I had never interviewed a comedian before, so I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t know if he would tell a lot of jokes or if his stand-up comedy act was something Shawn Shelnutt, a New Jersey-native who grew up in Milwaukee, turned on only when he was at the mic in front of a crowd.
“Why did you move to Milwaukee?” I asked.
“When I was a kid, I didn’t like New Jersey, and so at 7 years old, I just took the train,” he said.
I had jotted down the whole line before I realized he got me.
His family actually moved to Milwaukee because the cost of living was so high in New Jersey. His father — who worked at the post office — had put in for a transfer listing 17 different places and he got Milwaukee.
“I’ll try not to make too many jokes if you’re trying to write stuff,” he said.
But I shook my head – he could joke.
“Are you sure? Because I’m probably going to,” he said.
I wasn’t going to stop him – he is a comedian after all. “That’s totally fine because I’ll just catch it as I write it down,” I said.
“OK, you said it so it’s game on now, Tracy,” he quipped.
He was cracking jokes during the entire interview, and I was jotting everything down in a reporter’s notebook as fast as I could.
I also was crossing things out as I caught onto each one – late in the game.
“And you said you have two siblings?” I asked.
“Yes,” he answered.
“Where do you fall in line with them?”
“I’m the best,” he said without hesitation, before laughing and adding, “No, I’m the oldest. I’m trying to be humble. I’m equal to them.”
He told me his mother, a stay-at-home mom, then a florist and floral manager, is retired now.
“And my dad he’s probably a professional fisherman for God – he passed away two years ago. … ” he said of his dad, who died Dec. 1, 2012. “But he did work at the post office before, so he’s super-retired now, retired from physical life.”
Even though his humor caught me off guard and had me laughing during the interview, I also saw a different, deeper side of him that you’ll read about on Pages 6 and 7 – one that shows how he has bounced back from an all-time low to a newfound faith and life direction as he transitions into being a motivational speaker and comedian full time.
You can see him at Comedy Café, 615 E. Brady St., Milwaukee, May 21-23. General admission is $5-10 depending on the day.
Have a great summer, and don’t forget to watch for Ricardo and me at Theology on Tap!