“Talk about whatever it is you know.”
Those were the words that launched Josh Wolf’s career in comedy.
The advice came from an event organizer before Wolf’s first-ever appearance at the age of just 15. The Massachusetts native was so young that his parents had to drive him to the gig.
“My parents came and sat in the front row, and all I knew was them, so I made fun of them for 15 minutes,” Wolf said of his first show. “It was a silent car ride home.”
Wolf finds his own rides to his shows these days, but he’s still talking about what he knows.
His brand of honest comedy is inspired by his life and the events in it. He found success, he said, only when he developed from what he thought a comedian should be, writing what he thought the audience wanted to hear, to simply being himself on stage.
“You can’t make it for other people,” Wolf said. “You have to make what you think is good.”
He traces that realization back to a specific moment on stage.
Telling a story about one of his sons, Wolf remembers thinking, “This is too cruel, but it’s just how I feel right now, and I said it and it got a huge laugh.”
That laugh flipped a light switch in Wolf’s head, and he said he believes that his comedy turned a corner that night. He hasn’t looked back.
His comedic journey brought him to Philadelphia this past weekend to Helium Comedy Club in Center City Friday through Sunday night.
Wolf is happy to be at a point in his career where he has built up an audience and headlines clubs across the country.
Along with his comedy career, Wolf released his book, “It Takes Balls: Dating Single Moms and Other Confessions from an Unprepared Single Dad,” this month.
Writing is nothing new for Wolf – he wrote a chapter in Chelsea Handler’s book “Lies Chelsea Handler Told Me,” a New York Times best seller.
Wolf has also written for numerous television programs including “Yes, Dear,” “All of Us” and “Cuts.”
The book is different for him, he said, because it is biographical. Wolf tells the stories of being a young, single man raising children, and the hilarity that ensued.
“In TV, I’m writing for someone else’s voice. This book I didn’t write in anyone else’s voice,” Wolf said. “I wrote this book the way I talk.”
Wolf sees his book as an extension of his show on stage, and he writes in his same brutally honest style.
“We had no money. We all lived in one bedroom…It was not a great situation, but from it came a lot of very funny, irreverent stories,” Wolf said.
Wolf is happily married now, but is proud that he was able to tell the stories from that period of his life. He said the book can inspire readers to persevere through rough times and see the lighter side of life.
“There is humor in every situation you’re in, and we’ve had some tough ones,” he said.
Wolf, who has occasionally been called an overgrown fraternity brother, also wanted to show that parents come in different styles.
“You haven’t seen any dad’s stories from a guy from my perspective, and I thought it should be told,” he said.
Wolf is a regular on E’s “Chelsea Lately,” featuring Chelsea Handler, as well as on “After Lately.” The shows have given his career even more exposure. Wolf credits Handler herself with giving him the opportunity.
“Chelsea and I started doing stand-up together, and Chelsea is an intensely loyal, good person,” Wolf said. “So when she got that show, there’s a bunch of people on the show she started with. She brought us all along for the ride.”
Wolf recently became a writer for “Chelsea Lately” and said the experience of being there every day and having people to bounce ideas off of is rewarding.
“You get to see a lot more of the inner workings,” Wolf said. “It’s always good to learn every aspect of every business that you’re in.”
With so much to do, it’s not hard to keep busy for Wolf, but he’s not backing away from the stand up stage.
“I love performing,” Wolf said. “As soon as I’m not having fun anymore I’m going to find something else to do.”
Kyle Noone can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.