Richard Myers had slight nerves before taking the stage as a stand-up comic for the first time last December, but they quickly went away.
“Once I heard the first laugh, I relaxed,” he said. “I just had a ball.”
As an author of humorous, rhyming children’s books such as “Snapping Schneds and Blosits” and “Let’s Go – Somewhere Else,” the leap to stand up was not that that challenging for Myers.
“I think I always wanted to be a comic. I was a teacher for 31 years and told jokes. The class was my stage and the kids were my captive audience,” he said.
At 86, Myers certainly has a lot of experience to mine for his routine, which touches on the human life cycle from potty training to learning how to ride a bike to discovering the opposite sex to marriage to retirement.
“It’s about the challenges of getting older,” he said.
The Valencia resident was inspired to try his hand at comedy after seeing a story about the 10 x 10 variety open mic event held the first Thursday of each month at The Main in Newhall.
He used his background as a writer to come up with 10 minutes of material, which came together over the course of a couple of weeks.
“I practiced with a few friends. They were more critical than the audience,” he said.
Myers did so well that Jeff Johnson, a comedian and coordinator at JR’s Comedy Club in Valencia, invited him to perform in January at JRs, which regularly features well-known comedians such as Monique Marvez and Craig “The Love Master” Shoemaker.
The place was packed and Myers was the second comic up.
“You’re up there, you hear laughter, it’s just great,” he said. “Ever since I was a little kid, I enjoyed making people laugh.”
Originally from Chicago, Myers joined the Air Force after graduating high school, eventually going on to earn a journalism degree from the University of Illinois.
He moved to California in 1959 and earned a teaching credential, which led to him becoming a physical education teacher with elementary grade students.
When Myers retired 25 years ago, he eventually turned to writing, joining the Golden Pen Writers Guild at the Santa Clarita Valley Senior Center.
Fellow writers compared his style to Shel Silverstein and Ogden Nash, inspiring Myers to publish the books of children’s poetry, which he self-published and sold at schools Southern California.
After traveling to close to 100 schools, Myers was ready for a new challenge, which he credits for keeping him young at heart.
“I remember when I first retired, I knew people that had no hobbies. I thought life for them must be very boring. I have to have goals and stay busy,” Myers said.
His new goal is to expand the 10 minute routine to 30 or 40 minutes. “I’m adding a few things now about my wife and my grandchildren.”
Whatever the topic, Myers plans to keep things pretty clean.
“I watch stand up on TV and it seems like comics have to use bad language all the time to be funny. I don’t see why that’s necessary. I can cuss with the best of them but only if the joke requires it.”
Myers cites his favorite comics as Jerry Seinfeld, Buddy Hackett, and George Burns, with a special appreciation for the latter.
“George Burns was doing comedy until he was 95. I’d like to be, too,” he said.
Richard Myers will perform at JRs Comedy Club on Saturday, Feb. 18. For more info, visit www.comedyinvalencia.org or call (661) 259-2291.