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Feature Act: Nickey Winkelman

Whether they be headliners in their own right, or just those setting new comedy standards in Columbus—from improv to stand-up to everything in between—(614) is covering the people handling the city with humor. This month: Nickey Winkelman, Shadowbox Bistro showrunner, who keeps reinventing what live comedy can mean to a hungry Columbus audience. Case in [...]
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Whether they be headliners in their own right, or just those setting new comedy standards in Columbus—from improv to stand-up to everything in between—(614) is covering the people handling the city with humor.

This month: Nickey Winkelman, Shadowbox Bistro showrunner, who keeps reinventing what live comedy can mean to a hungry Columbus audience. Case in point: this month, the mom to be will put herself and her unborn child on the hot seat, letting local audiences and comics take aim with a roast—which far as we can tell is the first time a fetus has gotten top billing at a local show. How could we not wanna know more?

What was little Nickey Winkelman like? How would you stereotype your middle school self? I’d characterize myself as an awkward middle schooler, but who wasn’t awkward in middle school? I certainly wasn’t in the popular clique. I wasn’t a cheerleader or an athlete or a brainy kid. I did art and theatre. I wasn’t pretty, and my family didn’t have enough money for me to wear all the trendy clothes, so I’d get picked on for being weird or poor. I had a nickname that some mean kids gave me: “Mustache Girl.” I think the nickname just about sums it up. But all of that continued to motivate me to try to make people laugh. I thought, if I can make people laugh, people will like me, and I’ll have friends.

Do you see your material changing as your child gets older? Yes and no. I’m sure the kid will end up providing me with material. I’m a comedian who draws inspiration mostly from my own life, and this is the biggest life change I’ve had. There’s no way I’m not going to write about it. However, I don’t think I’ll censor myself on stage just because I’m becoming a parent. My material has gotten less crass as I’ve gotten older, but that’s a choice I made for myself as I grew and changed as a performer, not a choice I made because I don’t want my kid to hear it one day. My mom has heard every joke I’ve ever told, and someday my kid will too (when he’s old enough).

Who needs to laugh more? Extremists. The extreme right and the extreme left. Relax. You’re not always correct, and that’s okay. Learn to laugh at yourself when you’re wrong.

Dating a comedian—do or don’t? This is going to sound like I’m avoiding the question, but it depends on the comedian. Comedians are usually complicated and emotional people. Some of us know how to handle being that way and some of us don’t. I think when choosing to a person to date (regardless of what they do in life) it’s about finding someone who has a good relationship with themselves and their own mental health. Personally, I’d much rather date someone who is emotional and complicated but knows how to handle it, than date someone who seems to have it all together but doesn’t know what to do when they feel sad. On the other hand, there are some comedians who use the stage as therapy and that’s dangerous. Get actual therapy. Ultimately, you’re up there for the audience, not for yourself. The stage is a great place to talk about hardships in life in order to reach people who can relate to the problems you’ve been through, but it’s not a place to try and work through your problems in real time. That gets messy.

Tell me about your first time on stage. Well, I’ve done theatre as long as I can remember, so I’m not sure what was my first time on stage. The first time I did stand-up on stage was in 2005 in Santa Barbara, California. I was attending UCSB and participated in an “open stage night.” An open mic night is usually all comedians, but this was all kinds of acts: poetry readings, singer-songwriters, monologues… I think there was a juggler.  I was the only comedian on the show, so people loved me. I thought I was God’s gift to comedy, but really the audience just needed a break from sad love songs played poorly on acoustic guitars, so they were willing to laugh at anything. I got a healthy dose of reality the first time I did a real open mic night at a comedy club.

What’s your favorite show you’ve ever put on at The Backstage Bistro? Time Machine. It’s a comedy show meets history show, and it is my passion project. I created and produce the show, but I collaborate with other comedians and performers who help write and add to it. Each show is themed around one year in history, and all of the performances (be it stand-up, sketch comedy, dance, songs, etc) are based on events or pop culture from that year. For example, in the 1999 show we had sketches spoofing The Matrix and Fight Club, and in the 1984 show, we re-enacted the 1984 WWF match between The Iron Sheik and Hulk Hogan. I got to play The Iron Sheik. That was a dream come true.

Who are your favorite Columbus acts? Hmm, it seems unfair to name fellow comedians without sounding like I’m just picking out my friends, so I’ll pick out some of my favorites who are great performers in other artistic fields: Jamz Dean is one of my favorite drag performers, Cherie Blondell is one of my favorite burlesque dancers, Erik Tait is one of my favorite magicians, and Gabriel Guyer is hands down my favorite singer and bass player. Okay, to be fair, I still just named a bunch of my friends and my baby’s father, but the endorsements are honest nonetheless.

What’s the best local comedy show you’ve ever been to, that wasn’t your own? “Hot Dog! A Comedy Show Slash Hot Dog Eating Contest.” This is a show produced by Dustin Meadows of Whiskey Bear Comedy, and it’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever seen (in a good way). I can’t really describe it—you just have to see it for yourself—but it is always a riot, and the best part is that it’s funny whether the comedian does well or not. It’s one of those shows that the first time I saw it I thought, damn, why didn’t I think of that. It’s a brilliant idea.

Do you have any recurring dreams? Lately, all my dreams are about peeing. Then I wake up and have to pee… about fifteen times a night. Thanks, pregnancy.

Who is one person you know that would be great at comedy? My unborn kid. Obviously.

The Roast of Baby Winks is scheduled for January 23 in the Shadowbox Bistro. For more, visit shadowboxlive.org.

