By Kevin Zimmerman
Astoria comic Blake Rice is still working out a few childhood issues.
Growing up in suburban Philadelphia, Rice, 26, has less-than-fond memories of some of his family vacations.
“Kids want to go to Disney World,” Rice said. “We went to Colonial Williamsburg. That’s where little boys’ dreams go to die. We spent an afternoon watching a guy cobble one shoe.”
These days Rice spends his time assembling a career as a stand-up comedian.
Rice moved to Astoria about three years ago and jumped into the city’s open mic night comedy scene.
He performed for downtown audiences at Camp David NYC, the Metropolitan Room and at The Delancey.
At first Rice opted to perform blue, with a steady stream of four-letter words flying out of his mouth. He also used to play the guitar and sing commercial-length tunes for made-up products that most 10-year-old boys would find funny.
“I sang a jingle about a rectal thermometer,” he said. “My stuff used to be really dirty. It took awhile to learn what resonated with the audience. Family stuff is universal and authentic.”
He also cleaned up his act.
“I want to be nice in my stand-up,” he said. “You have to make the crowd comfortable. If they are not rooting for me to do well, they are not going to get invested, listen or laugh.”
Rice’s stand-up took another big step a couple of weeks ago when he was the headliner at the Triad Theater in Manhattan’s Upper West Side, where he riffed on his family and upbringing in Moorestown, N. J.
Although one of southern New Jersey’s tonier suburbs, Moorestown also had plenty of working-class families like Rice’s.
His dad works as a salesman, and his mom is a nurse.
Rice is the third of four children, but refers to himself as the runt of the litter, pointing to his little brother’s growth spurt that long ago outpaced his own.
“I was weird and angry as a little kid,” Rice said. “And all my siblings were against me.”
He admits he was always a little slow on the uptake, especially when it came to family dynamics.
During dinner, someone would place a finger alongside their nose. Then, one by one, as other family members noticed they would put their fingers up to their face. The last one to do it would end up being the garbage man for the night. Rice found himself in charge of trash most nights.
“They would sing, ‘Blake is the trash man, ho, ho, ho,” Rice said.
His quirkiness translated over to school as well.
He convinced his teachers to let him make movies instead of turning out dioramas and writing book reports.
Many of these projects elicited plenty of laughter from classmates, Rice said. Other films dealt with extremely dark material and turned the mood of the room to sadness.
In college, Rice majored in film production and continued to make funny videos with his friends.
But it is one thing to create movies when the school is supplying equipment and film as part of the program, Rice said.
“Once you graduate college with a film degree, you really don’t know what it is like,” he said. “With film, there are so many moving pieces, but with stand-up, you are the only one. It is kind of refreshing.”
He continues to keep his hand in filmmaking. He recently wrote and directed a short narrative movie, “To Whom it May Concern,” after a young woman he was dating asked him to help her create an acting reel for auditions.
And he keeps wanting to make people laugh.
“I’m having a good time no matter what,” Rice said. “And I want people to have a good time.”