One Cool Troublemaker
Delinquent-turned-comic Corey Craig brings his Cool Beans show to Pasadena’s Ice House Saturday
By Carl Kozlowski 01/16/2014
Whether you go see live comedy at the Ice House on Saturday or stay home to watch Showtime’s acclaimed series “Shameless” on Sunday, you’ll have a chance to see bright new comedy and acting talent Corey Craig this weekend.
That type of exposure is a lot more positive than the kind Craig was heading for while growing up in Lincoln, Neb., where the loss of his father when he was a young boy inspired him to instigate trouble at school and on the streets until his mother helped change his entire life with a move to Hollywood.
“My dad passed away when I was 6, so I didn’t trust authorities,” recalls Craig. “I got into fights and threw stink bombs in the school cafeteria, and was getting in a lot of trouble until acting saved me in middle school because it was my one outlet, the one class I looked forward to. Instead of getting into trouble, I was praised for acting out.”
With little but trouble waiting for him in Lincoln and a strong urge to perform calling Craig to Los Angeles, he and his mother moved to LA 10 years ago. He soon was attending the LA County High School for the Arts, and he had developed an urge to help other kids who had come from similarly troubled pasts.
As a result, Craig formed the Troublemaker Foundation, through which he has given talks to students back home in Lincoln and hopes to reach out and be a positive influence on LA schoolchildren going forward. But his biggest impact in his adopted city has come from his starting the Cool Beans series of comedy shows at the Ice House in 2009.
The rotating group of standup comics who have performed with Craig over the past four years is an impressive one, with this Saturday’s show featuring Jerrod Carmichael and Josh Adam Meyers topping the bill. Carmichael has an impending sitcom in the works for ABC, while Meyers has drawn lots of positive heat for his performance at last year’s Just for Laughs comedy festival in Montreal.
“What makes the Cool Beans shows stand out is that we make the effort to really involve the audience,” explains Craig. “We have lots of contests to give away things like Cheesecake Factory gift certificates, and everyone gets a bunch of jelly beans at their tables. I want to be the best producer in town by caring about both the talent and the audience.”
Craig has also made the move into providing comedy shows for corporate events, via a successful holiday party comedy show. His goal is to eventually have Cool Beans shows be as popular as the highly popular Comedy Juice shows that have become favorite showcases at the Hollywood Improv and the Ice House.
While Craig is a fan of a broad range of comedy styles, he says his biggest influences have been Kevin Nealon, Kevin Hart and Mitch Hedberg. He pals around mostly with other comics, with Carmichael and Meyers among his closest friends, but one superstar made a lasting impression on him.
“I played basketball with Adam Sandler when he was shooting ‘Don’t Mess with the Zohan,’” says Craig. “I went to the gym on the Sony lot where he was playing, and he was playing one on one when his buddy twisted an ankle. Adam came up to me and said, ‘I’m Adam Sandler. Wanna play?’ I was thinking, ‘No shit!’ He let me give him a high five and I was tearing up after because it was so great and to see someone that big be so humble.”
For now, he hopes to follow in Sandler’s footsteps by mixing acting with his comedy. He spent three years playing the character of an intern on “The Jace Hall Show,” a fake behind-the-scenes, short-episode spoof of sitcoms that played on the Los Angeles Metro’s system of buses, but has since moved on to plum guest roles on series like “Shameless” and ABC’s “Gray’s Anatomy.”
“When I came to LA, I remember walking up to high school every day,” says Craig. “It was like a reset of life. I know how grateful I am to have the opportunity to not be the punk kid I was in Lincoln and have stardom be just moments away here.” n
Corey Craig produces and performs in the “Cool Beans Comedy Show” at 8 p.m. Saturday at Stage 2 at the Ice House, 24 N. Mentor Ave., Pasadena. Tickets are $10 with a two-drink minimum. Visit coolbeanscomedy.com