Ball State has a reputation for training strong candidates for careers in art, media and entertainment — such as alumni “Late Show” host David Letterman and “Garfield” writer Jim Davis.
The case of comedian Kevin McCaffrey is no different.
His profession consists of finding funny things to say that an audience hasn’t heard before — whether it’s him or someone else saying it.
McCaffrey is a contributing monologue writer for “The Late Show with David Letterman,” and appears on truTV’s “World’s Dumbest” and History ChanneI’s “I Love the 1880s.”
At one point in his career, Letterman hosed him down with a fire extinguisher during a show appearance.
“I feel very lucky to be where I am at such a young age,” McCaffrey said.
McCaffrey, who graduated Ball State in 2004, said he feels that his time at the university played a big role in preparing him for the future.
For aspiring entertainers, McCaffrey advocates getting involved in some of the student-run organizations on campus that specialize in media, production or entertainment.
He left his mark at Ball State by creating a program that gets students in front of the camera. In 2001, McCaffrey created student-run show “BSU Late Night,” which later turned into the current show, “BSU Tonight.”
“What Ball State did best wasn’t the classes, at least not for me,” he said. “I had a handful of great professors, but what it did that nowhere else could have done was put me around a very specific group of talented people who wanted to do the same things I wanted to do.”
McCaffrey looked back and remembered all of the young comedians that influenced him in his time in college.
“At the time, I felt like I happened into an absurd amount of talent there, and years later, that’s proven to be true,” he said. “The talent I worked around at Ball State has stood up to the best that New York has to offer, and that’s been a huge blessing.”
Despite the amount of fear often associated with doing a stand-up act, McCaffrey’s personal strategy is simple.
“Gauging an audience’s reaction in comedy is pretty darn easy,” he said. “Laugh equals good. Silence equals bad. If they laugh, keep doing that … sometimes, an audience doesn’t laugh because they just weren’t able to easily understand what you meant. Always make everything as clear and concise as you can.”
McCaffrey said he believes that the best time to get into comedy is during the college years. Open mic nights at local Muncie establishments like Be Here Now’s The Comedy Mosh Pit and Doc’s Music Hall can be a gateway to a great career as a stand-up comedian.
“You have every available resource in terms of cameras, editing equipment and maybe most importantly, freedom,” McCaffrey said. “If you want to be a performer, go do an open mic. Everyone sucks at first, so get the sucking out of the way early.”
For students looking to enter the comedy business, McCaffrey said they should be “someone people want to work with,” and leave the ego at the door.
“There’s no downside to being nice to people, so do that,” he said. “Even for the performing jobs I get, most of them come because a friend recommends me for an audition, and that’s how it starts.”