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Burb's Eye View: Standing up to future in stand-up comedy

October 30, 2013|By Bryan Mahoney | By Bryan Mahoney

The influences in young Andrew Duvall's life carried many names, each more powerful than the last.

Uhura. Sulu. McCoy. Spock. Kirk. Great-grandmother.

Starting at about age 6, Duvall would visit his great-grandmother in a town just outside Toronto, where the two would take in the latest rerun of "Star Trek." He didn't know it then, but the show would spark a lifelong love of sci-fi that would eventually lead him to Burbank and national TV.

First, he had to get through school, a slog made more arduous by a compelling lack of interest in school subjects. Comedy, however, was something he could get behind.

By high school, he moved to Georgia, where a bar would host lunchtime open-mic events. Every day, the 17-year-old kid from Canada skipped class to try out material on lunch-break locals. At 17, he didn't have a whole lot of life experience, so his set mainly consisted of other comedians' jokes and riffs on "Star Trek" episodes.

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"I did it for two or three months and wasn't getting laughs," he said. "If it wasn't for my mom, I wouldn't have kept with it."

With his grades falling, Duvall was given an ultimatum by his mother: Get through high school and she'd help him pursue his comedy dream.

At first that meant living rent-free as he stockpiled cash from a job at Avis. A friend in the big city, Tallahassee, offered Duvall a similar arrangement while he crafted his set at a comedy club downtown. His original material — Seinfeld-esque musings on libraries, sci-fi and fantasy, and observations on the world — started to get a reaction.

"They weren't laughing at me so much as laughing at what I was saying," he said.

In 2011, he had saved enough to start a career in screenwriting and comedy. He moved to Van Nuys until some friends from Florida invited him to stay at their house in Burbank. He's played at several local comedy clubs, including sets at Burbank's own Flappers.

During one of his stand-up shows a producer for the Syfy network caught his act. They cast him for "Fangasm," a reality series shot earlier this summer. It follows seven ubergeek interns living in a house and working for comic book legend Stan Lee's Comikaze Expo, which will be held this weekend at the L.A. Convention Center.

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