Downtown Cleveland writer Josh Womack knows from personal experience that Cleveland’s comedy scene is a unique world. In his latest book, “You Are Not That Funny: Stories from Cleveland Stand-Up,” Womack walks his readers through falling in and out of love with standup comedy.
“It’s a fly-on-the-wall perspective of someone who did stand-up [comedy] for a little bit,” Womack says, “what happens offstage, a peek behind the curtain.”
Womack describes “You Are Not That Funny” as an autobiography from the sliver of his life as a comic. This book is split into two parts with the first half exploring his time doing stand-up through conversations with his old comedian colleagues and other funny things that Womack experienced with local comics.
The second half of “You Are Not that funny” is focused on three specific comedy venues that played large roles in Womack’s comedy career: Bogey’s Comedy Club, Willoughby Brewing Company, and The Brother’s Lounge. Womack did this by talking with other comedians who performed at those venues—those who still live in the area as well as those who don’t—and patrons of the old establishments.
joshua_womck.JPGWomack says his favorite part of the book is a chapter sharing the stories his father told him growing up and how those stories inspired Womack’s own love for books and storytelling.
“I try to read 20 to 25 books a year,” Womack says. “My dad influenced me a lot. He was always reading and passed his books to me. It’s almost like our father-son love language—if we don’t know what to say to each other, we give each other books. I think we have the same thirst for knowledge.”
Womack’s father gave him books by Steven Pressfield, Austin Kleon, and Ryan Holiday; and he says he enjoys Kleon and Holiday for their brief writing styles.
In fact, Womack’s own writing leans toward brevity, with his background in copywriting. His first book “I’m not a copywriter, but… Lessons Learned from a Late Bloomer,” focusing on the different choices Womack made that led him to a career in copywriting, is only 118 pages. “You are not that funny” is its prequel, focusing on the years 2009 until 2013 when he was involved with stand-up comedy, and has 104 pages.
“Last year I wrote ‘I’m not a copywriter, but…’ and I could tell halfway through that book that I would probably write a book about my days doing stand-up,” Womack recalls. “A prequel of sorts just seemed inevitable. I wanted to capture that story as I thought it was worth telling and didn’t want to forget it.”
Womack started writing “You Are Not That Funny” about a month after his first book came out in June 2022 and it was almost completed by the end of that year. He says a few months were dedicated entirely to editing. The book is written in the first person and leans toward a memoir, and Womack says most people with a sense of humor will enjoy it.
“I would say if you’re a fan of stand-up [comedy], I think you’ll get something out of this book,” he says. “You don’t have to live in Cleveland or be a Cleveland comedy fan.”
You Are Not That Funny by Joshua WomackWomack grew up in Mayfield Heights and went to college at Bowling Green State University, where he majored in sports information/journalism. He now lives downtown and works as a copywriter for Progressive Insurance’s in-house ad agency in Mayfield Village.
He says his love of reading a good book sparked his passion for writing and he began his career as a journalist and blog writer. Despite being a twice-published author, Womack says penning a book is a tedious process.
“I’m an impatient person, but when it comes to writing a book I am prepared for the long haul,” he says. “When I start stringing together my books, I start small. The largest amount I have cranked out in one sitting is 800 words. I am a fan of chipping away.”
Womack says he hopes that “You are not that funny” inspires other Cleveland comedians to write about their own experiences in the stand-up scene.
“I would say that you do have a book in you,” says Womack to both his stand-up colleagues and anyone who is thinking about being an author. “Try to chip away at it, even if you only crank out 100 words one day and 250 the next. Don’t expect perfection.”
“You are not that funny” was officially available for online purchase only on sites such as Amazon and Barnes and Noble on July 3. Womack will do a book signing this Thursday, July 20 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Geraci’s Slice Shop in the 5th Street Arcades, 603 Prospect Ave.
Helena Kalantzis is a senior studying journalism at Ohio University. They chose to pursue journalism because of a lifelong passion for reading and writing. Kalantzis is a resident assistant for the LGBTQIA+ housing at OU, and loves knitting and crocheting—an activity that their partner-in-crime (my cat), Maxine, often tries to help with. Kalantzis appreciates, enjoys, and loves the arts immensely, having spent seven years in band, ten years in musical productions, and more than ten years in choir, and is an active member in the Picardy Thirds, an on-campus a capella group.