NEPA Scene’s Got Talent spotlight: Scranton comedian John Walton
Every week of NEPA Scene’s Got Talent, our free open mic and talent competition at Thirst T’s Bar & Grill in Olyphant, we feature a quick Q&A with the latest audience vote winner, which was Scranton comedian John Walton on Oct. 13.
The weekly winner receives $50 in cash, courtesy of Fireball Cinnamon Whisky, and the headlining slot for the following Tuesday, and all other performers are encouraged to compete again as often as they’d like or simply show off their talents for fun. The event is sponsored by Samuel Adams; LT Verrastro, Inc.; Fireball Cinnamon Whisky; Fuzz 92.1; TwentyFiveEight Studios; and Thirst T’s.
After 12 weeks, the 12 winners will face off against each other at the Finals Showcase on Dec. 1 in front of a panel of local celebrities who will determine the winner of the grand prize – a winter getaway package with ski passes and more, $250, an interview broadcast on Fuzz 92.1, and a free 10-hour recording session at TwentyFiveEight Studios in Scranton. The second place winner will receive $100.
We asked 34-year-old Walton about winning Week 7 with his funny set of relateable humor and improvised jokes.
NEPA SCENE: How did you hear about NEPA Scene’s Got Talent, and what made you decide to perform last week?
JOHN WALTON: I heard about it on Facebook, and I finally had the day off of work to do it.
NS: For those who don’t know you yet, tell us a bit about your background as a comedian. How did you get started?
JW: I’ve been doing stand-up comedy for 13 years, and I got started at Wise Crackers Comedy Club. It was just something I wanted to do since I was in high school. I called up Scott Bruce, the owner of Wise Crackers, and asked if I could perform at his club and he let me do a guest spot.
NS: Your humor seems to have a universal appeal that works with many different types of audiences. How did you develop these jokes so that they would work so well?
JW: When I first started, I just wrote what I thought was funny, but I wasn’t getting the results I wanted, so I studied the art of stand-up a little. I read several blogs about stand-up, and one of the first rules is to “know your audience” – the more relatable your material is, the funnier it is. Editing is a big key, and if anyone asks me about stand-up, that’s the first thing I tell them they have to master. A lot of young comics just take pen to paper and then paper to stage. Comedy is not something you just get on stage and do; you have to craft your material and shape and mold it, like creating a statue out of clay.
NS: What inspires you to write material?
JW: My material just comes from life experiences mostly. Many times it’s from things that may have made me angry at the time, but then I turn it into a joke. I consider myself an observational comic. Not only do I observe the world, I observe myself.
NS: You’re able to improvise and go off the cuff quite a bit and make it look easy. Is it really that easy for you or did that take time to develop?
JW: Improvising took time and was definitely something I couldn’t do when I was starting out, but it became easier the more comfortable I got on stage and the more I understood that the people watching me just wanted to have a good time. If you think of the audience as your new friends, then it just becomes messing around with your buddies.
NS: Is comedy something that you’d like to pursue as a career or is it just for fun?
JW: Even though I am not where I want to be yet, I consider myself a pro now. I get paid to do it. I have mainly been doing bars and events and things of that nature, but I would like to do clubs and colleges. It’s not a career yet, but it’s something I am working towards.
NS: What was your immediate reaction when you won the audience vote last week?
JW: Completely unexpected. The main reason I wanted to go was because I had a new joke I had written that I wanted to try and didn’t expect to win, but it was cool when it happened.
NS: Why do you think you won the audience vote?
JW: I made them laugh.
NS: How will you spend your $50 prize?
JW: I spent my $50 at Sheetz.
NS: What is your opinion of the local arts and entertainment scene? What is great about it, and what needs improvement?
JW: I think the entertainment scene is great. I think it would be better if some people tried to branch out more and take advantage of outside opportunities. Me and Kevin Lepka auditioned for “America’s Got Talent” last year, but there was like only four people from this area who went. I also auditioned for “Last Comic Standing” and made the World Series of Comedy in Las Vegas, but I was the only one. I would like to see more people try to do some of these things. This area is too strong for that not too happen. I can’t speak for the other arts, but I do believe the local comics should be doing more to reach their potential by doing the little things to become better comedians. If you can be better at what you do, then why wouldn’t you?
NS: Do you have any upcoming shows or performances you’d like to promote?
NS: Where can people find your comedy online?
JW: I do have clips of myself on YouTube, but I hate them.
For more information on Season 2 of NEPA Scene’s Got Talent, which is always free and open to anyone, click here.
See more photos from last week’s event here.
Photo by Robb Malloy/NEPA Scene
by Rich Howells
Rich is an award-winning journalist, longtime blogger, photographer, and podcast host. He is the founder and editor of NEPA Scene.