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Mar 25, 2006

Onstage, Michael Somerville speaks with a wide smile spread across his face, the expression reminiscent of the grin Jack Nicholson wore as The Joker in "Batman."

Somerville has reason, however, to smile: He's a funny guy, something he proved Tuesday in his opening-night set of a weeklong engagement at the Funny Bone.

A 1994 graduate of the University of Notre Dame, Somerville projected a natural presence onstage. He rolled easily with interruptions from the audience and displayed a quick improvisational wit in responding to the shout outs and to responses to his questions for members of the audience.

Much of Somerville's act is self-deprecating, and he made fun of himself for his handwriting, that he bought a new printer when his old one ran out of ink, and that when his girlfriend's car had a flat tire, he said, " 'I think we should see other people,' " rather than attempt to change the tire.

These and other youthful observations about life in the 21st century appear on the University of Notre Dame graduate's debut comedy CD, "Welcome to Somerville."

"I try not to talk about things in the news today," he says by telephone from Atlantic City, N.J. "Those jokes have shelf lives. It's hard enough to write a joke. I don't want to have it expire in three weeks."

So far, Somerville's career in stand-up comedy has shown no signs of expiring quickly. In the seven years since he left corporate life for the stage full time, Somerville has appeared on VH-1, Comedy Central and NBC's "The Apprentice," and has been quoted in Time magazine in a column of humorous quotes from the previous week ("what a crazy week in Hollywood -- Michael Jackson has stopped sleeping with children in his bed, and Tom Cruise has started," June 27, 2005) that also featured one-liners by Jay Leno and Conan O'Brien. He also has been featured on XM Satellite Radio Comedy Channel.

Tonight, Somerville takes over as the host of Nick-at-Nite's "Road Crew." Catch him live, instead, while you can.

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