Owen to kick off Novafest

Ally Taylor

The funniest black comic in San Diego is a white guy named Gary Owen. Owen auditioned for the “Funniest Black Comedian in San Diego” contest through a local radio station and won. Everyone was shocked, but this victory earned him an audition on BET’s stand-up show, “Comic View.” He nailed that too.

Now, Owen has moved on to bigger and better things, like being cast as Mr. Broccoli in Eddie Murphy’s “Daddy Day Care,” and performing at the 2006 NovaFEST.

Owen performs at about 50 colleges a year as well as comedy clubs and special military shows. Most of his material comes from personal experiences.

“80 percent is true; 20 percent is exaggerated truth,” Owen said.

With jokes about growing up in a trailer park and being in the navy, his act is a promising addition to this year’s festivities.

Hosting talent shows in high school, comedy has always been a part of Owen’s life. Although labeled the “class clown” in high school, he joined the navy after graduation.

“I grew up in a trailer park in southern Ohio and I just wanted to get away,” he said, knowing that if he stayed at home he would end up at a local community college and never leave Cincinnati. Stationed in San Diego, Owen was able to get out of Ohio and see more of the country.

But he never lost his comedic personality. When he was in the Presidential Honor Guard, he got yelled at because he couldn’t stop smiling. In 1996 he decided to try out his skills on the stage, and gave up his military career to pursue one in stand-up comedy.

“There’s a difference between being funny with your boys and being funny with strangers,” Owen said with a laugh. “Everyone’s like, hey you should be a comedian. It’s not that easy!”

One thing that sets Owen apart from other comedians is that he can guarantee his material is original. He doesn’t watch other comedians perform.

“I don’t want to ever think the jokes I come up with are diluted versions of somebody else,” he said.

Some of the most rewarding shows he did were on naval ships in the Middle East after 9/11. He called his military friends asking if there was anything he could do, and ended up doing a series of shows on six ships to boost morale after the attacks.

At one point, an official told him he needed to leave in the middle of his act. Owen thought he was joking, but the ship needed to be evacuated in order to detain John Walker, the American Taliban sympathizer.

“Those were definitely some of my more memorable shows,” Owen said.

While most comedians would say the best part about performing is hearing people laugh, Owen prefers the “comfortable silence” of his audience when he pauses to take a drink or begin a new story.

“It’s like, whoah they’re really listening to me,” Owen said.

Owen looks forward to performing at Villanova and offers the following advice to college students aspiring to be successful in the “real world”:

“Don’t do stand-up,” Owen said. “I don’t need the competition. Any other profession is cool.”

For more information on and sound clips from Gary Owen, check out his website, www.garyowen.com or his myspace page, www.myspace.com/garyowen.