ALPENA - Stand-up comic Dwayne Gill gets his material from an unusual source few entertainers have access to - his job with the Michigan State Police in Lansing. For 20 years, he's been a trooper, provided security for governors, and today he's a legislative liaison.
Add to that 10 years in the U.S. Marine Corps in places like Beirut and Detroit, as well as his life as a husband and father, and you can expect a night of clean, cringe-free entertainment.
A motivational speaker, Gill has earned a reputation for doing a clean act, APlex Manager Norm Sommerfeld said Wednesday, and is recommended by other comics for his comedy.
"I'm one of the only officers that you'll ever meet that has a sense of humor," Gill said during a phone interview. "I found comedy an outlet for me many years ago to deal with the day-to-day pressures of the job. It was a release. It was my retreat - a place where I could be friendly and have fun with people."
Although he has performed over 1,000 times, breaking into the field was hard.
"I fell down and I bombed way more than I was successful at first," he said.
What: Dwayne Gill with guest Dan Currie
Where: The APlex, 701 Woodward Ave.
When: 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday
The worst experience was in April 1995 at a contest, he said.
"There were 1,500 people in the audience," he said. "I told my first joke. They laughed and then I hesitated. They sensed fear and turned on me and started booing and hissing. It was awful."
It was enough to make him quit.
"I didn't get the courage to go back until September 2002," Gill said. "I just had a desire to go back and I took a comedy class and I learned more about the craft."
Eventually he began touring professionally in May 2004 and works 42 weekends a year, hanging onto his day job for material. He also teaches comedy and is mentoring 21-year-old Dan Currie, who is the opening act.
"I'm very fortunate that the state police embraces my talents and actually a lot of times I end up doing the entertainment for conferences," Gill said.
In addition to his law enforcement work, Gill also talks about his family and dog.
"All those folks provide plenty of material everybody can relate to," he said.
Sommerfeld said although Gill presents family-style material, audience members must be over 21, because the APlex serves beer and wine during the show.
About 100 tickets remain for Friday's performance; Saturday is almost sold out, Sommerfeld said. But, he is offering free tickets to anyone who says they read Gill's story in The Alpena News.
"Our sponsors primarily pay for the entertainment," he said. "Where we make our money is at the cash bar."
Betsy Lehndorff can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5693. Follow Betsy on Twitter @bl_alpenanews.