Comedian Jeremy Pryal may have left Scranton to pursue his career, but he'll always return home for a good cause.
The 20-year-old Philadelphia resident will serve as the host of a benefit show for the United Way with five other comedians on Saturday, Sept. 1 at the 20th Ward, 2028 Pittston Ave., Scranton.
Like many funny men, it was clear from a young age what his future profession would be.
"I was always the funny kid growing up, and I didn't know what I really wanted to do, so at 17, my friends had told me I should try stand-up comedy, so I did and it just kind of got me hooked," Pryal recalled.
"I always watched (Saturday Night Live) growing up, and it was always my dream to be on SNL. A lot of comedians were on SNL, so I figured that was the fastest route to get there, and the fact that I just like making people laugh."
He describes his humor as "sarcastic," but still remaining "friendly" and keeping his material relatable to a general audience.
"I don't go out there to offend people, but I could be a little bit cocky, but it's kind of like a sarcastic cocky," he described.
"I'll bring something up that happens in my life so that people can see it the way I saw it. It's a lot of the stuff that happens to me personally. It can range anywhere from living in Philadelphia to just the atmosphere from people around here, but at the same time I have material ranging from being a little kid playing TV tag to President Obama, so I'm kind of all over the place. I have material touching on everything."
The first time Pryal tried stand-up at an open mic, fellow Scranton comedian Paul Spratt was hosting, and the two became good friends over their shared passions for comedy and helping others.
"We both had an idea of where we wanted to go in comedy, so we got along, and then we decided that if we were going to do comedy in Scranton, we want (it) to benefit people just because it's a cool feeling to be able to do something you love and at the same time support good causes," Pryal explained.
The charities, he continued, are chosen mostly by random, but they are open to any worthy cause that approaches them for help. Working for free, the comedians include locals Spratt, Jay Thyberg, and Father Paul along with Philadelphian Kevin Ryan and headlining New Yorker Jessimae Peluso.
"I never met (Peluso), but she's a pretty big comic in New York. She's a pretty big headliner that's featured all over New York, so I'm excited to hear what she has to bring," Pryal commented.
"We're open to new charities for anyone. We're trying to get comedy in Scranton and we're trying to help people at the same time. It's not a typical comedy show. It's comics we personally handpicked to be on the show…You can come up to the comics after the show and talk to us. We'll buy you a drink. We're really friendly."
Recently moving with his girlfriend to the City of Brotherly Love, the young comic felt it was a good city to build up material and experience before moving to Los Angeles in search of his dreams.
"The comedy scene down here is better than Scranton. I wouldn't say it's incredible, but it's a lot more competitive. There're probably about 100 comics at each open mic, and you really have to be good for people to see you," Pryal noted.
"I love saying a premise and seeing the excitement on the crowd's face and the smiles and then hitting them with the punch line and then seeing them explode. That makes me feel good because all my material comes from the ground up, so it feels good to know that something I created in my head is making a room full of people laugh. I really get enjoyment out of that."
Staying busy entertaining clubs and festivals, he won "Best Up and Coming Comic" at the Comedy Cabaret in Philadelphia, where comics like Jay Leno, Ray Romano, and Kevin James got their start.
"It was a good feeling, but I'm not done. That's just a milestone for me. I want more and more to come," he said of the award.
"I'm never going to stop doing stand-up comedy, but I am heavy on writing and acting. I want to combine all three just so my business card has credibility because it says, ‘Comedian, writer, actor.' It's kind of my push."
What: P&J Comedy Night Presents Jessimae Peluso: A Benefit for United Way with comedians Jeremy Pryal, Paul Spratt, Jay Thyberg, Father Paul, and Kevin Ryan
Where: 20th Ward, 2028 Pittston Ave., Scranton
When: Saturday, Sept. 1, doors at 7 p.m., show at 8 p.m.
Cost: $10 in advance, $15 at the door