Ask Juston McKinney to name the most incredible experience so far in his rise to the heights of the comedy world and he says it was his appearance on the Jay Leno show ("it was a goal of mine from the beginning"). The beginning for him was the time in his difficult childhood when he realized that, if people were laughing, they weren't fighting. His first official gigs were in Boston, moonlighting from his job as a rural patrol deputy for a Maine sheriff's department ("law enforcement is one of the most important professions there is"). From Boston he went to New York and then on to L.A., performing at comedy clubs. His Leno appearance came in 2002. Next came Comedy Central, where last year he had his own one-hour special. Among the things he's working on now - a TV show about a fictitious N.H. town.When did you realize you were funny? When I was in junior high I was with a group of friends and we were talking about what we wanted to be when we got older. I said that I wanted to be a comedian and they all laughed, so that validated it for me.You've said humor helped you deal with a tough childhood. How much of your material is drawn from those times? When I first started, most of my material was about growing up, but now it is very little of it.Some comedians say they have to be in pain to be funny. Do you think that's true? I think for many that's true, but I've heard that Jay Leno and Jerry Seinfeld both had very normal childhoods. I think that if I didn't grow up the way I did I never would have pursued comedy. Or law enforcement. I became a cop because I was around them a lot, as they were always over the house arresting my dad. He's sober now and doing great.How did you go from cop to comedian and why? It was very dangerous patrolling the woods on the Maine/N.H. border. I almost died in the line of duty three times: I slipped on the ice, got bit by a tick and I hit a deer. Comedy seemed safer.Who are your comedy heroes? Seinfeld, Larry David, Richard Pryor, George Carlin, Sam Kinison.Would you still call what you do "blue collar" humor or has it evolved into something else? I do a little of that, but I've moved more into "middle-class" humor - marriage, house, kids and dogs.Tell the story about the waiter at Dangerfield's in New York. I trusted a waiter/stockbroker at Dangerfield's to handle my financial matters. On paper I had about $700,000, but the market crashed and I was wiped out. All I bought with the money was a leather jacket ... which by the way doesn't fit anymore.Any advice for investors? Don't take financial advice from waiters. You are supposed to give waiters tips, not take tips from waiters.
This article appears in the April 2011 issue of New Hampshire Magazine