When Phil Carter opened for Iliza Shlesinger in September, his “Pics or it didn’t happen!” punchline was met with laughs, but a collective groan filled the Russell House Ballroom. Apparently dead baby jokes are tough to sell.
“I was going for a dark joke,” Carter says. “If that whole crowd just laughed ... I would’ve felt sort of uncomfortable.” The same goes for a Jewish fraternity anecdote, the likes of which he says is “ignorant to be insulted by.” For Carter, it’s simple — when he’s telling a joke, he’s not being serious. “It’s literally a joke,” he says.
Not a stranger to the stage, Carter took second place at last year’s Student Comedy Competition and frequently performs at local venues. He describes himself best as “a loner with some funny thoughts.” He favors the atmosphere of gigs at small bars and comedy clubs, saying that he feels like “a nobody with a microphone — that’s real comedy.”
The third-year marketing and management student has come a long way from publicly plotting a senior prank on Twitter — his principal found out and spoiled his plans. "I'm actually glad she figured out about it because it forced me to be more creative and not do a typical senior prank," Carter says.
Carter hones his craft with writing sessions at Cool Beans and the Horseshoe. The nonsensical 4 a.m. scribbles that he has to “try to decipher when [he’s] up and fully functioning” also breed the substance of his sets.
Carter is not a sad clown, but, like any artist, his inspiration doesn’t always come from sunshine and good vibes.
“I like to think of life as a comedy. Deep down I know my life is a tragedy though, because I do stand-up,” he says.
Carter says he does it for those who share his insecurities and that he wants “to hit home for some lonely and paranoid people.” He plans to pursue a career in comedy and says that “’if worst comes to worst, [he’ll] be a Carnival cruise ship comic talking s--- about Royal Caribbean.”