When UC Davis evolution, ecology and behavior Ph.D. Tim Lee first started doing stand-up comedy five years ago, it was painful – audiences are not generally patient with a bad comic and he was no exception, he said. Nonetheless, he wasn’t going to let that discourage him forever.
“I kept track of my improvement in a journal, very analytically, kind of like a scientist would,” Lee said. “I would make note of when people laughed and when they wouldn’t and eventually I just kept getting better. Like anything else, I had to work at it.”
Lee will be headlining at the Sacramento Punch Line tonight at 8:30 p.m. with his routine titled “Off the Charts.” After his undergraduate studies at UC San Diego, majoring in ecology, behavior and evolution, he came to Davis in 1996.
He had always been a “science person,” he said, and was never interested in theater or performing arts during childhood or college.
“My sister always wanted to be an actress, but I was never into that, and I never thought I’d be a performer,” Lee said. “Comedians, though, always seemed like they really had to be smart, unlike other entertainers. So that did intrigue me.”
Nor had he ever had a particularly boisterous, “comedic” personality.
“I’m not one of those attention seekers by nature. I’m funny with my friends and family, but I’m generally kind of quiet with people I don’t know,” Lee said.
Lee became interested in comedy after reading a few books on the subject while on vacation in Australia. He said that he realized how hard it is to write a good joke after trying to write some on his own.
“It’s easy to write a bunch of crappy jokes,” Lee said. “I came back home to San Francisco with no background at all in comedy except what few jokes I had written. So I decided to try them out on stage.”
Instead of abandoning all the years of academia he had under his belt, he decided to blend his first love – science – into his comedy routines.
“I talk about things like exponential decay and probability and then relate it to everyday life,” he said. “It’s the kind of humor where you have to think a little bit for it to be funny, which I think a lot of people appreciate.”
Paco Romane, a fellow comedian who will be hosting tonight’s show at the Punch Line, said that he first saw Lee on stage about two years ago when Lee was headlining at his monthly show, “The Romane Event.”
“It was the first time I heard a comedy show where I actually left feeling smarter,” Romane said.
“He brings in a large demographic,” he added. “He is smart and handsome, thought provoking, does martial arts – he’s kind of like Bruce Wayne but with a sense of humor.”
Joe Tobin, another comedian that will be featured at “Off the Charts,” said that despite the seemingly serious subject matter, Lee’s humor is accessible to almost anyone.
“You don’t have to be a scientist to appreciate the stuff that he jokes about,” Tobin said. ” He uses Power Points and presents his routine like a lecture, which I think is what makes it even funnier.”
“Off the Charts” takes place tonight at 8:30 at the Punch Line at 2100 Arden Way in Sacramento. Tickets are $15. For more information go to comedyoftimlee.com or call the Punch Line at 916-925-5500.
SONIA PARECADAN can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org.