Joey Cerone said the first rule of stand-up comedy is to never perform in shorts.
"The first time I did a show here my freshman year, it was an open mic, and I was wearing Adam Sandler basketball shorts,” Cerone said.
After a few months, he was invited back to The Comedy Attic. He said it took him 25 to 30 shows before he was able to hone his craft.
Four years later, on Aug. 31, Cerone competed with six other comedians during the final round of the 15th annual Bloomington Comedy Festival and won.
In order to get better at comedy, Cerone said he had to put on pants — both literally and metaphorically. He poured time into perfecting his craft. He recorded his act and spent hours rewriting his jokes.
“You never want to be good,” he said. “Because then you get tired, you get bored. You want to be bad all the time.”
As someone who says he doesn’t think before he speaks, Cerone gathers a lot of jokes from the things he says in everyday conversations. He compared his method to panning for gold — sifting the golden, belly-laugh-inducing jokes out from the hundreds he cracks every day.
Some of his jokes are motivated by fear, Cerone said – fear of ocean warming, wildfires and the overall end of the world.
“So, I’m doing my part,” he said. “I’m helping. I’m a front-line guy. I’m changing the world.”
A Fishers native, Cerone graduated from IU in May with a degree in theater. He performed sketch comedy with an IU comedy club, Boy in the Bubble, all four years of his college career.
“I was just around comedy a lot and that was my favorite place to be,” Cerone said. “I worked bad jobs and I was like, ‘Why would I work bad jobs if I could make a living doing this?’”
He also performs at Bloomington venues Hoppy Wobbles and The Orbit Room.
Comedy didn’t interest Cerone as a child, because he valued being nice more than making people laugh.
“He’s like the nicest person in the entire world,” said Stephanie Lochbihler, one of the final Bloomington Comedy Festival contestants.
Cerone began trying his hand at comedy in high school but refuses to consider those attempts comedy due to how unfunny he claims them to be. He has been performing comedy for four years and was made a regular at The Comedy Attic last year.
“I had no other redeeming skills or qualities,” he said when asked why he began his career in comedy.
Cerone’s dad is a wedding DJ — another non-traditional job — so Cerone said he feels very supported by his family and his friends.
Taylor Tomlinson and Conan O’Brien are two of Cerone’s inspirations, but he also leans on his friendships for inspiration.
“I definitely have people in my life that are peculiar,” he said. “I love a peculiar person and so definitely get some inspiration from that.”
Cerone said The Comedy Attic is the best comedy venue in the world, thanks to the employees and the owner, Jared Thompson. The world of comedy has brought many friends into his life, he said.
He’d like to go on tour someday, but he’d especially like to stay in a hotel. He’s a big fan of them, especially the cable TV, complimentary breakfast and never-ending showers due to the lack of a water bill.
But he will not sleep in a hotel bed without a blanket from home. He said he uses the blanket as protection, not from bugs or germs, but from “the night, anything that might be out there.”
Cerone’s comedy career has just begun. He has already performed sets in Indianapolis and Chicago and plans to travel to Los Angeles to continue making people laugh.