Personnel Journeyman by Day, Comedian by Night
By Tech. Sgt. William Buchanan, 125th Fighter Wing
/ Published January 13, 2013
When a heckler started calling and booing his fellow comedians, Shay didn't take too kindly to him. -- As the emcee that particular evening, he took the stage, thanked the audience for coming out and asked for another round of applause for the last comedian. Hearing another boo come from the darkness, Shay saw a black man with a bald head and big sideburns that came down the sides of his face.
"Look, Mr. T. I know you probably got a van outside with some guns in it," Shay said. "So we're just going to get you some more nachos so you can be quiet and stop interrupting the show. I pity the fool."
Shay said the man was quiet for the rest of the show. This was just one of the many nights Tech. Sgt. Daniel "Shay" Clemons hosted The Comedy Club in Jacksonville, Fla. where he is also a regular house comedian. As someone who always gets heckled, Clemons said he knew how to deal with it.
When he's not telling jokes for money, Clemons works as a full-time personnel AGR in the 125th Force Support Squadron. There he issues Airmen new and replacement Common Access Cards, ensures mobility folders are up-to-date, and informs Airmen statewide of upcoming extensions, reenlistments and separations. After a lifetime of being called the funny guy wherever he went, however, Clemons decided it was time to step up on the stage and really try it.
"You just have that feeling like, 'I've been walking in three feet for too long. It's time to go jump off the diving board just to go see,'" Clemons said. "If I die, so what? At least I did it."
Having made his way to the semi-finals in the Florida's Funniest Comedian competition last year, Clemons certainly did it. The annual competition started August 2012 with 210 hopefuls from all over Florida competing for the top prize: a three-month comedy tour with guest spots in Los Angeles and New York City. Although Clemons didn't take first place, he said he's definitely going to try again; he has to.
Along with work and comedy, Clemons spends a lot of his off-duty time with his family. He said there are times when he's offered a set at a comedy club but instead takes his daughter, Sadé, to ballet practice. He said he has to prioritize his time, and he makes sure to gets enough home time too.
"I love it and I'm good at it, but of course the family comes first," Clemons said.
Clemons said he must have inherited his sense of humor because his whole family is funny, especially his mom. So with a talent for telling stories and jokes, he said he always knew at some point he wanted to try comedy on stage. After watching a set one night he decided the time was right, and he signed up for the eight-week comedy workshop at The Comedy Zone in Jacksonville.
During graduation from the workshop, Clemons scored well enough to be invited back as a house comic. Since then he's performed all over the nation from Los Angeles to Baltimore to Miami, but he spends most nights earning laughs here in his hometown of Jacksonville. Even though he's only been performing for less than two years, Clemons said the goal is to eventually do comedy as his career.
"Everybody has some type of passion." Clemons said. "People like hunting, fishing, or playing video games - I like writing jokes."
Clemons said being funny in everyday life is much different than being on stage. He said he still gets nervous before every single set, whether it's in front of 10 people or 1,000 people, even after nearly two years of performing. Clemons said getting nervous is necessary until that first joke lands and he gets that first laugh from the audience; that's when he knows they accept him.
"I think when I stop being nervous and I stop worrying about how I'm doing on stage, that's when I'll probably quit," Clemons said. "Other than that, I think I'll keep doing it."