BC Garvey has recently taken over as producer and host of the monthly comedy showcase at the popular Gypsy Parlor on Buffalo’s burgeoning West Side. We wanted to find out a little more about his background and present-day activities prior to this evening’s show.
About a year ago BC Garvey started showing up at comedy open mics in a three-piece suit and an immaculate pompadour. The articulate jokes detailing sexual misidentity and mental disease (topics that are both hilarious in Garvey’s care) were pleasantly unexpected coming from such an elegant young man. He shortly thereafter became a regular fixture at weekly mics around town, part of a new boom of open mic comedy percolating in the city.
Although relatively new to stand-up comedy, Garvey dabbled in the world of improv as an undergrad at Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania. Moving to Buffalo in July 2013 for graduate school at the University at Buffalo, Garvey attempted to revisit that world after settling in, emailing then-head of UB Improv, Chris Salmin. Salmin quickly got Garvey set up with an emcee gig at a punk house, where Garvey got to crack wise in between punk and hardcore bands when he wasn’t partaking in the joys of the mosh pit for the first time in his adult life.
“I would be a very different person now if I hadn’t sent that random email,” Garvey said.
From there it wasn’t long until the world of stand-up opened wide for Garvey, and he’s been hooked since.
Garvey had taken a bit of a roundabout path to finally landing in Buffalo, having spent two years post-graduation living and working in northeast rural Japan, about an hour outside of Tokyo. From July 2010 to July 2012, Garvey taught English to elementary and junior high students. He was at his school when the Great East Japan earthquake (and resulting tsunamis) of March 2011 hit, becoming the costliest natural disaster in world history and claiming nearly 16,000 lives.
Although not physically affected by the disaster that ravaged the country, Garvey has been attempting to deal with the psychological and emotional issues it has caused, including dealing with the death of one of his exchange program peers.
“I’ve spent awhile trying to figure out, ‘What’s my takeaway?… What can I learn from this experience?’ People are fairly decent, is what I learned,” Garvey said.
Lately he’s been taking the time to tell the story at Buffalo’s late night Monday open mic at the Tudor Lounge. “Not only is storytelling really important, but I’ve never taken the time to tell it all before in detail, except for once with my parents over Skype.”
When reflecting on his experience living as a foreigner and how it’s informed the way he writes comedy and operates in general society, Garvey said: “Because of the language barrier, you don’t get to know people as well as you could… Once you get comfortable with your Japanese and speaking with people, the more you learn – reinforce – the fact that everyone’s an individual… It’s very easy to just assume someone is a bastard than to get to know them. To get by in Japan, you’ve got to get to know people. I’m all alone. What am I going to do?”
This realization carried over to comedy, allowing Garvey to step back from knee-jerk reactions to other people’s behavior and to remember that others come into situations already saddled with their own experiences and burdens.
“Other people are just as complicated and as complex as you are, and to deny that fundamental aspect of society is doing yourself a great disservice,” he said.
After returning to the States and entering grad school, Garvey decided to get a hold of something he had been grappling with but hadn’t properly grabbed. By his own admission, his clinical depression dates back several ex-girlfriends, who probably all could tell something was up when even he wasn’t aware.
“I had a conversation recently with one of my ex-girlfriends. I told her, ‘I am so sorry.’ I was probably clinically depressed since high school, but didn’t have enough life experience to realize what is normal, what is you, and what is unhealthy… What are you experiencing that other people aren’t? When you’re younger I think you’re trying to be normal. The older I get, the more in touch I am with the person I am,” he said.
Garvey finally started seeking help from the university’s clinical services, and has found much solace in Zoloft and regular therapy.
“I think that if I didn’t seek counseling and meds, I wouldn’t have made it to comedy, either, because of just how bad it was. Now I’m in touch with it and I see what it is,” he said.
Being able to delve into the world of comedy has been its own windfall of sorts for Garvey. “The reason I like comedy is because, everywhere else in society, being honest is something you can get punished over… People that respond to that, I know not only will they appreciate me as a comic, but will also probably appreciate me as a person,” he said.
Although a native of Westchester County in downstate NY, Garvey is sold on his new upstate hometown.
“I think because Buffalo is a very DIY city, you can really get into what you want to get into. It’s very come-as-you-are. There are not a lot of frills or pretense in Buffalo… It’s a really good place. I have found it very easy to find my tribe and I’m sticking around,” he said.
Catch BC Garvey performing hosting duties tonight at the Gypsy Parlor, 376 Grant St., showtime 9 p.m., no cover. Featuring Jameel Key, Rick Matthews, Sean Marciniak, Brian Netzel, Samantha Orrange, and Liam Patrick.