Written by Karen Gellender, email@example.com Friday, 18 January 2013 00:00
Josh Seiden’s very first experiences with performing required a captive audience. From a very young age, Seiden, obsessed with circus acts, would recruit his brother to put on shows for his parents, whether they liked it or not.
“We’d literally run around the house, screaming, putting on shows, [and] we’d make them sit through them,” remembered Seiden.
However, considering the fact that the lifelong Plainview resident’s latest show was to a sold-out crowd at Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino in Las Vegas on Jan. 2, it’s safe to say his act has come a long way.
The 2010 Plainview-Old Bethpage John F. Kennedy High School graduate actually came to comedy relatively late; as a child, his passion was for magic tricks, juggling, puppet shows and all kinds of prop-based performing. He even became an accomplished unicyclist. Almost by chance, the young Seiden happened to live on the same block as Adam Cohen, who would go on to found the Plainview-based unicycle instruction company Just One Wheel.
“I would actually sit on my bed, look out the window and see this guy riding a giant unicycle up my block,” said Seiden. While Seiden’s mother turned down the boy’s request for a unicycle multiple times, eventually he became Cohen’s first unicycle student and incorporated that skill into his repertoire as well.
It wasn’t until high school that Seiden realized his love for comedy in particular, thanks to the annual SING event at the high school. During his senior year at POBJFKHS, Seiden volunteered to be on the writing staff and realized he loved writing jokes and creating characters. Soon, he was asking his parents to allow him to take a stand-up comedy class at Governor’s Comedy Club in Levittown. His parents weren’t keen, but Seiden wasn’t dissuaded.
“I kept asking them, and eventually I realized that I have my own car now, and a bank account,” said Seiden, who took the initiative to sign up for the class himself. The class culminated with a solo stand up routine on the stage at Governor’s, and the young performer was hooked.
Just like the fortunate coincidence that led to unicycling, another twist of fate helped keep Seiden on the performing path as he entered college. At Bentley University, the college freshman found himself sharing a dorm room with Matt Schick of Robbinsville, New Jersey. Schick is a talented magician. In a school filled with business majors, the two people who were bit by the performing bug at a young age just happened to end up in the same room.
“Everyone kind of jokes on campus how the two of us found each other,” related Seiden. “The fact that the juggler/stand-up comedian/unicyclist is rooming with the magician always gets a laugh.”
At Bentley, the budding comedian had the opportunity to open for professional comedians on the college tour circuit, including Donald Glover. He also began to perform at local clubs, leading to a nomination for Best Male Comedian in New England of 2012 from the Boston Examiner.
Though Seiden is very comfortable in front of a crowd at this point, he still gets nervous from time to time; however, the comedian takes a practical view of the notorious pre-show jitters. “I think it’s good to use your nerves to your benefit...I guess if you weren’t nervous, you’d be too confident in yourself.”
Seiden’s ability to manage his nerves was tested in the Planet Hollywood show, where he opened for comedy magician (and America’s Got Talent finalist) Nathan Burton. In addition to the huge Vegas stage, there was another challenge: writing all new material. Seiden, who often uses college-oriented humor and the occasional risqué joke, had to write a completely new set of material for the family-friendly show. He was concerned that his brand of humor might not transfer to a different audience, but once his first joke got a big laugh, all went according to plan.
Seiden is returning to Vegas in the summer, along with Schick, to intern with Burton, as well as hopefully book some gigs in Vegas clubs. While it may seem he’s abandoned his circus-loving roots for the greener pastures of comedy, au contraire; his dream project is to create and perform a variety show with Schick, where they can combine all of their passions: comedy, magic and illusion, juggling, and whatever else might be fun.
On the question of whether or not his parents are supportive of this dream, Seiden blinks. “I don’t think I’ve fully told them yet.” However, he says that despite his mother’s initial reluctance to buy him a unicycle all those years ago, his parents have been very encouraging.
Despite all the early success, there have been a few bumps in the road. There was a show at Tufts University, for example, where Seiden was told beforehand that he could say whatever he wanted, only to have the microphone taken away from him a few jokes into his routine. In character, Seiden didn’t let it break his stride.
“I just laughed about it—and wrote a joke about it the next day.”
For more information about Seiden, or to find out when he’s performing near you, follow him on Twitter: @JoshSeiden.