Comedian Horner looks to draw laughs at Smyrna Opera House

While others get exasperated stuck in beach traffic Memorial Day weekend, the Smyrna Opera House offers an opportunity for you to laugh about it all.

The venerable Kent County theater will host another of its very popular evenings of standup comedy at 7 p.m. May 27.

The night will feature headliner Doogie Horner with Sidney Gantt and Delaware’s own Missy Grynkiewicz.

Along with being a comedian, Mr. Horner is also a writer and graphic artist.

He’s the author and illustrator of several books including his latest “Some Very Interesting Cats Perhaps You Weren’t Aware Of,” where he

Doogie Horner headlines A Night of Standup Comedy at the Smyrna Opera House May 27. (Submitted photo)

Doogie Horner headlines A Night of Standup Comedy at the Smyrna Opera House May 27. (Submitted photo)

opines on the secret lives of various felines for which he provides a drawing and back story of each.

His cover for “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” helped propel the book to New York Times bestseller status, and won Amazon’s Cover of the Year Award for 2010.

His art and writing have appeared in Wired, McSweeney’s, Fast Company, Boing Boing, the Believer, the London Times, the Sun and other publications.

He was featured on the fifth season of “America’s Got Talent” and is a frequent guest on the popular podcast “Doug Loves Movies.”

While a full-time artist, Mr. Horner turned to standup comedy in 2007 when he performed at an open mic at Philadelphia’s Helium Comedy Club.

“I’ve always explored a lot of different art forms. I’ve tried writing, painting, drawing and they are all very solitary,” he said this week by phone from his home in New York City.

“I tried standup to do something to get out of the house. I heard about the open mic and really liked it. It wasn’t about whether or not people laughed, it just felt fun.”

Mr. Horner quickly made a name for himself around Philadelphia with his absurdist brand of one-liners, garnering awards in competitions and publications and appearing in top comedy festivals.

In 2010, NBC’s “America’s Got Talent” came calling. He reached the quarterfinal round and was asked back for the wild card round where he was eliminated from the competition.

But it wasn’t how well he did that gave him a special place on the show. Instead, it was how well he didn’t do on his initial appearance in front of an audience.

Best Bets logo CLEAR copyFrom the outset, the crowd was against him, yelling and interrupting his act. Judge Piers Morgan gave him a first strike. But his tenacity in giving the ridicule right back to the audience turned things around for him and he was passed through by the other two judges.

The moment gave him instant recognition.

“It got pretty crazy pretty fast,” he recalled. “It made the cover of Yahoo.com. I was recognized almost everywhere I went for a while. That show was huge. Everyone watched it.”

The heckling is something he’s getting used to over the years.

“I get heckled more than most comics I know and I don’t know why. I was getting heckled at least once a week. I wasn’t worried about it. If you’re dumb enough to say something, I’m going to start to heckle you back,” he said.

The show came about early in his career so he couldn’t really make much of the opportunity.

“I wasn’t ready to be a headliner and the people I was really looking to impress don’t watch ‘America’s Got Talent,’ ” he said.

“Way more people watch that show than watch Conan O’Brien but I was more working toward a standup credit on his show. I was pretty ambivalent about the whole thing.”

The talent show’s viewers heard a string of one-liners reminiscent of Steven Wright’s routine from him back then. But these days, Mr. Horner’s act contains longer, more personal bits such as how wearing glasses seems to attract folks asking him for a WiFi password or having such reliance on his wife that he could never divorce her because he would need her help filling out the forms.

“I think I’m more grounded in reality now from when I used to be pretty silly and absurd,” said the 36-year-old Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, native.

“As I got older, I wanted to talk about more real-life subjects and things I had opinions on.”

Along with a new book. Mr. Horner also has his first album called “A Delicate Man,” available for purchase on iTunes or Google Play. It was recorded at Helium in Philadelphia.

“It felt like a good time to record my first album,” he said.

Missy Grynkiewicz

Missy Grynkiewicz

“My comedy is changing and I wanted to get some of my older jokes on there that might not be in my act a year from now or aren’t in my act now.”

Mr. Gantt, the featured act for the Smyrna show, also performs regularly at Helium.

