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Hear the phrase “up-andcoming comic” and you’re likely to picture someone in their mid-to-late 20s. Tell that to Frank Wippel, who at 68 has been bringing fresh comedic talent to the Greater Lansing Area since May. “I’m kind of new to it, but I’ve done a lot of acting in the past,” Wippel said. Even though he wasn’t a professional comic earlier in life, Wippel said his former career as an educator included comedy at every turn. “I taught dramatics in middle school, and then I became an elementary principal and then a superintendent, then a professor at Western,” Wippel said. “My background is in education, but I’ve always used humor in all of those positions. In giving speeches and services and all of that.”
Since Wippel’s jump into the local comedy scene, he has headlined at a variety of local venues and even toured across Michigan. “I told jokes for a long time, and I just now am beginning to write my own material. I’ve had a lot of fun doing that,” Wippel said. “I opened on Memorial Day Weekend in Coral Gables in Saugatuck. And I did Grand Rapids and vibrant birthday parties and barbecue parties; so, I’m just getting my name around.” And Wippel’s name is sticking. But it wasn’t until a year and a half ago that he even considered giving stand up a go.
“My Parkinson’s was so bad that I couldn’t go out to eat because my hands had tremors, I’d drop stuff and I wouldn’t go to a bar,” Wippel said. “I had to have people help me out of a chair. I made a rebound back from that.” Wippel attributes his success to a rigorous therapy regimen at Sparrow Hospital that gave him the strength to perform. “At that time, my vocal chords were being affected,” Wippel said. “I regained my voice, I regained my strength and I thought, ‘Wow, I might as well have fun, I’m not going to die next year.’” Now, Wippel has a monthly gig at local Lansing pub Front 43. Thursday, Wippel will perform with two other comedians, Bigg Dooley and Mike Ball.
Wippel describes his comedic style as “a good mixture” of one-liners and stories. He said he tries to avoid excessively crude jokes, however. “A lot of comedians — and I’ve been to the standup shows — they all use the f-bomb all the time in every story or joke they tell, and I don’t think that’s necessary. It’s possible to tell a dirty joke without using the f-bomb,” Wippel said. “You know what an Amish woman’s fantasy is? Two Mennonites.”
He includes props and stories about his own life, too. “This is true. My son and my daughter-in-law, they lived in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, they both graduated from Michigan State,” Wippel said. “She’s a veterinarian and a taxidermist, so either way you get your dog back. I have a dog that I carry in this case and at the same time I tell the joke, I pull it out.”
"Front 43 Comedy Night"
Thursday, Sept. 21 FREE 8 p.m. 3415 E. Saginaw St., Lansing facebook.com/ Front43Pub/