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Laughing at life: Comedian Jesse Barben aims to ‘find out what’s universal’

Life is a joke for comedian Jesse Barben.

He finds the humor in life-changing experiences rather than wallow in self-pity.

“I was kind of looking for a theme when I was trying to think of how to tie it all together,” Barben said. “That seemed to be the theme is kind of growing up, becoming an adult and becoming a parent, and then a lot of what I talk about is mistakes I’ve made in all of those, like picking the wrong major and being bad at parenting and things like that, so it’s kind of painful, but I like to try and laugh about things like that.”

Barben will headline a show, featuring several other Albuquerque comedians, on Feb. 16 at Rio Bravo Brewing Co. Barben looks for common ground with audiences when it comes to comedy.

“What I was trying to do is find out what’s universal, so the part about picking the wrong major, having to struggle or go back to school, things like that,” he said. “The first time I told that joke, I got a lot of laughs, and I think there’s a lot of people who have had that happen to them. So I guess the humor comes from it being universal.”

Previously a social worker, Barben has returned to school to become an accountant. Comedy is a hobby for Barben, who has been doing stand-up for about a decade.

“My parents would listen to stand-up comedy records like Bill Cosby and Steve Martin, and they would laugh really hard at that, which was surprising to me, because they were kind of just like real stoic, middle-class people,” he said. “I guess it made me curious about comedy.”

Barben started doing stand-up in college in a little town in Idaho. The town did not have open mics, so he “crashed” poetry slams to try out jokes.

“They hated me at the poetry slams, I think,” he said. “Anyway, they finally had a show at my school, and I went in and did it, and it went really well. That was my first experience, and then I’ve just done it as I’ve had time.”

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