pops into my mind when I’ve had way too much caffeine and (driving) to the next gig. A lot I don’t really write anything down … maybe just a couple of ideas I’ll throw out there and if something positive happens, I’ll keep working on it.
When: 7:30 and 9:30 p.m. Feb. 20
Where: Rob’s Comedy Playhouse, 1340 North Forest, Williamsville