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Get to Know that Quiet Nerd from High School: Interview with Adam Wade

The morning of my phone interview with Adam Wade, I was perusing Facebook and quickly discovered that Adam and I had a peculiar mutual friend. Not that this friend, was peculiar, but the connection was unexpected and exciting. See, Adam went to Keene State College with my favorite camp counselor Chad. Chad led a great creative writing class at camp, influenced me a lot in terms of the music that I grew up listening to, and even taught me how to juggle. And those experiences at summer camp shape a bunch of the stories that I love to tell. I had to bring up this mutual friend at the start of our conversation, and was glad I did.

Hillary: I realize that we have a very funny mutual friend which is my former camp counselor Chad who went to college with you. He was my hero at summer camp and he taught me about cool music and we stayed in touch ever since.

Adam: Yeah Chad is a very good man. Chad helped me a lot creatively too. He was always very supportive of me and he was my first acting partner. I used to open for Chad's band at Keene, that's basically how I started. I was very shy, so to get up in front of an audience with a guitar, tell a little set-up story and then play a song. The guitar was a great prop, a sort of shield. People seemed to like it, it was really fun, and It was just something I always wanted to do. I built the confidence in Keene, NH and I would do the same thing when I moved to New York City and it went alright. I did Caroline's New Talent Night and stuff like that. But I didn't feel fulfilled doing it. After awhile I thought I had more to offer but I just didn't know how to do it. Then I worked a production assistant at Tough Crowd with Colin Quinn and one day we were at lunch and Colin came over to me and he said, “I'm mad at you.” And I said, “Why are you mad at me?” I had been working there for a couple of months and he said “I didn't know you did stand-up. Bring in a tape. I wanna watch it.” And it was cool, I brought in a tape and he watched it and he went over it with me. And he said, “The most interesting thing about you is you. Not the guitar. The stories in between the songs are actually the sense of you coming out. That's the stuff you should focus on.” He gave me ten minutes and we went over the video and I remember going to my little Production Assistant desk and writing everything he said down. It meant a lot. He had seen a lot and he took the time.

Hillary: Can you tell me a little bit about your relationship with the Moth. What is your history with them? How has it shaped your storytelling?

Adam: So I started doing shows without the guitar and just telling little stories. It went really bad just because they were expecting jokes and then the people that booked me were expecting me to bring the guitar. When you're doing a comedy show it's always nice to have a guitar act or a music act cause it breaks it up. That's why I was getting booked. So those shows wouldn't book me again and it was very difficult for me. I was very frustrated. I had read this thing in the newspaper about the Moth and it seemed very interesting, but I was kind of intimidated by it all and I didn't go. And I waited and waited and waited. There was a producer at Tough Crowd who said, “Wait, why don't you do the Moth?” So he kind of kicked me in the ass. I was like “Well, I can't get out of work early to do the Moth.” And my regular boss said, “Absolutely, I'll let you leave.” So I started going. And I have been doing it for eight years. For me it was really good because there was a strong sense of community and nurturing. Not that the stand-up community was not nice, there was definitely a lot of nice people…

Hillary: plans to build furniturerong>The Moth is more tight knit.

Adam: Yeah it was just more tight knit and very nurturing. The producers and the people at the Moth, they knew your names. The founder of the Moth knew your name. There was gentleman who used to go to the Moth that brought pizzas, he would give pizzas out. In each venue I would always have my seat. Another thing with the Moth, too, is even when I started to get to know people, a lot of times I would make sure I stood in line with people or I sat at a table of people I didn't know. I wanted to force myself to meet people. And it was always kinda nice when you're sitting with three or four people you don't know and they're not really giving you the time of day but they're being nice or being cordial. And then you perform and you get back and they're like “Oh we didn't know we were sitting next to this guy.” And it always made you feel like a million bucks. It's definitely my home in a lot of ways. I owe a lot to the Moth and to the Moth community. They couldn't have been nicer and more supportive to me.

Hillary: The Adam Wade from NH Show: How did that all come together?

Adam: I did another show at the Theatre Under Saint Marks by Seth Lind, who works at This American Life. He does a monthly show there, which is incredible and I was a part of that. And then I just met his producer and she's a producer of the theater and I went out to have coffee with her one time. The thing with the Moth, I felt like for me personally, I wasn't having more than 5 to 8 minutes to tell a story. I wanted to have more time and be a little bit more creative. My whole style at the Moth is very fast moving, and you have to be because of the time limit. I wanted to work on slowing things down and do something for an hour or 45 minutes. My goals were to slow things down and to get chops. My friend Peter Aguerro has an improv story band and basically we discussed it and decided that Monday night I was gonna do a thing for an hour and then his band was gonna come on. We made a pact with each other that we would do this. And now his show regularly sells out and The Adam Wade From NH show does too. It really grew. Peter Aguerro is my rock in that sense. I'm nervous before every show no matter what it is. And I'm nervous the day of. But once I get there, I get there early, I start talking to the tech guy and Peter shows up and I'm fine. I don't need a beer, as long as I have my asthma inhaler. I calm down and it's like performing for friends. And basically what I try to do after the show, the best I can, is try to talk to everybody and thank everybody individually for coming. I am very grateful that people are coming.

Hillary: On the subject of nerves, you mentioned a couple of times that you still get nervous before every show. Does it go away once you start? How do you combat that?

Adam: A lot of times I'm nervous all day and now, once I'm on stage, I'm fine. That's when I feel most comfortable.

Hillary: Well, I guess that's everything.

Adam: I'm really looking forward to coming back to Philly, and to working with you.

See Adam perform in The Adam Wade from NH Show as part of the First Person Festival at the Khyber Upstairs Friday, November 11th and Saturday, November 12th. I will also be performing a special opening set of stories on childhood, crushes, and other uncomfortable experiences.

Tickets available online here or by phone at 267-402-2055.

-Hillary Rea

For more information about these 2011 First Person Festival artists, be sure to visit their official websites at the addresses below.

Adam Wade
Hillary Rea

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