FAIRFIELD — Fairfield resident and Vallejo native Derrick Ervin is growing into his comedian persona as DC Ervin.
Ervin has been working eight years in comedy but studying the craft almost his entire life.
Since his early childhood, Ervin watched a variety of comedians while sitting through comedy shows as his father David Ervin performed.
While the younger Ervin was too young to understand what they were joking about, he learned at an early age how to construct a joke.
“I knew how to construct my first joke before I told my first joke,” he said.
Using his father as a model, Ervin learned some key things about comedians by watching them through the years.
One tip he learned from his father was to keep his jokes as clean as possible to garner the most work. That doesn’t mean, however, Ervin won’t take risks with his material.
He also learned it’s important to stay true to your style, not try to emulate another comedian.
Simply watching comedians over the years, however, didn’t prepare Ervin for the ups and downs of a comedy career.
After finishing school at 22, Ervin told his family and friends he would try comedy for six months. If he didn’t make it after that, he’d settle down and get a “regular” job.
He made his stand-up debut at Pepperbelly’s in Fairfield with surprisingly good results, he said. From there his career took off, but not without challenges along the way.
“I’ve told bad jokes. All the time,” he said, laughing.
Through trial and error, Ervin learned what makes a joke succesful and what makes it sour. Part of a good joke is content, which can sometimes involve sensitive topics.
“If you don’t push the envelope, you’re not going to grow,” he said. “I don’t bash anyone . . . I want people to be comfortable, to be welcome.”
Ervin said he has found a lot of jokes from raising two 13-year-old daughters.
His daughter Avane Ervin is proud of her dad, though sometimes she wishes he’d leave her out of his jokes.
“Sometimes they’re funny, sometimes they’re too personal,” she said, laughing. “He’ll talk about our boyfriends and stuff.”
Content isn’t the only thing that makes for good comedy, he said.
When he was a child, comedians often solicited laughs on shock value alone, such as swearing and racy topics. Today, he said, comedians have to be smarter about their jokes and more clever about their delivery.
“Delivery . . . it’s about body movement, how eyes . . . widen, how your tone is,” he said. “Your act is like a song.”
Ervin lives in Los Angeles part of the year, where he performs Thursdays at The Comedy Store in Hollywood. Recently, he got back from a USO tour in Japan.
Ervin is making his big-screen debut in January in the Hollywood film “A Haunted House,” written and directed by Marlon Wayans, starring Ervin along with Cedric the Entertainer and Nick Swardson.
Wayans found Ervin during a stand-up performance. Wayans suggested he audition for a “project” he was working on. At the time, Ervin had no idea about the project. By the time he auditioned and was cast, however, he realized he was going to be in his first movie.
The transition from stand-up comedy to movie comedy was interesting, he said. He had more chances to deliver a joke on set, but lacked the instant gratification of a live audience.
Ervin isn’t crossing off movie acting as a career possibility, however.
In February, he’ll continue his USO tour in Portugal, Spain, Italy, Greece, Jordan and Lebanon. After that, he’ll make his Comedy Central debut.
With all the success in his past and potential for his future, Ervin maintains he’ll stay true to his comedy persona DC Ervin.
“I’ve stopped watching other comedians,” he said. “I’m going to stay with my own style.”
For a schedule of DC Ervin’s shows, visit www.dcervin.com or follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/DCErvin
Reach Heather Ah San at 427-6977 or [email protected] Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/HeatherMalia.