ALTON — Andrew Long was born for the spotlight. Completely at home as the center of attention, he's performed in seemingly every dramatic production possible in his time at Prospect Mountain High School. Lately, though, his interest has veered from the dramatic to the comedic. He performed his first stand-up comedy show last year and knew immediately afterward that it wouldn't be his last.
Long's first foray into stand-up was a set for a group of familiar faces, the members of the Alton Senior Center, where he frequently volunteers. In December he roasted his bosses at Hannaford supermarket at a corporate event.
On Sunday, Long will perform a comedy act for his first general audience. "The Long Comedy Show" will take place from 3 to 4 p.m. at the Gilman Meeting Room, accessed from the rear parking lot of the Gilman Library. Admission is by donation and proceeds will benefit Easter Seals of New Hampshire.
Long, a 20 year-old with blaze-orange hair, was born in Montreal but has lived in Alton since he was a toddler. He's long been a fan of comedy — his favorites include Mel Brooks, Steve Martin, Leslie Nielsen, Seth MacFarlane, Trey Parker and Matt – but it wasn't until he connected with Bryan Stewart, an aide at Prospect Mountain High School, that he got the idea to start writing down some of his prodigious jokes.
Long, especially in his earlier years in high school, was a punster, so much so that he seemed at times to communicate exclusively in puns, said his father Peter. Stewart did some comedy writing in a previous career and encouraged Long to string enough jokes together for a short set. What resulted was a 15-minute routine he performed at the senior center. By the time the set was over, Long had a new favorite past time.
As soon as he finished his first set, he remembered thinking, "I really enjoyed that, it was kind of a rush. I have to do that again." With Stewart as a mentor, Long has compiled enough material to fill an hour with a short intermission.
The show on Sunday, said Long, will be PG-rated, though younger children may not get some of the punch lines. Much of the material will be based on Disney movies and culture. For example, Long said, "I was really confused the first time I saw Disney on Ice. There were all these ice dancers in costumes skating around — I wanted to see Walt Disney's head on ice!" he said, poking fun at the urban legend that the famed animator had himself cryonically frozen.
Asked if his goal is to become a professional comic, Long answered, "Definitely, absolutely definitely." His goal is to build his repertoire and reputation to the point where he can charge for admission to his shows. He also has a dream, to appear on Saturday Night Live. It's a lofty dream and one he admits is unlikely to come true. Long has spent his educational career under the auspices of special education. Stewart is not only his comedy mentor, he's also Long's one-on-one classroom aide becuase Long has a developmental disability diagnosed as a "Right Hemisphere Dysfunction" which is considered part of the autism spectrum.
His diagnosis hasn't slowed him down, though. Long is a seasoned Special Olympian, trampoline enthusiast, downhill skier and doting brother to younger sister Amanda. And, if he succeeds in appearing on Saturday Night Live, he'd be in good company. Famous SNLer, Blues Brother and Ghostbuster Dan Akroyd revealed in a 2004 interview with WHYY's Terry Gross that he has Asperger Syndrome, also on the Autism spectrum, as well as a mild form of Tourette Syndrome.
Whether he's performing in New York City or at Alton's Gilman Library, Long said he doesn't want to be known because of a dysfunction or syndrome; he wants to be known because of his jokes. "I like the attention, making people laugh and enjoy themselves."
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Andrew Long is launching his comedy career with a set on Sunday at the Gilman Library in Alton. (Courtesy photo)