"FIRED FROM NEW YORK, IT'S SATURDAY NIGHT"
With these six words in July 2014, comedian Brooks Wheelan let the world know via Twitter that you could now stop referring to him as a current featured player of Saturday Night Live and start referring to him as a former one.
Wheelan's stint on SNL lasted only one year, but he still owes a lot of his current success to it.
"I just really appreciate being on that show," Wheelan, 28, said. "What the show gave me is a platform to do comedy."
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For Wheelan, the crapshoot of doing comedy has always been more appealing than any traditional job. The Iowa native earned a bachelor's degree in biomedical engineering from the University of Iowa in 2009. While he was in college, he did stand-up comedy at local venues while pursuing his degree and moved to Los Angeles to make it as a stand-up comedian. He also held a full-time job as a biomedical engineer while doing comedy at night, but Wheelan will be the first to tell you this career was never his full-time focus.
"I didn't take it too seriously," Wheelan recalls. "I also (previously) worked at Papa John's and I treated it with the same amount of ... who gives a s---?"
Wheelan made some headway doing stand-up in L.A., and a successful set at the Just For Laughs Montreal comedy festival led to an SNL audition in New York. When he was hired as a writer and later as a performer, he had achieved a lifelong dream ever since he saw Adam Sandler perform on SNL in the '90s. His year at SNL was a grind, he said, resulting in a ton of sketch writing (many of which didn't make the show), a bit of screen time and stand-up taking a back seat.
"Writing sketch and doing stand-up, you're using whole different parts of your brain," he said. "One makes you appreciate the other."
As grateful as he is for being a part of SNL, it's not his proudest accomplishment. That would be his first stand-up comedy album, This Is Cool, Right?, released this past January. Wheelan's humor from his various personal mishaps is on full display, whether it's his getting fired from SNL, his struggles living in New York City or various mundane, silly and shocking incidents from his childhood and college years. Or, as he would put it...
"Just talking about growing up and weird s--- happens," he said. "I always feel like after one of my shows, the audience is like, I get who that guy is."
When Wheelan isn't doing stand-up, he gets the occasional acting gig and is shopping around a dark comic sitcom he wrote in the vein of shows like It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia and Eastbound & Down. But mainly, he's doing stand-up in Los Angeles and the occasional road gig, like his upcoming performance in Lexington at Comedy Off Broadway. He's got over an hour of new material he's currently ironing out for his next comedy album or special.
"It's not polished, which makes it exciting. Every once in a while, I dig myself into a hole," he said. "My problem is that sometimes I forget that everybody is not me. I just have to figure out how to make it more relatable."
Wheelan plans to stay busy defining his comedy career after SNL, but as far as he's concerned, he's already living the dream.
"My job is to do comedy. I'm so lucky. What I do for money, I'd do for free," he said. "If I stayed where I'm at right now ... it would be a pretty great career."