Special Photo ---- Atlanta comedian Jamie Ward will open for Michael Winslow on June 28 and 29.
As a child growing up on Air Force bases throughout the country, Michael Winslow said he led a fairly solitary life and played with make-believe friends. He also paid close attention to the sounds that filled his environment. Though the drone of plane engines vibrated through his home, other auditory stimuli also caught his attention.
"At different weird hours of the night, I could hear everything from prairie dogs to mosquitoes," Winslow said.
Meanwhile, he also found television a solid source of entertainment. Rich Little, the Smothers Brothers, "Johnny Quest," "Josie and the Pussycats" and "The Sonny and Cher Show," to name a few, found their way into his psyche.
"I really watched all of it and absorbed it," Winslow said.
At age 19, Winslow hitchhiked to California and secured a spot on "The Gong Show." His 1978 performance of sound effects (which included a Jimi Hendrix guitar solo) garnered him the top prize of just more than $500 and he bought a car, that he both drove and slept in.
Winslow's next break came a few years later when he opened for the Count Basie Orchestra, his act being "weird jazz fusion noises," he said. The producers of the "Police Academy" movie, devoted jazz fans, happened to be in the audience, heard Winslow and decided to write him into the movie. Winslow's been making a career out of his ability to produce realistic sound effects ever since, and is known as the Man of 10,000 Sound Effects. He is due to be in the eighth "Police Academy" movie next year.
Winslow will make a visit to the east metro area on June 28 for two stand-up comedy shows, at 7 and 9 p.m., and for a show on June 29 at 7 p.m. (show starts at 8 p.m.). All performances are at Club 908 in Olde Town Conyers. Tickets for the show may be purchased through www.peachpitcomedy.com or www.comedyandcocktails.net.
Winslow said he takes the "kitchen sink approach" with his show, and includes material ranging from impersonations of Carol Burnett and Flip Wilson, to Louis Armstrong and Led Zeppelin.
"I put a couple of surprises in there. My job is to let people forget about the rent for an hour," said Winslow from his Florida home.
Winslow said he's been performing more than 200 shows a year, but plans to scale back and devote more time to making sound effects for video games and cell phone apps.
He's also particularly excited about a new project in which he reads classic children's stories (complete with sound effects) to a live audience. The readings will be televised. Winslow said Bill Cosby called him and provided him with the idea.
"He told me, 'Sound can educate,'" said Winslow.
Opening for Winslow for the June 28 performances is Atlanta comedian Jamie Ward. A former ballroom dancer who also holds a degree in film and television from Boston University, Ward said he's performed stand-up comedy for four years, professionally for the last year and half, in locations including Las Vegas, New York, Michigan, Ohio and up and down the East Coast.
The 29-year-old said his parents limited his television viewing as a child but that he did listen to the "Tonight Show with Jay Leno" on a shortwave radio, laying the groundwork for his interest in comedy.
Ward said his material draws on his family life and job experiences, as well as his time serving in Afghanistan through the Army National Guard.
He gives a portion of his comedy gig earnings to charitable organizations, and is now supplementing his income by working at a yogurt stand. Still, Ward said a lucrative career in comedy would be welcomed.
"I wouldn't mind being rich or famous," he quipped.