By Felicia Naoum
It’s always exciting for a hometown girl to hear about a fellow hometown mate. Pete George, also known as “The Rockstar of Comedy” – a name fans gave him – is from Parma, Ohio and attended the local Valley Forge High School. We already have two things in common. I digress.
Although he made it big, and far past his flamingo-loving hometown in the burbs – he still appreciates his life in a way that a Midwest man might before taking center stage. It’s almost as though he cares about others more than any bright-lit stage he graces.
One of his favorite things about the big city of Cleveland- that leads his hometown is the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In fact, music was George’s first love, and he says it was his 80s rock band that pushed the petition that established the Rock Hall in Cleveland. Not to mention, the 80s are gone, but he’s still rockin’…in a funny kind of way actually.
Music, film and stand-up are all on his resume. But the biggest highlight on the list – contribution. We’ll get to that in a second.
See, after growing up in Parma, George switched suburbs and eventually landed in Northfield – where he lived only a block from the horse track that is now the Rocksino. He will perform stand-up there (in Club Velvet) July 14 and 15. Talk about coming full-circle. His standup show will be unique. How so? As George put it: how many comedians have you seen onstage with an electric guitar? Think of it as a funny jam session. He’s combining his love of music and comedy for your viewing pleasure, hence “The Rockstar of Comedy.” You’re getting a two-for-one here, folks.
George asked me, “What do people love the most in entertainment? It’s laughing, and it’s music,” he answered. “When you put the two together, it raises the bar.”
Speaking of raising bars, George has certainly raised a few of his own. He says he’s done about 8,000 shows and used his fear early on to get to where he is today. That fear met the stage at the Cleveland Comedy Club back in the day. At the time, his only motivating factor to take the stage was the $50 grand prize – that he won three times. “I was terrified,” said George. But three fearless wins later and here we are. “I basically started getting work after that.”
A lot of work I might add. Work that included his first movie role in the classic Shawshank Redemption that he worked on for six weeks, acting in 30 scenes as what he calls a “glamorized extra.” You can find out details about his experience in the film in the book, The Shawshank Experience by Maura Grady and Magistrale where his interview takes up the last page.
Shawshank, other films and thousands of standup shows later are a testament to George’s belief in chasing your dream regardless of what it is. “I always think that people really have to go for their dreams. I mean you just have to, no matter what it is. Some people have a dream to be an accountant, and that’s perfect, and that’s what you got to go for. And some people have a dream to be in film and you got to go for it.”
Because to George, when you pursue your dream, regardless of what that dream is, you’re making a difference for someone…not just yourself.
“You have to understand that you being a film actor will actually make a difference for some viewers that are watching you,” added George.
When George hits the stage – the place where his dreams come alive and he hopes to make a difference – he’s more excited than he is nervous. He calls it “an intense excitement.” And his goal, through humor, is not to be mean, but just reflect who he is.
“My funny is not mean-spirited; it’s really a mixture of who I am as a person rather than being completely clean or completely dirty.”
As for pushing the envelope as a comedian, you’ll have to see the show. But according to George, he feels like a blunt comedian is nothing new. “I think comedians are doing what they’ve always done.” When comedians have to back down, George said the originality is lost, and the laughs are lost. Plus, this comedian refuses to change for anyone. Comics who are expected to ‘be more careful’ is not an act George signed up for. “In order for me to feel better about myself, you have to change…that’s kind of neurotic,” claimed George.
He doesn’t change for anyone, and he isn’t afraid of stigma or honesty either. George talked openly about being labeled as having a learning disability during his high school years. But that label, or diagnosis that remains nameless to him, might have shaped who he is in helping others.
When I asked him if his learning disability diagnosis pushed him to succeed in life, he said, “It may have…when you’re labeled with that, whether you actually have it or not, context is decisive. There may have been an element of some sort of validation initially but that pretty much has turned into contribution, and now it allows me to contribute to people and make a difference.”
Further, George said, “Whatever it is you live into, that experience, that is what will show up into your life.”
In the meantime, you can show up at the Hard Rock Rocksino Northfield Park’s Club Velvet to catch this hometown performer July 14 and 15.
His positive vibe might be contagious; you know, if you need a pick-me-up.
He’s all about enjoying life, shattering dreams and helping others.
“I mean that’s why we’re here right?” he said on those three reasons.
And, the biggest one to George is contribution. Told you.
If you can’t catch George at the Rocksino, be on the lookout for his episode on the soon-to-be-released Warner Brothers series by Stage13, The Incredible Life of Darrell.