CW: How old were you when you first stepped into the Spotlight?
KT: “So, my friend put our names on a list for open mic night at the Loony Bin in Little Rock, AR when I was about 21, and then he took his name off. I didn’t know anything about it, but he set me up!”
How did you start out with Stand Up Comedy?
“I was looking for open mic nights anywhere I could get some time in — Memphis Tuesdays, Little Rock every 1st Wednesday, and Tulsa on Thursdays… I drove 3-4 hours for like 5 minutes on stage.” smiling and looking down and back up after reflecting his humble beginnings.
How long did you MC before you had your own show?
“After about 6 months of being MC, I decided I wanted more time, so I started doing my own shows at an Italian restaurant in Dardenelle, AR. It was a place where the owner collected confederate flags from wall to wall. The owner didn’t know what to expect, but I’d do an hour show and pack the place out every night! Experiences like that reassured me that I could perform at any location.
Still, I knew it was only the beginning. So, I started making a list of agency names and before I knew it, I was on the road. There weren’t so many comedians back then in comparison to today. The clubs had all the power and they mostly dictated things. Luckily, I got the chance to experience every one of those clubs that crossed my path.
I learned a lot about the industry- the good, bad, and ugly. Needless to say, I got a lot of experience in what not to do. I was young and ambitious. The highs are easily followed by lows and, at times, a nonchalant attitude. Thank goodness, I survived my 20s! Enough about that!” Shaking his head, and clearly steering away from those “darker times”, he waited anxiously for the next question.
What’s driving you to continue what seems to be a challenging lifestyle with so much time and now more competition?
“Nowadays, comedians have a little more power, with social media there’s opportunity to steer your own path. I don’t see competition. I try to include close friends and collaborate with lots of other up-and-coming &/or established artists. I’ve made lots of deep connections with some of the best, wholesome people all over the United States and a few countries.
What’s important is staying true to my purpose and the feeling that’s created between myself and the audience every time there’s an opportunity to form new connections. Some people travel long distances to my shows and there’s so much love! I don’t take those friendships and that kind of support for granted. They know who they are.
I represent myself unapologetically and authentically. It’s a blessing to have a platform. As an artist, my views are put on display, they’re my honest thoughts shared out loud for all to judge. People can take it or leave it. It’s empowering to know who I am now and often people respect it. Being open can often allow people to feel obliged to speak their truth without fear of judgement. They won’t get anything less than that from me. laughing at his clearly articulated opinion of any haters, he quickly got serious and stared directly at me with an eternally deep stare! “NO HATING from this direction” I assured him.
How do you come up with your jokes?
“I don’t write jokes. I never really know what I’m going to talk about until right before I go on stage. I’ve NEVER told anyone that! I know my material from the past, and I come up with new material in the moment. It’s more about what the audience needs.
So, yeah…. I think that’s what sets artists apart from each other. Once you submerge yourself in the artistry of something deeper than just covering one portion of comedy, yeah…. it’s way deeper than just jokes.” Smiling, he looks inquisitively over the room as if he was making sure his words had time to sink in.
For those reading this short bio, tell us, who is Keith Terry today? What is your purpose?
Pausing for a minute before responding
“I want people to see me, and I don’t want people to see me. Trying to figure out a way to say it always reminds me of painters — some are really good with lines, and some are really good with colors, time periods –so many things.
I want to be felt more than seen. Like when you look at a painting that gives you a certain feeling; Like when you look up at the sky — you can describe exactly what you see but you can’t describe that euphoric feeling, there’s no word for it– that’s truly what I want to do — help people feel that way.”
Who are your biggest influences- musically?
“Kid Cudi has been with me since I first started. I didn’t download each song – I let every song find me and it was so weird, but that was when I first started learning artistic patience. It was somewhat of an artistic blueprint to let me know I was on the right path.”
Which show is the most memorable of all your shows?
“I did a show in my hometown, Blue Moon. My kids’ mother and I collaborated, because I was really out on the road more. We worked together to deal with agencies and managers, but we weren’t strategic, we were young in life. She planned it all out and the show sold out in hours! She put the grind to it! She was there with the kids, coordinating all of it.
It was a huge success! She deserves all the credit and more. She’s not physically in this world anymore, but she’s still with me, ya dig? So, I have to give her props for that one! Our relationship and friendship taught me that time and love are two things we can never get enough of!”
What other experiences keep you inspired to perform?
“After the success of my hometown show, I spent my time between L.A. and NY, living mainly on the road at that point. I was definitely experiencing the partying side of traveling and living life more in the fast lane…the rest is just semantics and the past. Everything that happened brought me to where I am now. I’m thankful.
Today, I’m fully present. I’m ready and I’m fully committed to my first love. I recently had a great show in Joplin, MO at the ROXY and it was a blast! My next show, I’m calling it “When We First Met”, and that’s what brought me to this interview. I have several others shows coming up and I’m eager to spend more time on stage.
They say home isn’t a place, but a feeling. The stage feels like home for me. He stands up -restless from sitting down and begins to move around as if preparing to say something after deep thought…. then, he looks at me and states,
So, here we are, we’re done! I thank you for your time and please follow me on social media and my web page.
I’ll be looking for you in the audience!
With a smile and look as if he’s just leaked his life’s secrets out to the world, he drank the last of his ice water and slammed his cup down on the table signaling his exit. I thanked him for his time, as he walked away, he looked back with a wave, and smiled. *
* “Thank you to Comedian Keith Terry, it was a pleasure experiencing this one-on-one interview with you”.