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"Sharing an Idea with Intent"

"Just tell good stories," comedian Todd Sawyer's mentor once advised him, and Sawyer has been doing that off and on since 1989. After 25 years, Sawyer, whose father is retired in Chiang Mai, has said goodbye to stand-up comedy (maybe) and started an on-line writing company that punches up corporate speeches. "In stand-up, you have to tell a joke every ten seconds," Sawyer explained of his change in careers. In a CEO's speech you only have to be funny "every three minutes." Also, after years of doing gigs in small clubs throughout the U.S., Sawyer came to a realization: "you're the wind-up monkey put out there to fill seats. Once you figure that out, it makes staying in that Motel 6 not so easy."

Sawyer, a taller, better looking version of Ben Stiller, got his start in Seattle at the age of 23 and worked the west coast clubs until he was good enough to win the Seattle comedy contest in 1993. "I got 50 bucks for my first gig, opening for a guy in a toupee at a Howard Johnson's," Sawyer recalled. After his Seattle boost he went to Los Angeles, but he didn't want to wait to make money, so he didn't pay his dues and network with other aspiring 1990s comics, which he now regrets. "I tell young comics to do the opposite of what I did," Sawyer said. He discovered, perhaps too late, that for stand-up comics to truly rise to the top, they have to write, write, write. In 1999 he got a break writing a film script with an acquaintance. "He wanted to write a buddy cop movie," Sawyer said. The problem was that the two weren't buddies, and they weren't cops, so Sawyer suggested writing a "Black Animal House," and they sold the script.

For the next few years his day job was writing scripts on spec while his night job was still doing stand-up. "I've done over 5,000 shows, including all the late night shows except Leno, but no one's ever heard of me," Sawyer lamented. He'd visited Koh Samui in 2004 and liked it, and decided to give Chiang Mai a try after burning out on the entertainment life. He agreed to talk at our meeting because of Jerry Nelson's "relentlessness," and we're glad Jerry kept at it.


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