with Tony Clements
What is your job and how long have you been with the UI?
I'm the director of the Division of Campus Recreation. I started working here as a student in 1966 as a basketball official, went into graduate school and had an assistantship here. I finished in June of 1972 and started work in September that year as an assistant director of co-rec intramural.
What do you do as director of DCR?
The interesting thing about the job description is that I'm responsible for everything. But really, I delegate and most of my day is spent overseeing the operation, dealing with the clientele, community leaders, campus leaders, generating ideas [for programming] with the staff. I keep one eye on the budget and one eye on revenue services to support the budget.
You are also known for doing comedy in your off hours. How did this come about?
I started in a public sense in 1982 when there was a competition for the funniest man in Champaign County. I watched the first round and thought, "I could do that." A month later I won the championship.
When and where do you perform?
Over the last couple of years I have been doing humorous after-dinner speaking, workshops on humor in the workplace and workshops on strategic planning. I do an annual show [Clements Comedy Cafe held Feb. 21 and 22 this year] that's not a fundraiser or anything, but we do it because there isn't anything like it in the area. This is a dinner event, and we envision it as a Las Vegas-style show. We've made it bigger every year with a band, singer and an escape artist. It's a two-hour show. We figure in February or March, people need a laugh. I also do radio work on Oldies 92. It started out as a football show on Saturdays called "Rags to Riches," but now I also do the basketball season and triple crown racing -- as if I would know anything about all these things. But I don't think people pay attention to what I pick, or they shouldn't, anyway. Doing that show has taken me to England, Scotland and Wales to do shows there as part of the broadcast. I've been able to try out my humor in Great Britain. It goes over OK, but I think that there is a surprising language barrier. We all speak English, but it's not the same.
Where do you get the material for your comedy?
Comedians take what everybody else sees, and depending on their style, say what others wouldn't say, or embellish it. Humor is about real things that people can relate to -- going to school, dealing with your father or your aunt. Today it's a real challenge with the Internet. Jokes are sent across all the time so it's harder to come up with something unique. A successful routine is 50 percent comedian and 50 percent audience. It's highly dependent on the relationship between the audience and the comedian.
Comedy sounds like fun work. Is it?
It is work. Much of it is developing and practicing the skills. A good portion of what a comedian does is planned, but a comedian is also good at improvising by having material prepared to use if it is needed. Someone once told me that in order to do 30 minutes of comedy, you have to have 2 1/2 hours of material, and you can move around within that. Comedy is a tough business and it's a tough job. I have a regular job so I don't feel as compelled. I can work at a pace that I feel is comfortable and do it enough to keep my skills honed. I don't work a lot because it doesn't seem appropriate for the director of DCR to be in bars doing comedy. I've been very fortunate in that I've worked with Stevie Wonder, Sinbad and Aretha Franklin. I was the opening act for Ray Charles at Assembly Hall. It's another experience.
Did you have any training or classes before you started doing comedy?
No. I just lived in a house where my father was funny, my mother was funny, my sister was funny. The most important thing was they were supportive of humor. It wasn't joke telling, it was story telling. I'd tell my father stories, particularly when I got older, and he'd be crying he was laughing so hard. They would encourage me when I came home. I think this community really allows me to do these [comedy and humor] things. I'm comfortable here and I'm glad I have a job that is flexible. And I like to see how creative I can be. My idea of a good show is when people laugh and at the end they say, "Where does he come up with that stuff?"