Sitting in his dorm room, dressed in flip-flops, athletic shorts and a fraternity T-shirt, Scott Cooper looks like any ordinary college kid. But this 20-year-old University of Miami sophomore is much more than that.
A budding stand-up comedian, Cooper is currently preparing for his fourth show at the Miami Improv April 16, and is also preparing for much more than that in the world of comedy. Something that Cooper began doing as a joke in middle school has now become his ultimate career objective.
“I did my first show in our eighth grade talent show, and it went as well as an eighth grade comedy show could go,” said Cooper, who grew up in New Richmond, Ohio, a suburb of Cincinnati. He spent his high school years performing around his community, and decided to take his act with him to Miami, where he currently performs about once a month.
His three previous Improv sets – which ranged between five and 10 minutes apiece – all drew significant laughs from the crowd, and he won a contest after his second show, in November.
Cooper considers winning that contest, which was accompanied by a sizeable monetary gain, to be the highlight of his career. His friends and fellow comedians agree that Scott’s talent warrants all of his accolades.
“I’ve enjoyed every single time I’ve seen him,” said Jose Campos, a senior and one of Cooper’s brothers in Sigma Phi Epsilon. “I haven’t missed a show yet.”
Along with his college-aged peers that have come to watch him perform, Cooper has also been fortunate enough to draw the attention of Ronnie Khalil, a UM alum who is now doing stand-up in both Miami and Los Angeles and is part of the Miami Comics group. Khalil is quick to praise Cooper’s appearance on stage, and clearly sees a comedic future for him.
“We met at the Improv on one of his open mic shows and I thought he was funny for someone just starting out,” said Khalil. “His writing is great. He has unique premises.”
Unlike most of the comedians he has watched – and as a sport administration major, he admittedly has a good chunk of time on his hands to watch them – Cooper prefers not to make fun of audience members, and instead centers jokes around his own flaws.
When asked if he could describe his style, he said that it would be “Self-degrading with awkward musings about life,” adding, “I don’t like to make fun of people in the crowd. I prefer to make fun of myself.”
Like any other performer, Cooper definitely has influences that shape his comedy. Such influences include popular stand-up comics Jim Gaffigan, Mike Birbiglia and Daniel Tosh. However, Scott is influenced much less by people he sees than experiences he lives.
“My biggest influence would be life,” he said, and since almost all of his jokes are rooted in personal narratives or those of his close friends, that assessment appears very plausible.
However, Cooper does draw from the ridiculous for some jokes. “On stage,” he said, “once you get the first laugh everything gets taken off your shoulders.” And with a wide-ranging joke reservoir that focuses on everything from gay dolphins to meeting a future lover while drunk at a nightclub, those first laughs often find Cooper very early in his routines.
Judging by the success he has enjoyed in the embryonic stage of his career, Cooper is confident that he has a future in the entertainment industry, and despite his parents’ wishes, he hopes to avoid having to put his sport administration degree to use.
“Plan A is to not have to use my degree at all,” he said, smiling. “My plan is to become a famous comedian in 5 years or so.”
Khalil agrees with the positive assessment of Cooper’s future, but cautions that it might not come as quickly as he plans.
“If he starts performing four to seven times a week he can be really funny,” said Khalil. “The toughest part about comedy is having something to say, and you don’t start getting real good until you’ve been doing it for a few years.”
Cooper understands the nature of the comedy business, but that does not figure to deter him. He will embark on his future the same way in which he has embarked on his early career, and in the same way he says he currently lives his life: “With a little bit of luck, a little bit of talent, and a whole lot of balls.”
Jon Moss may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.