When comedy fans travel to Nick’s Roast Beef on Sept. 29, they won’t have to wait long for Tim Grill to address his disability.
Grill, sometimes known as “The Barely Can Stand Up Comic,” has about a dozen jokes in his repertoire about spina bifida.
“I joke about it and get it out of the way,” he said. “It’s not my whole act. I don’t want to be a one-trick pony, but people with disabilities have a sense of humor. You can joke about anything if you do it the right way.”
The Holmesburg resident has certainly overcome the birth defect, enduring 13 surgeries and spending 18 years as a patient at Shriners Hospital for Children back when it was located on Roosevelt Boulevard. He was told he’d never walk.
Grill is a graduate of St. Jerome Elementary School, Father Judge High School and Holy Family University.
While at Holy Family, he was on the committee that helped the school transition from a college to a university. He graduated with a degree in psychology.
Today, he works as a social worker for the state of New Jersey, traveling each day to the state capital of Trenton.
For the last 15 years, he’s performed standup comedy. He’s been getting steady work for the last decade.
In fact, he’s already done 64 shows this year and typically has 100 dates on his calendar. He works almost every weekend, which is especially good in an era where cable television comedy shows have hurt club attendance.
The gigs have included opening for and emceeing for Joe Conklin, the popular sports comedian.
“Comedy has become a part-time job,” he said. “It keeps me busy.”
Grill and fellow Northeast entertainers Joey Callahan and Erin Mulville will help Nick’s, located at 2212 Cottman Ave. in Rhawnhurst, join the comedy circuit for the first time. Mike Dougherty Productions is making the show happen.
Nick’s promises customers they will “never get a bum steer,” and Grill is hoping the inaugural comedy show goes as well. The evening of comedy will take place in the eatery’s banquet hall.
“I used to go there a lot, and all of a sudden I’m performing there,” he said. “Hopefully, we’ll get a good audience.”
Grill can almost guarantee a good audience on Sept. 30 and Oct. 1, the two days after the Nick’s show, when he performs at one of his favorite clubs, the Comedy Cabaret in Doylestown.
The comic got his start at open-mike nights at the Comedy Cabaret on Roosevelt Boulevard and has also performed at its club in Marlton, N.J.
It took Grill five years to become a regular on the comic scene both locally and elsewhere. “It takes a long time to get poise and confidence and become good,” he said. “The only way you can get better is stage time.”
On stage, Grill will joke about being Irish and Catholic, attending Father Judge (Class of 1988) and not attending Abraham Lincoln. He’ll sing and play the guitar.
For the 30-and-older crowd, he’ll tell jokes about the Devon Theater, where moviegoers used to get their feet stuck to the floor at the aging venue.
“It’s a huge laugh,” he said.
Speaking of the refurbished Devon, which is largely idle after a much-ballyhooed conversion to a performing arts center, Grill believes it would be a perfect place for a comedy club.
The overhead would be pretty low. “All you would need is a microphone and a spotlight,” he said.
Grill is happy to have a good, steady job with benefits. Some days at the office are better than those on stage.
A captive audience is ideal, but that’s not always the case, with television and other distractions catching the crowd’s eye.
“I’ve played places as busy as this,” he said during a Saturday morning interview at one of his favorite local restaurants, the Dining Car.
Grill has played at bars, bowling alleys, community pools and Chinese restaurants.
“The glamorous life of a comedian,” he said. “I’ve played some of the strangest venues you can imagine. When you’re on stage and a disco ball is above your head, you know it can go either way.”
That’s not to say Grill hasn’t had plenty of good moments. He’s been master of ceremonies and competed in contests at Helium, the Sansom Street venue that he considers the premier comedy club in Philadelphia.
Then there was the late-August performance in Syracuse, N.Y., where 1980s favorites Journey, Foreigner and Night Ranger were playing at a state fair.
Grill shared a hotel shuttle van with band members of Foreigner.
“I was joking that I went on tour with Foreigner,” he said. ••
Reporter Tom Waring can be reached at 215-354-3034 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Have some laughs with your beef …
Comedians Tim Grill, Joey Callahan and Erin Mulville will perform on Thursday, Sept. 29, at Nick’s Roast Beef, 2212 Cottman Ave.
Tickets for the all-ages show cost $20 in advance and $25 at the door, and include hors d’oeuvres. There will be an open bar featuring draft beer, wine and well drinks for an additional $20.
Doors open at 7 p.m., and the show will start at 8. For reservations, call 215-745-1292.
For more information, visit http://www.mikedoughertyproductions.com