East Coast native turned Omaha-resident David Burdge has always had a great appreciation for comedians and a good sense of humor. Even at a young age, bringing the humor to a situation was important to him.
“I think I was always the funny guy at the party. I was always the one trying to crack jokes,” Burdge says. “I don’t think they always landed, necessarily…”
In 2015, Burdge decided to pursue his interest in comedy. After spending time listening to comedy albums, he decided to take an improv class. He says he was nervous as he walked into that first class, but by the end he was having a great time.
“I have a pretty normal office job, and I was getting to a point where I was like ‘man, I need a hobby. I need something to do.’” Burdge says. Then he discovered the classes.
Burdge says focusing on improv in the beginning of his comedic career allowed him to think freely. For someone eventually pursuing stand-up, improv gives them the opportunity to relax and let the scene happen before going into stand-up, which is more structured.
In 2017, Burdge won the Omaha Entertainment and Arts Award for Best Comedian. He credits this accomplishment with inspiring his stand-up career, as he now focuses on stand-up, not improv.
His stand-up career, however, has a different angle than some other comedians. His show is titled Gay AF, and throughout the performances, he draws from personal experiences.
“I had a period of time where I was trying not to own the whole gay comic thing, but now I’ve owned it and it’s part of who I am,” Burdge says. “I like to make fun of myself. It’s been important for me to tell my story about coming out, what it’s like being gay in this day and age, being in my 30s and being gay. I grew up in New York and my parents moved to Iowa, so I had that perspective. I have plenty from my life to be able to pull from.”
While Burdge tells his story, he credits some of his comfortability and ownership to fellow comedian and friend Daniel Franzese. He met Franzese, best known for his character Damien in Mean Girls, for the first time last October.
“I was at The Max seeing Raven, who is a drag queen,” Burdge says. “He [Franzese] was here because he was performing at Wayne State. Him and I started chatting, because I went down to the bar and I started fangirling. I took myself and I had my moment and I left him alone.”
Later on, however, Burdge went outside, and ran into Franzese again. The two started talking. Burdge says Franzese found him funny, so Burdge sent him his five minute set. Next thing he knew, he was invited to open for Franzese the following day at Wayne State.
Following the show at Wayne State, Franzese had other shows in the area and Burdge continued to open for him. In being Franzese’s “road comic,” Burdge says they have created a strong friendship.
“We just have so much in common. We’re just big gay guys trying to do stand-up,” Burdge says. “He is so much about using his platform to lift up queer artists. Anybody that he can help promote if they’re worth it, he’s gonna do it. He’s really given me so many opportunities.”
On top of opening for Franzese at college performances, Burdge performed in Los Angeles at The Comedy Store. He did stand-up at RuPaul’s Drag Con, which Franzese hosted, as a part of the House of Glen CoCo stand-up show. He’s excited for what the future brings and opportunities to come.
“Every time we’re around [each other] I get such good material out of it, or new things that I think to write about,” Burdge says. “He gives me a unique perspective on comedy and things that I can write about and things that I can talk about. The confidence boost he’s given me is just above and beyond.”
Burdge describes his relationship with Franzese as authentic, and says he is thankful to find that type of friendship in this competitive atmosphere.
“It gets competitive in a very passive aggressive way at times,” Burdge says. “Overall we try to support each other…there is that competitive nature at times. We want to see each other succeed but we also want those things for ourselves.”
Burdge says he believes success in the comedy world is based largely off luck and timing, and he is very thankful for the opportunities he’s had.
He plans to continue practicing, writing, listening to Britney Spears to “amp him up,” and getting better. At the end of it all, however, he wants comedy to be something he can continue to enjoy—wherever that leaves him with it.
“I’ve always told myself if I’m not happy with [stand-up], I’m not gonna do it,” Burdge says. “I’ve had those moments where certain things I don’t like about it, I’ve stopped doing those things, because it’s not about that for me. It’s my happy place.”
This article was printed in the November/December 2019 edition of Omaha Magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.