To get away from the emotional toll of being picked on as the new kid in town, Anthony “Tony Vincent” Clark defended himself from the schoolyard bullies by acting as the class clown. And it worked.
“I used to tell jokes all the time and act outrageous,” he said. “First it was out of necessity to be popular, then it became my personality.”
The 26-year-old Oak Parker now performs stand-up comedy each week when he hosts Doc Ryan’s Comedy Showcase at Doc Ryan’s Bar and Grill in Forest Park. In addition, Vincent performs on Fridays and Saturdays at Showtime, in Crestwood.
Performing weekend gigs in the suburbs was not the plan for Vincent, a former plane mechanic in the Air Force. But plans change, and after serving six years in Tacoma, Wash., Vincent received an honorable discharge because of a medical condition.
“I was planning to do 20 years, but I became sick and ill in the military,” he said. “I didn’t know what was going on with me.”
Vincent suffers from Behcet’s Disease, an autoimmune disorder that causes the immune system to attack the organs. Vincent spent his last two years in the Air Force grounded.
While under doctor’s care for those two years, he performed stand-up at comedy clubs in Seattle and Tacoma.
“Since I had a lot of time, I started thinking about comedy again,” he said. “It really rekindled the fire. This is really what I wanted to do. This is my passion, I love it.”
His condition isn’t necessarily a negative, said Vincent, because it reunited him with comedy.
“I got back into comedy because I became ill,” he said. “I wouldn’t have rediscovered my passion for comedy if I didn’t get sick. Now I’m trying to perfect my craft.”
On the scene
Growing up, Vincent would listen to his father’s comedy albums and watch televised specials. George Carlin, Richard Pryor, Rodney Dangerfield and Eddie Murphy are some of the greats he looks up to.
“That was my introduction to comedy, they always painted a picture,” he said.
Vincent’s first gig was at A Touch of the Past, in Bellwood, when he was 17. Performing in front of his friends and family, Vincent refers to his performance that night as a “poor Richard Pryor impersonation.”
“I went on stage just cursing and talking ridiculously,” he said with a laugh. “But it was great, because it allowed me to see what it is to be a comedian. There were actual comedians there supporting me.”
After coming home from the Air Force in May, he realized the Oak Park area needed a comedy scene of its own.
“I want Oak Park and Forest Park to have a bustling comedy scene. This will advance me and get my face out there more,” Vincent said. “I just want to perform in a local area and to resurface in Forest Park and Oak Park.”
Vincent is optimistic he can encourage other aspiring comedians to step up and create a demand for businesses to open comedy clubs in the west suburbs. Vincent proposed the idea of hosting regular stand-up performances to management at Doc Ryan’s after a one-time gig earlier this year. The managers were on board and made it happen on Oct. 22, when Vincent hosted his first showcase.
Vincent brings local comedians to the weekly two-hour show, professionals and amateurs alike. The showcase is also free.