Validation after all these years

Local stand-up comic Patrick Susmilch’s debut album digs into personal matters.

by Austen Macalus

Local comedian Patrick Susmilch’s stand-up routines are basically an attempt to win approval — he jokes about getting on stage and just yelling “Validate me!”
“That’s what [comedians] are doing really,” Susmilch said. “I should just cut out the middle man.”
For Susmilch, the phrase seemed to be the perfect title for his debut album. 
After Susmilch recorded the album in 2014, Minneapolis label Stand Up! Records released “Validate Me” in April. This Saturday, Susmilch will celebrate his debut comedy album during a free stand-up showcase at Sisyphus Brewing.
The 15-track album features Susmilch’s even-keeled, caustic sense of humor as he jumps around a variety of topics.
The record includes Susmilch’s absurd experiences lying at a singles mixer, making fun of Taco John’s and ridiculous, rambling thoughts on catheters.
With a mellow demeanor and a soothing voice, Susmilch’s temperate style only furthers his sardonic perspective.
Susmilch started comedy at age 20 in Minneapolis almost 10 years ago. The album is the culmination of years of hard work, Susmilch said.
“I have been doing stand-up for nine years,” Susmilch said. “The first five years was me just figuring out what a joke is.” 
According to Susmilch, the turning point in his stand-up career was his appearance on Season 8 of NBC’s “Last Comic Standing.” 
Susmilch joked the show helped his family come to terms with his stand-up as a legitimate profession.
“Up until that point, they always said, ‘When are you going to quit stand-up and get a real job?’ ” Susmilch said. “Then I was on TV and they said, ‘OK, you can keep going with this.’ ”
Susmilch noted the challenge of making material that could fit in a five-minute TV set.
“It really pushed me to be more efficient with jokes,” Susmilch said.
Susmilch also pointed to his experience working at Acme Comedy Club as a major influence on his career. As a feature performer, Susmilch often warms up the crowd by starting off the night’s show.
“The biggest thing with Acme is that it helped get me comfortable with failure because you go up at the hardest part of the show,” Susmilch said. “Getting so comfortable with failure, you are not as afraid to try different things.”
In particular, Susmilch highlights a joke on the album where he yells about the song “Tootsee Roll” and other stereotypical jock jams — material that stepped out of his normal style, Susmilch said.
At Acme, Susmilch was also inspired by watching other comedians discuss personal topics. In the album’s latter tracks, Susmilch addresses his identity, delving into topics that hit closer to home such as bullying and social justice issues.
“It does start to get more self-focused, and that is the natural progression of me as a comedian,” Susmilch said. “I’m talking about things that are important to me.”
In particular, Susmilch digs into humor about being queer and other aspects of his sexuality.
“It’s a very tough thing to talk about on stage,” Susmilch said. “Most times, you can talk about sex stuff and people are on board. But when you talk about gay sex, people just shut down.”
For Susmilch, the personal level of comedy makes audiences want to see the live show rather than watching content on TV or the Internet.
Susmilch likened his style to comedian Hannibal Buress, who lures audiences in with his unique personality. 
“Not to say I am at this level, but the next level is definitely where people feel like they understand you more,” Susmilch said. “I think that personal connection helps you perform the joke, and it makes the joke more interesting.” 
Recognizing this personal connection, Susmilch no longer places so much importance on external achievements.
With the experience of “Last Comic Standing” and performing in the local scene, Susmilch said success is a fleeting moment in the world of comedy. 
“It really forces you to get back to just loving the process,” Susmilch said. 
Patrick Susmilch “Validate me” Album Release Party
Where Sisyphus Brewing, 712 Ontario Ave. W., Minneapolis
When 5 p.m. Saturday
Cost Free