Two days after receiving his law degree from the University of Texas, a young man named John Ramsey won the title of Funniest Person in Austin in this year's annual competition at Cap City Comedy Club. This means that he started at the bottom with the rest of the myriad combatants and over several weeks advanced from the hemi-demi-semi-finals through the simply semifinals to the finals and emerged triumphant among a crowd of very talented and much better-known local comics.
The only other time Ramsey had attempted stand-up comedy was at an open-mic night in Memphis six years earlier.
"Well, I was part of a sketch comedy and improv group that I co-founded at Rhodes College in Tennessee," allows the nascent barrister. "They were called Contents Under Pressure they're still around and I worked with them for four years. So I'm not a stranger to comedy per se, but this was my first actual try at stand-up since that open mic."
So how ...?
"I put together a routine that wasn't so much typical stand-up, but more like bits of sketches," says Ramsey. "But it wasn't a routine that I whittled down to the seven minutes maximum for the finals. Instead, I created the routine specifically to fill those seven minutes. And I practiced a lot. I practiced for about six hours before the finals. But I was tired, too, because, I'd also stayed up all night studying for my final law exam two days earlier."
Tired or not, head crowded with theses on tort reform or force majeure or quid-pro-whatever, the man went on to trounce the competition that night at Cap City, assuring the perennial bridesmaid-never-a-bride Jimmie Winkfield his customary position as second funniest person in Austin.
"There's no definite reason why I won," says Ramsey modestly. "A lot of these guys, they've done this for years and they're funnier than I am. I'm not actually as good as Winkfield. Or Jim Hamilton or David Huntsberger. But I had a lot of energy from the crowd that night, a lot of people had come out to cheer me on."
And now that he's won the FPIA title, will he put the legal profession aside to grab for the brass ring of comedy-based wealth and fame that's, ho-ho, ever so easy to attain?
"I'm not ready to be a featured act yet," demurs Ramsey. "But I'm going to try and line up appearances as a host at venues throughout Texas. Because, yeah, I want to keep performing and practicing until I can get good enough to be a feature. I'm working for a law firm right now, and one of the reasons I took the job is because of the flexible schedule. I definitely want to pursue the comedy thing."
John Ramsey continues pursuing the comedy thing here in Austin this weekend, headlining his first post-FPIA show at the Velveeta Room, 521 E. Sixth. We reckon that, after a few minutes of the man's sharp humor in the murky, alcohol-infused ambience of that seasoned cheese palace, any objections will be overruled.
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