A small frame hidden in his room holds the lone ticket to the event that sparked a young man’s career. “December of 2003 at Tower Theater,” said Pat House, pointing to it. “I saw Dave Attell, Louis Black, Mitch Hedberg and Mike Birbiglia. I was convinced that night that I wanted to be a comic.” It might have taken him almost a year to find his way onto a stage after that, but Pat knew that the moment was important enough to preserve.
Off stage, House’s demeanor can be described as humble and even-tempered. He’s not excitable, in that not much seems to stir his emotions, and you’d never peg him as the “sentimental type” – except when it comes to comedy. Get him on stage or simply have him start talking about his craft, and Pat comes alive. He’ll reminisce about his years in standup with romanticism usually reserved for Romeo and Juliet caliber couples. “October 13th, 2004,” he recalled without having to think, “I did my first open-mic at the Laff House.”
He never specifically practiced for that first set, although he had spent years preparing for it. Pat was in high school when he wrote his first joke into an old, black and white, marble notebook. It became his first “joke book”, and he spent the next four years filling it. Since then, he’s completed another 25 volumes, each notebook numbered and stored for safekeeping on a shelf in his room.
Thirteen years later, Pat House is one of the most respected comedians in Philadelphia. He’s a regular at Helium Comedy Club, a frequent contributor for the Preston and Steve Show, and the co-founder of the first ever comedy trolley tour, Founding Footsteps “Stand-Up and Drink!”
For the past two years, he’s been travelling the country as the opener for both Tom Segurra and Sebastian Manascalco. House frequently performs for crowds in the thousands, but is just as happy doing standup on a trolley for 30 people. For him, it is about the craft. That’s likely why he never let himself get caught up in the world of self-promotion that most new comedians are chained to. “On stage is where I do what I do,” said House. “Just keep working the grind. Even if you’re at where you want, something else may be out there.”
It is that love for the stage that enables Pat to recall stops along the roadmap of his career with the accuracy of an Olympic archer. Ask him about his first paying gig and he’ll tell you about when he made $40, performing for the Hamilton Fire Department. He might not be able to pinpoint his worst gig, but he knows it wasn’t at The Townhouse on March 7th, 2008. That was just the first time he was on stage and a crowd member punched him in the face. It’s a fond moment for Pat in a career full of them. While he is nostalgic about all of them, it was his first big show on May 19th, 2016 that really stands out for him. That moment was so important to Pat, he marked the 10 year anniversary of it by putting the events of that night down in words as only he could…
Ten years ago today, I was walking to The Electric Factory from my center city apartment to see Comedy Central Live with Mike Birbiglia, Bill Burr and Greg Giraldo. On the way there, my phone rang. I didn’t recognize the number, so I didn’t answer. Mike Berkowitz, who was managing Giraldo and Burr, left me a voicemail saying ‘Hey- we called Helium looking for a host for tonight’s show and they said you’ll be there. If you want the spot, it’s yours. Call me back.’ Two hours later, I’m on stage in front of a thousand people. Before that night, the biggest crowd I ever performed in front of was around 200. I also received a check for $100, which was more money than all my previous paid gigs combined. It’s worth mentioning that I probably only had ten minutes of material PERIOD, and I think I did every single joke I had. After the show, it was surreal to hangout backstage. I idolized these guys and had bought tickets to attend as a fan. Now, we’re talking comedy, drinking beer and I’m playing Birbiglia’s guitar as I’m watching Burr and Giraldo shoot pool. In the past ten years, I’ve been fortunate to do some awesome shows with incredible comics, but to this day, nothing compares to that night – the insanity of having that thrown in my lap at the last-minute, and the rush that came along with it. A decade later, I still ask myself ‘did that really happen?”
It did. He has the index card with his set list and intros, along with the pay stub from that night, hidden in his room.