When Todd Yohn looks back at his 31 years as a stand-up comic, memories of performing at famed comedy club Goodnight’s rush forth from his memory bank.
“That’s because I started there in 1981,” Yohn says, calling from his Winston-Salem home. “I remember making $400 a month there as MC, which was pretty good money back then. It was an awesome time. It was Charlie Goodnight’s back then and it was one of the three top comedy nightclubs in the country. I would work from Tuesday through Sunday. It was an incredible time since it was fun, a learning experience and that’s where it all began for me.”
Yohn, 56, who will perform Friday and Saturday at Goodnight’s, has enjoyed a steady career. He has appeared on HBO, Comedy Central and Showtime.
The charismatic father of three adult children delivers stand-up, music and improv. Some of the most fun Yohn has is making up songs on the spot.
“It’s so liberating doing that,” he says. “I can take someone’s name, where they’re from and what they do and I can come up with a song about them hating their job on the spot. Last week in Ohio, I wrote a song on the spot about a Riverfest they never had there. It’s fun to just make that stuff up and run with something offbeat.”
Yohn understands that the most uproarious laughter typically is triggered by comedy made up out of the ether.
“There is nothing more correct than that fact,” he says. “A lot of young guys have no idea that the crowd erupts when something happens in the moment. They’re so caught up in what brilliant bit they came up with. But in the moment is when I’m most excited as a performer. I love just coming up with that funny bit as the show is progressing. That always trumps the clever prepared material.”
Yohn is loose, goofy and unpredictable. “I like being the way I am. I’m not political. I know we have a big presidential election but I’m not going to talk about that. I’ll leave that to Dennis Miller and those guys. What I’m about is just taking you away from all of the crazy things that are going on in the world. I want the audience to forget about everything and just have a few deep belly laughs.”
His trade was honed by working Goodnights a generation ago but that seems so long ago to Yohn that it may as well have been the Paleolithic era.
“It’s crazy how much has changed since then,” he says. “When I step into Goodnight’s, I’ll think about how the Triangle embraced all kinds of humorists back in the day. They loved the observational, those who did the monologs, those who were physical comics. I fit in there somewhere and the cool thing is that I’m still grinding it out and loving what I do.”