“He’s a funny guy. He’s got three kids, including twins, and I just had a baby so I’ll just apologize right now. The audience is going to hear a lot of baby jokes,” Mr. Horner said.

Ms. Grynkiewicz, of Middletown, was the 2013 winner of the LOL at the Grand Opera House competition in Wilmington. Signed by Realize Records in 2012, her freshman CD, “Miss Representation,” made the first round Grammy nomination list for funniest comedy album and was picked up by Pandora radio.

Her sophomore CD, “Fifty Shades of Earth Day,” is slated for release this year.

She has performed at venues up and down the East Coast.

Tickets for the show are $16 or $14 for Smyrna Opera House members and military.

They can be purchased by visiting smyrnaoperahouse.org, calling 653-4236 or at the box office at 7 W. South St.

The show’s content may not be appropriate for children.

Classics & More

This week, The Ballet Theatre of Dover will hold its annual “Classics & More” performance at 7 p.m. Saturday and at 2 p.m. Sunday at the In–Studio Theatre, in the Tudor Enterprise Park off of South Little Creek Road.

Featured dances are from the ballet “Napoli” and the “Flower Festival at Genzano.”

“La Petite Danseuse,” pays tribute to an 1881 sculpture by Edgar Degas of a young student of the Paris Opera dance school, a Belgian named Marie van Goetham. Young dancers Naya Gonzalez, age 14, and Tyler Wright, age 13, will dance the roles of Marie and Degas.

“Fitzpleasure” features the music of the British alternative British indie pop quartet alt–J from its debut studio album “An Awesome Wave.”

Tickets are $10 for adults and $6 for seniors and students. They are available at the door and at Dance Conservatory by calling 734–9717.

Donate for Happiness

The Happiness Project Music Festival and the Miss Milford Organization are teaming up for an event Saturday from 5 to 9 p.m. at Avenue United Methodist Church called Donate for Happiness.

The event features live music from Annapolis performer Alicia Rae, Baltimore performer Janelle, Dover singer Joe Brellahan and Dover duo Hoochi Coochi.

Anyone donating anything – from clothes, to blankets, to jackets, to bedding, to non-perishable food – will get free entry. Otherwise, it costs $3 per person. All items and all money collected at the event will be donated to Milford-area charities.

“We thought it was a great idea to partner with the Miss Milford Organization and do something that gets people together for fun, but also gives back to the community,” said Jason Burlew, co-organizer and co-founder of The Happiness Project Music Festival.”

The Happiness Project Music Festival was established in 2015 by Mr. Burlew and Candy Fortney. It is a free one-day event that merges music and mental health awareness together to provide community outreach and entertainment.

Since the most recent festival in Smyrna in September 2015, the group has scheduled free monthly concerts for patients and families at Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children in Wilmington, and participated in events that supported Habitat for Humanity, the Ronald McDonald House of Delaware, Active Minds and the Children’s Miracle Network.

“We are committed to partnering with nonprofit organizations to help promote their event and cause,” Ms. Fortney said.

“With Donate for Happiness we get to help many different nonprofit and charitable organizations in the city of Milford with just one event.”

The Happiness Project Music Festival will bring its one-day festival to Milford on July 9, also at Avenue United Methodist Church.

For more information on Donate for Happiness or The Happiness Project Music Festival, visit www.facebook.com/happinessprojectmmh or follow The Happiness Project Music Festival on Instagram at happinessmusicfest.

Boys II Men show sold out

Finally, if you have tickets for the Boyz II Men concert at Dover Downs’ Rollins Center on Sept. 23, consider yourself lucky.

Officials announced this week that show featuring the best-selling R&B group of all time is sold out.

Now showing

New this weekend in theaters is the comedy sequel “Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising,” the animated “The Angry Birds Movie 3D” and the Russell Crowe-Ryan Gosling action comedy “The Nice Guys.”

On DVD and download Tuesday is the acclaimed film “The Big Short,” the epic “The Finest Hours,” “Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension” and the comedies “How to Be Single” and “Zoolander 2.”

Reach features editor Craig Horleman at chorl@newszap.com

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