PORTLAND — Comedian Lucas O’Neil has already opened for some big names in the business, including Kevin Nealon, formerly of “Saturday Night Live.”
But this week O’Neil, a Bowdoin College and Waynflete alum and South Portland native, said one of his highest ambitions is to get a signed “Upta Camp” T-shirt from Bob Marley.
Marley, like O’Neil, is a Maine native. He has appeared with David Letterman, Conan O’Brien and on Comedy Central, and has headlined his own national comedy tours.
O’Neil recently returned to Waynflete on Portland’s West End, where he graduated 10 years ago. He was there to speak with students about following their dreams and aspirations.
Although he still has a day job, O’Neil hopes to one day to follow in Marley’s footsteps. He said the hardest part is simply breaking into the business, where there’s no clear formula for success.
Now based in Chicago, O’Neil is in the process of moving to New York City. He mostly performs in clubs and other live venues across the Midwest, he was also recently named an Up Next Comedian for 2018 by Comedy Central.
In addition to opening for comics like Nick Thune, Matt Braunger and Nealon, O’Neil has also been featured at various comedy festivals, such as the Limestone in Bloomington, Indiana, the Bridgetown in Portland, Oregon, and Laughstock in Woodstock, Illinois.
O’Neil first got into doing stand-up when he was a sophomore at Bowdoin College in Brunswick.
“I auditioned for the improv troupe (there) and then did stand-up for the first time during my junior year in the college pub in the student union. Following graduation, I began doing comedy around New England until I moved to Chicago in 2014 to pursue stand-up more completely,” he said.
“Coming back to Portland is a favorite pastime of mine,” O’Neil added. “If I can come back and also perform that’s even better.” His next local performance is scheduled for Dec. 27 at Lincolns on Market Street in the Old Port.
What he most enjoys about doing stand-up is “the challenge of it. I love the thrill of conveying an idea with an economy of words and movement. Also, stand-up is one of the few places for direct connection to the audience.”
“At its best,” O’Neil said, “stand-up is freeing, fleeting and exceptionally fun. (But), it’s also a profession that leaves little space for complacency or comfort.”
He describes his comedic style as “playful, witty and storytelling-y.” O’Neil said that “writing jokes and delivering them properly is simultaneously the easiest and hardest thing to do. When the jokes are good it seems effortless. Unfortunately, most jokes are not good.”
In speaking with students at Waynflete, O’Neil said he focused on the hard work that’s involved in following a dream and trying to make it happen.
“There’s a tendency to view a career in the arts as the pursuit of a dream,” he said, “and while that is often meant as a compliment, I fear that term strips the work out of it. It overlooks the intentional practice required to hone your craft.
“Additionally, dreams can sound far too lofty and detached from everyday life, so my talk focused on the value in trying.” All too often “(we) focus what we’ve achieved and what we earn, instead of on what we attempt and what we learn.”
Lucas O’Neil, a Waynflete alumnus and up-and-coming comedian, recently shared stories at West End school about the hard work and joy that goes into making people laugh. O’Neil has performed at various comedy festivals around the country, including Laughstock in Woodstock, Illinois.
Rising comedian Lucas O’Neil spoke to students at Waynflete school in Portland recently about following his dream and the hard work that goes into making it a reality.