Great Lessons from America’s Everyday Comedian

Behind the humor, comedians often have great insight into the human condition. C Will Myles, commonly known as America’s Everyday Comedian, is no exception as his academic background of psychology and theater set up a career that goes beyond comedy and includes motivational speeches. Kristi Westbrock of CTC hired C. Willi to make a virtual appearance at a recent all-staff meeting, as she detailed in this ViodiTV interview.

What he does can’t be considered an act, as each performance is based on, as his hashtag says, true stories. And judging from our interview, he has some great wisdom with the way he approaches his work, including:

  • Identifying and becoming strong in a particular niche – A clean act is his niche and this opens up a variety of venues, from comedy clubs to cruise ships to corporate settings.
  • Understand your audience – He explains that when he arrives in a town, he checks out the sights and gets a feel for the community. After the soundcheck, he greets and chats with the audience as they walk in the theater.
  • Meet the customer where they are – He uses the first few minutes of his act to get feedback that sets the direction for the rest of the show.

This method has worked well for Myles, as he didn’t pay his dues in the traditional way. As he puts it, paying his dues occurs with every performance. He combines a sharp memory with his contextual observations of the audience and their community to create unscripted performances that are different from night-to-night. As such, repeat customers are common for this Minnesota-based comedian.

It is clear that a big part of his appeal is his authenticity. As he says, “Some of my funniest stories I tell on stage come from a dark and scary place inside me.”  Unfortunately, some of those stories originate in the final days of segregation in Mobile, Alabama. As he points out (and as documented here), attempts at desegregation brought its own challenges.

C. Willii Myles puts his wallet in his car's cup holder, so he doesn't have to reach into his pants in the event he is stopped by law enforcement.

Wallet in a cupholder – courtesy C. W. Myles

Myles tells a sobering story of a teacher and the low expectations he had for Myles and his fellow students. Myles proved him wrong with a journey that brought him to St. Cloud State University.

And although he now lives in Minnesota, he describes a few of the many times he has been pulled over without cause by law enforcement. It is to the point where he drives with his wallet in his cupholder and he won’t drive home late at night from an out-of-town gig.

Like his comedy, he lives a clean life and emphasizes that he doesn’t drink, take drugs or, even, smoke cigarettes. Myles’ philosophy encapsulates his mother and father’s advice by trying to be the best version of himself.

Interview highlights:

  • 01:49:19 – Myles explains the origination of his tag line, America’s Everyday Comedian.
  • 04:54:07 – He jokes that his decision to pursue a psychology degree was driven by having nine older sisters.
  • 08:00:04 – He didn’t have aspirations to be a comedian when he was a kid, He found his talents after college and after working as an assistant football coach at St. Cloud State.
  • 10:36:01 – By saying no to work, C Willi actually found himself in greater demand. This afforded him time to spend with a young family as he made the transition from the traditional working world to the world of comedy.
  • 11:55:23 – Having a clean act gives him access to more audiences in a greater number of venues. He aspired to be more than a comedian; he wanted to be an entertainer.
  • 12:39:23 – His approach is a great one for anyone looking to build a product, as he carefully listens to the audience before creating his product; a product that ends up being tailored to each audience.
  • 14:01:20 – He provides an example of one of his stories from a show in New Ulm, MN.
  • 15:29:10 – Unfortunately, C. had to use cell phone data as a few days before the conversation his landscapers cut his landline connection to his home (perhaps this explains the occasional static).
  • 16:31:13 – C. Willi provides a valuable lesson in understanding and focusing on your strengths. This may sometimes mean cutting back on what you do. In his case, during the shutdown, he has been focusing his act on “humor with a message.”
  • 22:54:13 – He discusses how he approaches his act.
  • 26:18:07 – Connect with your audience and adapt your message to meet them where they are.
  • 29:23:05 – C. Willi tells of his childhood. He learned in 2013 that he was born in part of town that was called Africa Town, the home of the last slave ship to land on the shores of the United States. He talks about the complexities of desegregation. This 2013 Master’s Theis from Bryan Duke reinforces his comments about the challenges of school integration in Mobile.
  • 31:41:28 – There were areas in Mobile where he couldn’t visit and feel safe.
  • 34:16:25 – He talks about how adversity built character. He describes a school system that had low-to-no expectations for the black students and, accordingly, the materials and guidance were less than their white peers received.
  • 38:14:15 – His first job out of college was as an assistant basketball and football coach.
  • 39:30:17 – The poor education secondary education he received hurt him when he attended Saint Cloud State. His persistence is inspiring.
  • 42:51:29 – C. Willi tells a cautionary, yet humorous true story, about the perils of wearing a ski mask into a bank.
  • 48:26:16 – He puts his wallet in the cupholder so that police officers can see his hand as he grabs his license. Being pulled over by law enforcement is a regular occurrence and it is to the point where he won’t drive home at night from a gig.
  • 52:42:07 – The George Floyd tragedy hit him especially hard as he could see his face in the video.
  • 57:33:12 – It is tiring to be pre-judged.
  • 01:00:44 – Doing something for the greater good