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Last Comic Standing in Boston Tonight

Alum Myq Kaplan performs at Wilbur Theatre

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In the video above, comedian Myq Kaplan performs a set at the New York comedy club Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre and discusses what it’s like to write and perform comedy.

Comedian Myq Kaplan faced the biggest audience of his career this past summer: an average of five million viewers tuned in each week to see which of the finalists on NBC’s hit reality comedy competition Last Comic Standing would survive. Appearing before a national audience was a new experience for the 31-year-old stand-up comic, who performed in clubs for free when he began. “Not knowing what would happen was nerve-wracking,” Kaplan (GRS’09) says. “My performance got a great response, but it’s easy to second-guess yourself.”

Kaplan survived until the show’s 10th and final round before losing to Felipe Esparza, who was officially crowned the Last Comic Standing in August. But the exposure has brought other rewards. He and three other finalists from the show are currently performing with Esparza on a nationwide Last Comic Standing tour. The show comes to Boston’s Wilbur Theatre tonight.

Kaplan describes his comedy as “cerebral and wordy.” He often draws on his own life for inspiration. References to his vegan diet, his liberal political views, and his thoughts on religion appear frequently in his material.

The young comedian studied linguistics as a graduate student at Boston University, an interest that complemented his passion for writing and performing comedy. “They spring from the same well: a love for language, communication, semantics, and humor,” he says. Wordplay permeates his jokes: “Many rap albums contain a warning on their covers: ‘May include explicit lyrics.’ If I ever write a rap album, I’ll have a warning for implicit lyrics. My lyrics are going to be like: ‘You know what I’m going to do. Use your imagination.’” Wordplay has also shaped his adopted moniker. In the early 1990s, inspired by pop star Prince and his various name permutations, Kaplan changed the spelling of his name from “Mike” to “Myk” and finally to “Myq.”

Even as a graduate student, stand-up comedy was always his top priority. During his eight years at BU, he worked as a senior resident assistant on Bay State Road. The security of free room and board allowed him to hone his art. In 2008, he took the plunge and moved to New York to become a full-time comedian.

By his own estimate, he has performed more than 2,500 times. He paid his dues opening for other comedians under “bringer crowd” conditions, where comedians guarantee to bring 10 to 15 paying friends who also promise to buy drinks. Since then, he’s commanded laughs at famous venues such as Caroline’s on Broadway, headlined a special on Comedy Central Presents, and appeared on The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien.

But arguably the most important gig of Kaplan’s career was as a finalist on Last Comic Standing. That exposure led to his being cast in the current live tour. And, he says, he already has bookings lined up after the tour ends in February.

Kaplan’s newfound fame also means more recognition by fans. Walking recently through Park Slope in Brooklyn, where he now lives, he heard someone in a garbage truck yell out, “Is that Myq from Last Comic Standing?” Kaplan answered in the affirmative, and the worker cheered, “Good sh—!”

Kaplan admits it feels weird to be saluted by strangers, but he enjoys the support: it’s a welcome development for a man who once only dreamed of having an audience.

Myq Kaplan will perform tonight at the Wilbur Theatre, 246 Tremont St., Boston, along with the other finalists from Last Comic Standing, at 9 p.m. Tickets start at $35, and they can be purchased at the Wilbur box office, online at Ticketmaster, or by calling Ticketmaster at 1-800-745-3000. The nationwide tour continues through February 2011. More of Kaplan’s comedy is available on his album Vegan Mind Meld, Live at Comix!

Robin Berghaus can be reached at berghaus@bu.edu.

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