The stage presence of Drew Frees is nothing if not commanding. With a loud and ecstatic brand of gut-reaction comedy, the Indiana native came to Chicago with nothing more than a goal to make people laugh. After some time practicing sketch and improv, Frees landed himself behind the mic doing stand-up. The comic took some time between gigs to sit down with Epitonic and talk about how those “truths inside your head,” come out on stage.
What inspired you to jump into comedy?
I’ve always loved sketch comedy. I always loved watching SNL as a kid. I came here to do sketch and improv. In 2007 I was doing stuff with a sketch group and it was going great, but then it kind of broke up. Life moves on, we started other stuff. And I thought it would be a lot easier to do stand-up, because then I could do it on my own terms. I wasn’t a huge stand-up fan or anything. I just did it because it felt like it was a lot easier than meeting with other people.
I’m originally from right around Indianapolis. A town called Crawfordsville.
I moved up here in 2003. I just wanted to do something in comedy. People recommended Improv Olympics, so I just started taking classes there. I was on a team there for four years, and then people recommended Annoyance. Annoyance was awesome. I just kind of went off on my own and started meeting a lot of stand-ups. I didn’t really have a game plan, I just knew I wanted to go into comedy.
It’s commonly said that comedy is based on truth. How much does that resonate with your style?
Quite a bit. It’s kind of one of those truths you have inside your head. You think those thoughts.
That moment where you bite your tongue, that’s usually where my standup comes from. I bite my tongue in those moments; I don’t act like that, but then I take it to stage. That’s how I approach it. So when I perform, I get to do all of the things that I thought in a moment, but either wasn’t brave enough to say, or it just wasn’t appropriate.
In addition to Deep Freeze Festival, any big plans for 2014?
I just want to keep doing comedy in Chicago as much as I can. So anytime people give me an opportunity to perform, I’m just going to do the best I can and have fun with it. I’m really excited about this festival. It’s going to be a blast. I listened to a couple of the bands, they’re really good and there’s a lot of great comics that are going to be there.
How would you describe your style of humor?
It goes back again to that moment in your head. I think we all have it. Whether you’re angry or excited, I usually try to keep it in when I’m amongst people. You know, don’t start screaming and yelling, but when you get onstage you can do whatever you want to. It’s like a freedom. I just act really goofy and have fun with it.
What was your first stand-up performance like?
I was so nervous, I didn’t really know what to do. I didn’t have anything written down, so I just got really hammered, as most people do before their first stand-up. I just got so drunk and I just went up and I started yelling about things. I don’t even think they were coherent, but people laughed and I won a twenty-five dollar gift certificate. I was like, “this is pretty great, I think I want to do stand-up. You get free food!”
Biggest comedy influences?
I’ve always loved Will Ferrell. I don’t really try to be like him. I think he’s great though. I always loved Chevy Chase when I was a kid. I loved all of the National Lampoon Vacations. It always kind of reminded me of my dad. He’s really goofy, and he caught the neighbor’s house on fire one time. He was always kind of this “Clark W. Griswald.” I always just loved that kind of character.