Standup Comedian Justin Essenmacher at Common Citizen

My name is Justin Essenmacher. I’m 29, I’m from the small town of Lenox County, Michigan and I’ve been doing standup comedy for the last four and a half years.

How did you get into stand up?

I was always the person who made people laugh. Everybody always said I should try it out and a few years ago, I finally decided to take the leap. I haven’t stopped since. I've been doing it consistently every week for the last four and a half years. I like being on stage and making people laugh so I just kept with it. That’s the dream— to do comedy, acting, and modeling.

What is it like being on stage?

I love being on stage. I’m a huge attention seeker. It’s always a bit nerve-wracking, but that's part of the excitement. You never know what’s going to happen. That’s why I keep doing it. It’s exhilarating.

Tell us about your comedy style.

My comedy style is a lot about my life and what I’ve been through. Silly, stupid situations I’ve been in; random, outgoing comedy. Chris D’Elia is what you’d kind of think when you see me. I like old school Def Jam comedy—Bernie Mac, Martin Lawrence—and Kevin Hart. Stuff like that.

Standup Comedian Justin Essenmacher

What’s the goal for you?

My ultimate goal is to be able to perform and do stand up comedy and make a living at it. To fall totally into the art form. I really like performing. I don’t like normal jobs. The 9 to 5, I can’t stand it. I don’t like mundane things and I get bored. Comedy is a creative outlet. It’s always different and new. You can’t find that in most jobs. The last few jobs I’ve had at offices I felt miserable. I can’t do the same thing every day.

How do you get into a creative zone?

The creative zone always comes in spurts. I have to be in a silly moment. A lot of my writing comes from just living life. When something sparks or hits me the right way I’ll take out my phone and write what happened, put down my thoughts. For the most part, I go through real-life situations and start writing.

Standup Comedian Justin Essenmacher

What do your friends and family think of your career?

My family is supportive, but they're a blue-collar, working-class family that's always worked hard jobs their whole life. When somebody goes outside of that environment, they don’t really understand it. I'm the only one in the family that’s done comedy and tried acting. I was also in a band for four years, from 2008 to 2012. I was always the black sheep chasing random creative dreams.

I’m 29, single, and don’t have any kids. My family just wants me to be successful, but success is different in everybody’s eyes. My version of success is trying to have a creative outlet and sustain myself through that. Their definition of success is having a full-time job and being able to provide for your family—which is successful, but my definition is just different. I don’t have the same responsibilities that my family does. All of my free time is spent doing comedy. I’m just chasing my dreams and taking it day by day.

Standup Comedian Justin Essenmacher

What do you like about Detroit?

It’s allowed me to be very creative and outspoken. There’s a huge comedy scene here that no one knows about. People are starting to hear about it more and more now.

The thing that everybody says is, “If you can make it in Detroit, you can make it anywhere.” Detroit has molded me into the kind of comic I am, the kind of person I am. I’ve learned to not give a s***. There’s a whole aspect of not caring that really helps you with comedy. I’ve been in situations I probably shouldn’t be in, where people think I shouldn't be there, but I start doing my comedy and making people laugh and it’s helpful.

The place I go to do comedy, I’m down in areas I've never been in before, and I’m not just saying that because I'm a kid from a small town. I get to the club and the comic is like, “Dude do you even know where you're at?” But then he’s like, “Hey man, that must mean you really want it.”

When was the first time you tried cannabis?

Marijuana for creativity

I think I was 19, my first year at college. I was never a big smoker. I tried it once and then I didn't try it again for a while. I was at a party with my friends and they took me onto a paddleboat. We were on this little pond and smoked a joint. Then we went back inside and everybody was watching Baywatch and I just remember laughing hysterically at everything on the TV. I enjoyed all of that.

What do you wish people knew about cannabis?

Anybody who has never given cannabis a try just needs to open their minds. If you drink alcohol you can probably smoke some weed. I think it’s a healthier alternative. I don't feel like crap the next day.

How does cannabis help you in your day-to-day?

I smoke to get into a creative mindset. Smoking relaxes me. It’s a different thought process when I’m on weed. I say more funny things when I’m high, things I probably would never say when I’m sober. I like to perform on stage with cannabis. It makes the things I’m saying funnier. After you say something so many times, the same jokes you've been saying for a year, you kind of lose that spark. Weed helps make that spark a little better so you can enjoy it.