ND grad returns for Funny Bone gig
Michael Somerville avoids commitments to the point of not liking to write in ink, thinks ATMs in bars should conduct sobriety quizzes before dispensing money, and says he was treated more like a stunt double than a sibling by his two older brothers.
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."
Many of Somerville's gags amount to poking more fun at himself than at others as he tells tales about his laziness, gluttony and romantic hang-ups. Somerville, who performs at the Funny Bone Comedy Club in Mishawaka from Tuesday through Sunday, still jokes about his experiences at Notre Dame, but he stays away from political humor and "works blue" only from time to time.
"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.
After he graduated from Notre Dame in 1994, Somerville moved to New York City to take a job in advertising, but his stand-up career began at Notre Dame during his freshman year.
He was tapped then to be one of the students who opened a comedy show on campus for Chicago-based comedian Bertice Berry. Some of his friends had dared him -- "twisted my arm to do it" -- to audition for the slot.
He crafted a routine of jokes about funny events in the lives of Notre Dame students. His friends enjoyed the show, and Berry complimented him.
"Bertice said some really nice things to me and was very encouraging," Somerville says. "She asked how long I'd been doing it, and I said that it was my first show ever, and she seemed pretty impressed."
After that, Somerville pursued any chance to perform that he could.
"Anytime there was a dance and they wanted someone to go up there and chat, I became that person," he says. He continued to emcee events and speak at pep rallies.
While in New York, Somerville started to appear at open-mike stand-up nights in clubs and decided he was at least as good as his competition. Soon, he was being paid for his act, and in 1999, he committed to a career in stand-up.
Now, he's heading back to the area for this week's shows at the Funny Bone. Somerville credits the friendly atmosphere at Notre Dame for helping him decide not to be a cruel comedian who skewers his subjects.
"It's a supportive community, and I like the person I became there," he says. "I like the kinds of humor that emerge there. At Dillon Hall, we found humor in everything. Sometimes you go to a club, and it's just a lot of jokes at other people's expense."