Nick Thune, the 33-year-old comic with the looks of a lumberjack GQ model and guitar skills of a preteen Santana, has made a name for himself with a hilarious deadpan that rivals Ben Stein’s famous, “Bueller?” He’s got eight appearances on “The Tonight Show” under his belt, a starring role in the upcoming movie “Johnson,” and a brand new Comedy Central special in the works, and this week, he comes to Chicago’s Up Comedy Club [230 W. North] April 18-20 to bring the house down — even if he has to do with a broken arm.
Tell us how you got started in comedy.
When I was 18 at community college, I had this project for my marketing class. My one job for the whole year was to manage a sandwich drive for homeless people. But I hate any sandwich that isn’t peanut butter and jelly, so I took a hard stance and said to the class that we’re only serving peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and these homeless people are going to love it. So, I brought my guitar to class and told a stupid story about how peanut butter saved my life. That experience was the first time I performed in front of an audience solo in a comedic fashion and what made me think, ‘Maybe I can do this.’
Why musical comedy?
I really wanted to be a musician growing up. Every time I listened to a song, I would imagine myself singing in front of a stadium full of people — only I totally didn’t have what it takes to be one. But there was something about a college guy who was saying funny things and knew eight different intros to Dave Matthews’s songs that attracted people to my style, I guess.
Do you have any secret weapons you bring out for big laughs at shows?
Since I have a broken arm, my doctors said I can’t play the guitar for at least another six weeks. So someone else is going to be playing the guitar for me. It brings another element, it’s different. The shows are made up of all new sets, so if people have only heard my CD then they’re in for a treat. The shows are so unique now — every city, every show brings out new stuff and it is really exciting.
You were here in Chicago last summer filming a movie, right?
I was in Bucktown filming. The movie is ridiculous, it’s called ‘Johnson.’ It’s about this womanizer, played by Cam Gigandet, who was in the ‘OC’ and ‘Twilight.’. He’s a womanizer and one night he wishes for his libido to be gone because it’s taking over his life, ruining his friendships, relationships, everything. So he wishes for it to disappear. Then he wakes up one day and has no libido. And then he realizes that the libido has turned into a human, played by me. It’s a role I’ve been waiting to do my whole life.
What were your favorite things to do while in Chicago?
I found myself eating tacos all the time, which is weird because Los Angeles is known for its fantastic Mexican food. I basically ate at Big Star [1531 N. Damen] four or five times a week. I loved being in Bucktown and riding my bike around. At home I live on the third biggest hill in Los Angeles, so I definitely cannot ride my bike around my neighborhood.
What’s something that your fans might not know about you?
I’m 6’4”. That’s important. 5’16” in Canada, you know, because of the metric system. Everyone thinks I’m an athlete because of that. When I was in junior high I tried out for the basketball team, and that’s one of the most real things I’ve talked about in my stories. I made JVB, which is basically a level below the regular junior varsity squad and a level above being a loner playing in your driveway by yourself. That practice was my first and last attempt at sports.
Since I’m coming to Chicago, though, I’m comparing me performing with a broken arm like Michael Jordan playing in the finals with the flu. So I’m essentially MJ.
See Nick Thune at Up Comedy Club April 18-20. Tickets available at Upcomedyclub.com.
Story by Bianca Betancourt