Michael Somerville recalls the roadside bar in Pennsylvania with a shiver.
It's the bumper sticker on one truck in the parking lot that haunts him: "Keep honking, I'm reloading."
The young comedian knew immediately that his material on dating in the '90s was inappropriate for the crowd. He remembers thinking he might get shot.
But in the end, he merely got a lot of brutal heckling.
"You learn the most from jobs like that," he says. "In the end, someone bought me a beer."
Somerville is one of five comics who will perform in the "Nobodies of Comedy" tour, which hits the Palace Theatre stage in Stamford Saturday at 8 p.m. The tour features gifted comedians who are not household names.
A native of Berkeley Heights, N.J., Somerville tried his hand at standup as a freshman at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana. He was hooked immediately.
"I've always loved to laugh as well as making people laugh. I really just love laughter," he says.
Despite this, he took a job in advertising in New York after graduation. It wasn't long before he decided he was on the wrong side of the business. After looking into commercials and appearing in some open mic nights, he opted to quit his job and work as a comic full time.
"I knew I had to kind of leave the nest and be hungry," he says.
In the seven years since, Somerville, 33, has developed a brand of humor he describes as an "autobiographical take on life."
Comedy, he explains, doesn't have to focus on a serious political issue such as Iraq. Daily life is a gold mine for meaningful jokes.
"Sleep is an issue I've cared about my whole life."
Somerville is out of town for performances 100 to 150 days each year. His wages are completely dependent on the venue where he performs, ranging from $25 for a weeknight gig in New York to $1,000 for an hour show at a college.
"At this level, you're not in it for the money" but to try to improve with every appearance, he says. "I'm what I'm selling."