Pasco man trades banking job for comedy circuit

When Adam Kessler’s kids want to wish him well before a performance, they tell him to “break a hip.”

That’s what the 40-year-old Pasco comedian told his senior citizen audience during a recent show. The joke got laughs around the room.

Kessler specializes in clean standup comedy routines with lots of age-appropriate material for the senior center and retirement community crowds. He also performs at corporate and private parties, as well as trade shows, wineries, auctions and church events.

The father of three children, ages 7, 3 and 1, has been telling jokes since he was 5 years old and hit the comedy club circuit in 2003.

Last year, he quit his banking job of 12 years to pursue comedy full time.

He said he did his financial homework before taking the leap of faith.

“Even small amounts saved as a nest egg definitely helps when making a change to a new career. I always invested in a 401K if the company matched a percentage or not. I started with 6 percent and increased it each year,” he said. He also shopped around for the best health insurance options for his family.

“But I also feel like people who are waiting to save enough to pursue their dreams will never be ready. Sometimes you’ve just got to make the leap,” he said.

Since pursuing comedy full time, his income varies. “Some months are constant work. Some months, I’m at home for two weeks watching Netflix with my kids. I use my down time in any given month to try to generate more business,” he said.

And he isn’t looking back.

“I never regret the decision. I regret a few moves I’ve made while pursuing stand-up comedy full time, but I’ve learned from those mistakes and I’m thankful that they happened during my first year. My long-term goals are to continue to do stand-up comedy as much as I can. Being on TV and getting some level of fame would be nice simply because in the world of stand-up comedy, if you’re a ‘name’ people will come to see you, and if people will pay to come see you, then your calendar stays full,” he said.

Until that happens, he’ll focus on his local gigs, which includes performing at retirement homes.

“I feel like since my grandparents have passed on, this is my only interaction with this age group,” he said.

A lot of his jokes and material come from his previous shows and travels around the Northwest.

“I talk with them about other retirement communities I’ve been in. They seem to like it,” he said.

He keeps track of his jokes in notebooks and on his phone. “Sometimes jokes pop into your mind while you’re driving or at a restaurant, so you grab a napkin or a paper sack and get it down. It’s not a good feeling when you let a funny joke slip away. Sometimes it’s hard to find material, sometimes it pours out. Writing material is pretty easy — molding it into good or great comedy is the part that takes time and takes work,” he said.

A recent show at Hawthorne Court in Kennewick included an audience of about 25 people, many of whom were sipping wine, beer and sparkling juices and nibbling on sandwiches.

Kessler knew his audience and got a lot of mileage out of jokes about seniors and topics of interest to them.

He told a joke about Americans being so obese they were too big to fit inside crematoriums. He said the solution would be installing bigger burners called “crispy crematoriums.”

He talked about a “Do not move this piano” sign he saw at another assisted living facility, which had a grand piano in the lobby. He looked at the crowd of seniors and said moving it might be a funny prank, never mind that it probably weighed 2,000 pounds.

He shared an idea for a new reality show: gathering up all the politicians and putting them on an island. “Sounds good to me,” piped one man in the audience.

When a joke fell flat, he teased the audience about maybe not hearing it.

Bobbe Burnside, 75, who has lived at Hawthorne Court for about three years, and her friend Loren Taylor, said they appreciate all the facility’s events. She said she loved Kessler’s shtick.

“I really love the many people who come in here and entertain us,” she said. “We go to everything they have here.”

It’s the first time Hawthorne Court has hired a comedian, said Heather Davie, activities director for the senior living community that offers independent and assisted living services.

“He did great. If you get laughs out of people, you’ve done one heck of a job,” she said.

Davie said it’s hard to book quality entertainment at affordable prices, but tries “to provide something for everyone.”

For more information about Kessler’s shows, visit kesslercomedy.com or call 509-205-1516.

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