Steve McInelly may look like he’s clean-cut and fresh out of the MTC, but this Utah native has been rocking the SLC and Las Vegas comedy scenes with his irreverent, spot-on delivery for over six years. While he was back in Utah for a three-show run, SLUG got to talk with this always busy, always funny ambassador for the SLC comedy scene about the what it takes to be a comedian, the differences between doing stand-up in two states, and the legacy that he left right here in Utah.
Local comedy fans got to pick from three of the top billed comedy shows in the state to catch a glimpse of McInelly’s stand-up through one very cold weekend in February (20–22). Clocking in time with Dungeons and Comedy, his very own K-Town Komedy’s 5th Anniversary Show and two of Salt Lake’s funniest monthly events: It’s Always Funny In Salt Lake City and Comedy and Other Opinions, McInelly started out in the local Utah scene six years ago, and he’s been propelling forward ever since. He fights against his Utah stereotype look, talks about his dick a lot, and absolutely still loves his wife in that very sexy winky-winky kind of way.
When he left for the Las Vegas lights a year and a half ago, McInelly left behind his legacy with the K-Town Komedy Show, Utah’s longest and most successful alternative comedy show that’s now going on its fifth year. After a local club approached him and asked if he wanted to run a comedy night, the show then started in February 2010 and has been held monthly at Club DJ’s in Kearns, featuring a lineup of local comedians as well as visiting comics from New York and Las Vegas. There were 300 people in attendance at the first show, and he knew it was going to be a success. “It was standing room only, you couldn’t even get in the door.” When McInelly relocated, local comedienne Melissa Merlot took over as host, but McInelly still books and plans all the shows. “The crowd really loves it. They want a fully uncensored show.” Uncensored is not always common in the Utah comedy scene. McInelly mentions his take on censorship: “If the crowd doesn’t laugh, they do that for you. If they don’t like what you’re saying, they’ll let you know.”
It wasn’t all sunshine and roses breaking out with a new, alternative show. When he set up K-Town, he was faced with quite a bit of opposition from the mainstream Utah comedy scene, and yet, facing down what was thought of as the only major avenue for comedy didn’t really seem to faze him. He took it as a challenge that some people expected him to fail. “I never back down from a double dog dare.” Which was a good thing, because the show was a hit, bringing comedy to an otherwise comedy-less town that had been left out of the typical show loop. The opposition only made him want to succeed more. “At the end of the day, the only thing I really care about is that my wife, my kids, and my mom really care about me. Comedy is second nature.” Then he adds with a laugh, “I hope they tell me I can’t do something again, cuz I’m going to.”
A jump from the small bubble of the Salt Lake stages to the bigger, louder, and brighter Las Vegas comedy clubs isn’t something many comics have been bold enough to attempt. “I’ve done more shows in the past 12 months in Vegas than in the last five years in Utah.” McInelly has performed everywhere from the clubs, to the infamous Fremont Street, to venues in Southern California, and yes, even the big Vegas casinos like a gig at the one-and-only Caesar’s Palace. He broke into TV and appeared on a National Geographic Channel show called “None of the Above.” He’s worked with tons of bigger names and local Vegas performers alike, and now he’s one of the weekly hosts at The Adernaline, a Vegas bar. “In Vegas if you are not very good, people will let you know. You either become really good really fast, or you basically stay at the back of the class. There are so many stages and so many opportunities with so much time that you have to get better really fast.”
McInelly has learned a lot in the last six years. “You really suck when you start out,” he says. Comedians should learn to set their own limits, and be realistic in what they can do with regard to content and time. Some people make the rookie mistake of jumping in too fast, but there is a fine balance with knowing what you’re ready for, and having the guts to take a chance. If someone is interested in breaking into comedy, he gives his sage advice: “Follow your own destiny, your own dream, follow your own desire.” Reflecting on his own path, he wouldn’t change a thing. “I didn’t do it the conventional way,” he says, “I didn’t go through a traditional club. I went through the bar scene, and now I’m in major clubs around the country. It just depends on what you get into.” He’s done shows where he’s had hundreds of people in attendance, and entertained small crowds of just a few people, but he says that should never matter. “If there’s a stage and somebody wants to listen to you, you give them 100 percent of what you have.”
One of the most important tasks of being an entertainer, he brings up, is that you have to be “a self-promoting whore.” He compares comedy to the music industry, where young rock stars will always have a CD or DVD on hand to expose what they have to offer. “Comedy is no different,” he says. “If you need to get anywhere you have to do it yourself, you can’t depend on one person that’s going to pull you up, if you can’t pull yourself up, you’re not going to get there.” His biggest advice? “‘Don’t be a dick’ goes a long way in life.”
If you get a chance to see Steve McInelly perform on either on one of his Utah appearances or on his new home turf of Las Vegas, his set is a must-see. He always puts everything he’s got into a performance, with high energy and enough expletives to make an old woman cry. You can also check out his show K-Town Komedy at Club DJ’s in Kearns, which runs monthly with a new rotation of comics each time. Tickets range from $5.00–$10.00 at the door, depending on the event, and it’s a 21 and older venue.