By Amy Falkofske
Woodbridge resident Jim Pate is a 10-year veteran of the Washington, D.C., area comedy scene. He is that guy—the one whose friends are always asking him to“tell that story,” because he can tell it best and get the most laughs. Naturally, he gravitated toward stand-up comedy.
Pate, a network reliability specialist the past 14 years with telecommunications company Verizon Communications, embarked on a dual career as a stand-up comedian when he first stepped on stage in November 2004, he said. It was at Wiseacres Comedy Club at Tysons Corner in McLean during an open-mic night.
Looking back, he admitted that his first performance probably wasn’t that good, “but everybody died laughing at it,” Pate said. So he did a couple more open-mic nights at Wiseacres. People
came out to see him perform, and kept coming. Seeing Pate’s talent for drawing an audience, the show manager began paying him to perform.
“It’s like a habit almost. Once you sign your name on the line that you want to go on stage, then that’s it. You just gave your life over to it,” Pate said.
After performing at many other open-mic nights at Wiseacres and area comedy clubs, including Brittany’s Restaurant & Sports Bar in Woodbridge, the Workhouse Arts Center in Lorton and
the Arlington Cinema & Drafthouse, Pate became recognized in the comedy community as a “guy funny enough to put on a show that people would pay for,” he said.
Describing it as a “hobby that I’m really good at,” Pate said his entertainment career includes every aspect of the comedy world, including running comedy clubs, booking, promoting and
coaching other comics and producing comedy shows. He spent about five years handling comedy shows at Brittany’s, where several up-and-comers as well as seasoned comics have performed during open-mic nights.
He created First Laugh Entertainment, LLC, a now-closed comedy production company that he operated for about three years, he said. He continues to use the company’s name to promote other comics. Five years ago, he and a partner also started Liberty Laughs Comedy Club in Fredericksburg, he said. The 150-seat venue features national touring headliners on its 20- by 15-foot lighted stage.
“When we started, it was just a bunch of people sitting around a microphone,” said Pate. His partner managed the club, while Pate booked talent for its shows. While he is no longer involved with the club, it gave him an opportunity “to meet a ton of comics,” he said.
Pate has been working recently with Tackett’s Mill Center in Lake Ridge to help bring comedy to that area in a venue form similar to Arlington Cinema & Drafthouse’s, he said.
He has performed more than 950 times and produced at least 600 shows in the past nine years, Pate estimated. At his level, comedy is not a high-paying profession, he said.
“If you’re trying to perform comedy for the money, you’re probably in the wrong business,” said Pate. “It’s something you have to love to do and have a passion for because the money is not there until you are big.”
Besides nurturing his own career, Pate helps other comics get started. One is former Woodbridge resident Paul Simpson, a comedian and marketing professional who now resides in Virginia Beach. Simpson and Pate have been business associates and friends for more than seven years. Simpson credits Pate for molding his career in comedy. “If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t be
who I am today,” said Simpson. “With his patience and guidance, I became a better comedian.”
Sheryl Pate, of Vilonia, Ark., was her son’s first major influence, inspiring him to go into comedy, he said. “She’s hilarious,” said Pate. “She’s always animated when she’s talking about stuff,
passionate about things that she’s talking about. I got a lot of mannerisms from watching her tell stories.” Now she’s his biggest fan, he said.
“She laughs at everything, and if it’s a little more racy joke, she’s like, ‘Son, … you can tell me that, but please don’t say that on stage!” he grinned.
Pate gets a lot of his comedic material from being a single dad to his teenage daughter, Jessica, 15. Telling stories about the “adventures of a single dad” has become his niche, since not many comedians fall into that category, he said. He also finds material in “crazy stuff. It’s all around. The comedy is everywhere,” he said.
According to his peers, his strength is his ability to relate to his audience. “Jim is always a solid comic with the ability to endear any crowd, a real comic’s comic and man of the people. That’s
why he’s a successful entertainer,” said Rahmein Mostafavi, who owns Cool Cow Comedy, LLC, a small comedy production company based in Fredericksburg.
Pate said that audience feedback drives him. Once, an audience member raised by a single dad came up to him after Pate’s show, he said. She told him that before watching Pate’s performance, she never realized how hard it was for her dad and that Pate’s act inspired her to call her dad to tell him that she loved him. Moments like those inspire him and are part of why he performs comedy, Pate said.
He likes to keep his humor and act playful. “I like to stay away from anything like making fun of people. … That’s not the laugh I want,” he said. Instead, he sticks to telling stories, and if
he ever produced a CD, he’d probably call it “Stuck on Stupid,” he laughed.
Comedy is an art form, and “live in-your-face, stand-up comedy has got to be, I think, the purest form of comedy as an art and the top of all arts,” Pate said. It’s also the hardest, he added.
“It’s tough on the psyche. You’re only as good as your last show,” said the comic. “It’s emotionally trying to put yourself out there and hope that people will laugh at you and then more people
will come out next time and laugh at you again. … It almost sounds psychotic.”
In April, Pate participated with nine other comedians in a comedy show to raise money for Operation Renewed Hope Foundation, a veteran-led nonprofit organization based in Alexandria that provides housing and support to America’s homeless military veterans. Charity shows are “something I wouldn’t turn down,” he stated. “If I can use my dumb stories to raise money for somebody, ‘Rock on!’”
While he continues to help other comics get started in the business, Pate recently pared down his comedy schedule to about one stand-up show a week to focus more on his daughter, he
said. “I like the groove I’m in right now,” said the performer, who has turned down job offers in New York City and Los Angeles to devote time to his daughter, making sure she graduates from high school and “gets out into the world,” he said.
Pate indicated, though, that he might consider pursuing bigger aspirations in his comedy career down the road. He enjoys firing up audiences with his high-energy approach, kicking off each show with “Woo!” to grab attention and set the mood. “‘Woo!’ fixes everything,” he smiled.
You can catch Pate on Thursday, July 19, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., as the featured comic at the Workhouse Arts Center in Lorton.
Amy Falkofske ([email protected]) is a freelance writer and the owner and photographer of Beautiful Moments by Amy Photography. She lives in Bristow with her husband and