It’s no secret that Charlotte isn’t exactly Hollywood, but there is a thriving comedy scene here in the city. What the Queen City lacks in comedy clubs it makes up for with a plethora of funny, original and passionate performers.
And one common thread most of these comedians have? Johnny Millwater taught them about comedy.
If you don’t know Johnny Millwater, which around half of the audience at the show at The Charlotte Comedy Zone on Tuesday admitted by round of applause that they did not, then you must not be very familiar with the Charlotte comedy scene. Johnny and his wife Debbie work tirelessly to not only create and promote shows in Charlotte – but actively attempt to create the next generation of performers with their “Comedy School” classes.
So, when Johnny (only 37) was being celebrated for his 20 years as a performer (!!!), naturally there was a bevvy of talented and grateful comedians happy to perform.
The host Will Jacobs provided his usual energetic and hilarious performance to the capacity crowd at the Comedy Zone. The lineup included hilarious Charlotte-based comedians Sid Davis, D Moore, Ed Mabrey, Charlie Eaton, J Bliss and featured Johnny’s sister Kim Harrison.
Each of the comedians provided some kind words about how Johnny Millwater personally encouraged and guided their comedy careers when no one else believed in them. (Except his sister, who actually encouraged HIS career!)
A large section of the audience was comprised of a law firm who had reserved the tables to celebrate something or other. One of the lawyers was a middle-aged white man wearing a dashiki, who continually hooted and hollered throughout the show.
This is what it looks like when a middle-aged white dude wears a dashiki.
He provided plenty of fodder for the comedians throughout the night. Including 17 year old Charlie Eaton who said, “Johnny taught me everything I know about comedy. From how to structure a joke, to timing, to dealing with annoying drunk hecklers.” The knowing look he provided toward the dashiki dude elicited howls of laughter from him and the rest of the crowd.
The night culminated in a sit-down interview between Will Jacobs and Johnny Millwater on the subject of Johnny’s life and career. As a Charlotte Comedy nerd, it was heaven. Johnny talked about starting his career as a 9 year old magician at the Millwater Thanksgiving table, and moving on to performing at comedy clubs – all before he could drive!
He said his sister Kim, who is a talented comedian and singer in her own right, inspired him and even snuck him into his first comedy shows.
Will asked the tough questions including what advice he’d have for younger comedians, what was his favorite kind of audience, and how long after meeting his wife that she let him “hit it raw”. (This seemingly intrusive question was met with howling laughter, as it perfectly punctured the air of gravitas the interview had taken.)
One thing that Johnny said that will always stick with me is this:
“Being a comedian is like being a priest.” He expertly paused here for laughter, “You can study your entire life and still not know everything.”
If there’s one thing I can say about Johnny is that I have learned a lot from him. Not only in how to be a performer onstage, but how to be a positive person in such a crazy, mixed-up world.
No matter what the circumstances, Johnny has treated me as a friend and as an esteemed colleague (though even on my best day, I could never hold a candle to Johnny’s polished, personable showmanship).
Johnny celebrated his 20th year as a comedian, and for Charlotte’s sake I hope he works 49 more.
(But only because that would add up to 69 and that’s hilarious.)