Local News

July 11, 2014

'Set up, Punchline, Topper'

Local comedian campaigns for cross-country documentary

Brent Haley, a local writer, performer and comedian, has decided to take his stand-up show on the road.

Perhaps most well-known around town for his original production of “Mystic Town” at Dalton Little Theatre, Haley is a married father of three and a self-proclaimed “PG-13 comic.”

On June 20, Haley created a campaign on Kickstarter, an online funding program for creative projects, to raise money for “Set up, Punchline, Topper,” his cross-country comedy documentary. In the campaign that runs through July 20, Haley hopes to raise $2,000 for his project, which will allow him to travel the U.S. scouting out comedy venues, booking jobs and writing a new comedy “set,” or show, along the way.

“Set up, Punchline, Topper,” a reference to the classic structure of a joke in a stand-up show, will start production in August. Haley will leave in two-week increments, returning home for a few days at a time. With his dog, Squall, as his traveling companion, he plans to film the documentary himself and wrap the project up in February.

Haley has been performing stand-up for more than 10 years and has a method for putting his shows together.

“Normally, when I sit down to write a new set, I write it out, record it on my phone, and then I put it away for three months. I try my best not to think about it,” he said. “Then, after the three months are up, I listen to it again. If I think it’s still funny, I know it’s something I can work with.”

During his seven-month journey, however, he will be trying an entirely new way of writing a set. Haley plans to visit major cities across the U.S., including Las Vegas, New York, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Chicago and Knoxville, Tenn., among others, where he will perform for new audiences with varying tastes in comedy.

“I have contacts in most of the cities, but I’ll be visiting a lot of cities where I don’t know anyone,” he said. “The whole process will be very organic, because I’ll be building this set from the ground up.”

“There’s going to be a lot of trial and error to it,” Haley continued. “The beauty of performing for a lot of new people is that you never know which jokes will land and which ones will fail. You learn how to feed off of different audiences in different ways, and you learn what’s funny and what’s not as you go along. It’s always a surprise.”

Haley currently has $250 in pledges.

“Any sort of donation is greatly, greatly appreciated,” he said. “Just $5 will provide you with access to my video blog, which I’ll be constantly updating throughout my trip. Fifteen dollars will get you a DVD copy of the documentary.”

As an extra incentive for people to donate, Haley is prepared to sacrifice something he holds near and dear to his heart: his hair.

“If I meet the halfway mark in pledges by Sunday, July 13, I will shave my head!” he said.

For more information about the project or to make a donation, visit www.kickstarter.com and type “Set up, Punchline, Topper” into the search bar at the top of the website.

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