Gid Pool loves to use wild metaphors to get people to pay attention to his stories.
He’s done it innately for years, well before he stepped out of retirement and on stage at McCurdy’s Comedy Theatre and well before his stand-up comedy act grabbed national headlines.
“You know the duck pond at the county fair?” Pool asks. “I feel like one of those ducks. Like somebody reached into the pile and pulled me up.”
Twenty minutes later, there’s this metaphor:
“You know when you’re a kid and you find out there’s no Santa Clause, but your parents don’t know you know yet? I feel like the kid searching his house up and down for the new bicycle he already knows he’s getting.”
Duck ponds. Bicycles. Santa Claus. County fairs.
No wonder Jane Pauley came to Sarasota this week to interview him.
A retired real-estate agent from North Port, Pool is enjoying quite the media hot streak these days, thanks to his second act as a stand-up comedian.
First, there was the lengthy feature published two years ago in The Wall Street Journal. Now, the “Today” show is set to feature Pool next month in the AARP-sponsored slot, “Your Life Calling TODAY with Jane Pauley.”
Most stand-up comics wait decades for this kind of recognition.
Pool broke into the business at age 61 and in just six years went from booking small gigs in dive bars to headlining private parties, fundraisers and conferences, including this year’s AARP National Convention in New Orleans.
He also teaches comedy classes for Celebrity Cruises, a standing engagement that allows him and his wife, a retired guidance counselor, to travel to exotic locales for free.
“I’ve been to Cozumel (Mexico) so many times, the taxi drivers are like, ‘Hey Gid. What’s up?’” Pool says.
His meteoric rise is partly attributed to his age. Pool is a baby boomer comic playing to baby boomer crowds. His jokes are good, but his timing is impeccable.
Six years ago, when he signed up for comedy classes at McCurdy’s, he never thought the experience would lead to anything other than a sharper wit.
In fact, the only reason he signed up for the six-week course was because his wife’s boss, the principal at North Port High School, had graduated from the program and invited Pool to watch his final routine.
Frustrated with the tanking real-estate market and looking for something to do, Pool signed up for the program.
He had no idea he’d become the poster child for second acts.
“At the end of the class I stood up on stage thinking I was as funny as Bill Cosby,” Pool says. “And then I saw the DVD.”
He’s devoted a lot of time to honing his act since then.
A Kentucky native and Vietnam War veteran, Pool delivers his lines with the seasoned cynicism of a clever curmudgeon — a character he says he didn’t need to invent because it’s who he is.
In a Southern accent that always seems to walk a fine line between sweet and sarcastic, Pool’s material runs the typical comedy gamut: kids, wives, ex-wives, mother-in-laws, dogs, erectile dysfunction …
What isn’t typical is how much laughter his jokes generate. According to Pool, it’s a lot. He’s got the figures to prove it.
He records all his shows and then downloads them into a computer program that breaks down the length and frequency of each laugh track.
At last count, his 35-minute set produced 18 to 20 seconds of laughter per minute.
“Some people argue that these numbers aren’t relevant,” Pool says. “But the bottom line is you go to a comedy club to laugh. You buy a ticket to sit in a room and forget about life for a while.”
Gid Pool will be featured May 8 in the AARP-sponsored series “Your Life Calling TODAY with Jane Pauley” on NBC.