Stand-up comedy appealed to Alex Bozinovic because he didn’t have to get the band together to rehearse. He didn’t have to corral other actors to shoot something. It was just him on stage, telling his own jokes and trying to make a room full of strangers laugh, at least a little bit.
“Nobody is going to stop you from doing it,” says Bozinovic, 40, who’s been performing stand-up for seven years — “six,” he clarifies, “if you want to take away the pandemic year.”
“If you want to do it, you can go to an open mic, and so long as you’re not aggressive to any specific person and making people feel uncomfortable … no one is going to tell you you can’t.”
But there’s a vulnerability that comes with being alone on stage, too. You don’t have the human safety net of other band members or stage actors to catch you if you fall. There’s no one to prop up your premise if it starts to fall apart, as there is with an improv troupe.
Bozinovic confronted that vulnerability right off the bat, after he graduated from a stand-up class at Mark Ridley’s Comedy Castle, where plenty of local stand-ups have gone to find out if the business was for them and to crack into the scene. One of his first stand-up sets outside of Ridley’s classroom setting was an absolute bomb — comedic parlance for a terrible outing on stage where the audience doesn’t respond and you question what the hell you’re doing.
“It was me talking into a microphone and a lot of people just staring,” Bozinovic recalls with a laugh. “I don’t know what made me keep going. There’s a lot of people that have been around for a long time telling you that if you want to get good at it, you just have to keep going. I listened to them.”
Hour Detroit: Who inspires you?
Alex Bozinovic: “We couldn’t be more different as far as content, but we’re pretty similar in the way that we deliver our punch lines and our general demeanor — and that would be Nate Bargatze. I’m a low-energy comic and so is he, so I watch him to see how he keeps people engaged and how I can kind of steal some of that.”
From the jump, Bozinovic brought his sexuality with him on stage, too.
“In a way, it was a cheat code,” he says. “If I was as casual about being gay as literally every other comic is about being straight, I knew it was going to make me stand out. I didn’t want to feel like I couldn’t talk about certain things on stage.”
That approach gives Bozinovic a highly conversational vibe as he carries his audience through each story and punch line with a confident casualness that’s harder to achieve than it looks.
When Bozinovic was just starting out, talking about his sexuality still shocked some audiences, though he says he never encountered any overtly negative or hostile responses. It was a time of changing attitudes. “It was still swinging away from being offended to speaking your truth,” he says. “People would give a bigger positive response to it when I was just starting because it was still a new thing to be so open.”
The pendulum has since swung to the point where the nonchalance he’d sought to establish around his sexuality has been achieved, he says.
“When I do some of my bits today — especially with younger gay audiences — I can feel this feeling of ‘Yeah, so, who cares?’” he laughs. “And that’s where I wanted it to be. So even though they aren’t laughing at some of the stuff anymore and it kinda makes me upset, it’s what I’ve been working towards, so I can’t be too upset.”
This story is featured in the September 2021 issue of Hour Detroit magazine. Read more stories in our digital edition.