Leonard Ouzts knew from his young age he wanted to make people laugh. Now he’s living his dream.
Ouzts, 25, will perform Thursday, July 12, to Sunday, July 15, at Rick Bronson’s House of Comedy at High Street.
As an 18-year-old freshman at Virginia State University, Ouzts landed his first gig at a fraternity talent show, generating uproarious laughter from fellow students and faculty.
“I killed it, and I just knew that’s what I wanted to do for the rest of my life,” he says.
Ouzts’ act originally revolved around many stories from his past, like his multiple service jobs he had at places like IHOP in high school. His routine has since matured as he has. With a more self-awareness, Ouzts can make poignant points on current events, but can fall back on his facial expressions, which rarely fail to get a laugh.
“My act has grown like I’ve grown as a man,” he says. “New experiences and paying bills, it’s just overall growth as a person has changed my material.
“I just talk about whatever I think is the funniest at that time. It could be something that happened in middle school that I’m thinking about, or some sort of current issue that I feel like talking about.”
He grew up idolizing entertainers such as Tony Rock and Cedric the Entertainer and says their influence shows up in cadence or comedic rhythm. It takes care to not copy their jokes or premises, preferring to create his own act, while still honoring the greats before him.
And, like many of his idols, stand-up is not his only outlet for comedy.
Ouzts has appeared in several movies and TV shows in his short acting career, including an appearance on Neflix’s Master of None and a major role in Abby’s, a show in post-production that is set to premiere on NBC in 2019.
Moving forward, the young comedian hopes to continue to draw laughs anywhere.
“I always knew TV and movies were what I wanted to do, but until then I didn’t know that stand-up was going to be my avenue to get there, so that’s what I’ve used for exposure,” he says.
“You wake up one day trying to figure out how you’re going to eat, and then one day you’re waking up on a cruise ship filming a movie. There’s no way to put that into perspective.”
Leonard Ouzts, Rick Bronson’s House of Comedy, 5350 E. High Street, Phoenix, 480.420.3553, az.houseofcomedy.net, various times Thursday, July 12, to Sunday, July 15, $23-$58.40.