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Arts Fest Preview: See BalletMet live outdoors!

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BalletMet’s Friday night’s headline performance at 8:30 p.m. at the Arts Festival is sure to be a highlight of weekend. One of the nation’s top 20 largest professional companies, BalletMet consists of dancers hailing from across the nation and the world and boasts a premiere academy for aspiring professional dancers, one that’s been recognized as an institution of local and national stature.

Since 1978, BalletMet has brought incredible dance to theaters in Central Ohio and beyond and their commitment to bringing dance to the Columbus community, especially in underserved areas, is unparalleled.

Art of War Photo by Jen Zmuda

From in-school programs to theater field trips, scholarships and free performances, the company is dedicated to making dance accessible to all. More than 10,000 children attend the company’s Morning at the Ballet field trip performances each year. And thanks to a grant from PNC Arts Alive, BalletMet’s second company, BalletMet 2, has performed at free events at the King Arts Complex, Franklin Park Conservatory and more, throughout the 2018-19 season.

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In addition to the free performance at the Arts Festival BalletMet will perform at Dance on Dakota on Friday, May 10, from 5 to 8 p.m. in Franklinton. This performance is also free.

Dance on Dakota, co-hosted by Franklinton Arts District, is part of a weekend-long block party in Franklinton and features free food and drink and a collaborative performance with TRANSIT ARTS. The event will take place at Dakota Ave. and Town St.

Dancers Grace Anne Powers and William Newton Photo by Jen Zmuda

BalletMet’s Columbus Arts Festival performance will include a mixed repertoire of shorter pieces from its past productions and will be preceded by music from DJ Donnie M. of Damn Girl.

And if these performances capture your interest, the company recently announced its 2019-20 season, which includes ALICE, based on the later stories of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland author Lewis Carroll, Twisted 3, a collaboration with the Columbus Symphony and Opera Columbus, and, of course, The Nutcracker.

More info at www.balletmet.org. For all your Arts Festival details visit www.colubmusartsfestival.org

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Arts Fest Preview: You wood hate to miss local crafter

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Woodworker and Art Makes Columbus featured artist Devon Palmer has been working with his hands since his upbringing in northeast Indiana. His mother a wood carver and his father a carpenter and cabinet maker, Palmer took a more mechanical route by obtaining his pilot’s license and attending Purdue University to pursue a career as an airplane mechanic.

But as his career transitioned from maintenance to the tech field, he yearned to work with his hands again. Originally he considered pottery, before a class he planned to attend got canceled. But a trip home the weekend before Thanksgiving led to his father introducing him to woodturning.

That was more than 15 years ago. And though he is largely self-taught, Palmer also credits local woodturners from the Central Ohio Woodturners (a chapter of the American Association of Woodturners) for taking him under their wing. In 2005, he opened his first studio just north of Downtown, and in 2007 he began teaching woodturning at Woodcraft Columbus.

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Today, Palmer does a bit of mentoring of his own. He teaches classes in blade and bowl turning, resin cast pen turning and more advanced projects like hollow vessel turning in his studio at the Idea Foundry. He is also adding a series of LGBTQ date night pen turning classes to his growing schedule of classes, shows and demonstrations.

Palmer says his work represents “family and connectedness” with work ranging from salad bowls and laser engraved pens to funerary urns and ornaments. The details in his hand-crafted tableware and home goods manage to invoke a warm sense of community, fellowship, and hospitality.

Devon Palmer works in internet technology and is also a pianist and ordained minister.

Make your own wood turned pen with Devon Palmer at the Columbus Arts Festival, June 7-9, at the Big Local Art Village located at the Festival’s Franklinton entrance. Learn more about Devon at www.columbusmakesart.com/stories/devon-palmer and get all your Arts Festival details at www.columbusartsfestival.org

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Arts Festival Preview: Dr. E uses voice to overcome adversity

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Dr. E, singer-songwriter and author Cleveland-born singer-songwriter Dr. Elaine Richardson — known by her stage name Dr. E — has used her voice to detail the incredible circumstances she encountered while overcoming great adversity. Born to a musician father and Jamaican immigrant mother, Dr. E begun tapping into her talent while singing in church, her school’s choir, and in girl groups.

Dr. E continued to sing despite the difficult path she faced. As a teen, she became a sex trafficking victim and fell into addiction. In her recovery, she pursued higher education at Cleveland State University and Michigan State University. During this time Dr. E also began performing as the frontwoman for a number of cover bands and placing her original music on various TV shows. She recorded her first album, “Elevated,” in 2010.

Dr. E’s introspective song lyrics reflect the often difficult process of healing while defending those who share her experiences or face exploitation and discrimination in other ways.

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On her sophomore album, 2017’s “Songs for the Struggle,” she gives a soulful retelling of her journey from sex trafficking survivor to university professor, Ph.D., author and advocate. Blending elements of soul, rock, funk, rhythm and blues, and jazz, Dr. E sings with an astonishing amount of hope and positivity; Though the album details the trauma and exploitation experienced by Dr. E during her teen years, her power message ultimately expresses affirmations of self-love and acceptance employed with an equally powerful and joyous voice.

Dr. E is currently a professor of literacy studies in the College of Education at The Ohio State University. She has written a number of books on African American literature as well as a memoir, “PHD to Ph.D.: How Education Saved My Life.”

See Dr. E. perform at the Columbus Arts Festival, Saturday, June 8 from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. on the Big Local Stage on Rich St.

For hours, artist listing and all Festival information go to www.columbusartsfestival.org

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