Magazine Feature / People

Student comic majors in stand-up

Sophomore finance major Rob Gleeson had just presented a market analysis of projected revenue for a fictional company to his Introduction to Marketing class. At the end, a classmate stood up and, having clearly enjoyed the presentation, announced, “Bro. You should do comedy.”

Unbeknownst to him, “bro” already did.

“It was great, because I really don’t talk about it,” says Gleeson, who performs stand-up throughout Denver. “I would never bring it up in class because I’m there to learn. But I was like, ‘Actually, I’m a full-time comic,’ and I took the opportunity to plug a show.”

Gleeson’s comedic instincts were honed in his Milwaukee home, where, with sisters 10 and 11 years older than him, he constantly sought his moment in the spotlight.

“I was the youngest of three, so I always needed to do something to get attention,” says Gleeson, 20, whose sisters’ early ridicule might have planted a comic seed — almost literally.

“I wanted so much to be like them,” he says, “that one time, when I was 5, I asked them how I, too, could have boobs. They told me I had to take some ‘boob seed,’ and that they had already put some in my oatmeal.”

Eventually, young Rob began performing impromptu shows at home that became expected entertainment for friends and family.

“I have a joke about my dad calling me down to entertain guests and saying, ‘You guys are gonna love this trick.’ And then he tells me, ‘Alright Rob. Do the one where you fall down the stairs.’ That joke really encompasses a lot of my childhood. I would do anything I could to entertain.”

Gleeson finally took to the stage two years ago when the Festival Playhouse in Arvada, Colo., sought a comedian to open for its season of comedic plays. Honing his style with comic monologues, he soon segued into local comedy clubs, which proved a boon for his professional development.

“The Denver scene is an incredible scene for a developing young comic,” he says. “I was hitting six to eight open mics and clubs a week. It was unbelievable — a really great place to be.”

Gleeson also performed on the DU campus for various school organizations, plus at benefits such as Laughs for Leukemia.

This summer, Gleeson is further broadening his knowledge and experience as he’s touring the U.S. serving as opening act and business intern for Steve Hofstetter, a noted comedian who has appeared on Showtime, ESPN and VH1.

“Rob is a great comic,” says Hofstetter. “He’s got that intangible quality that some might call the ‘it’ factor. He’s already got a clear persona on stage, and he doesn’t have much of a ceiling. He’ll be closing A-list clubs within a few years.”

Next, Gleeson will study abroad for five months at Shanghai University of Finance and Economics, while also performing for China’s extensive expatriate community.

“I really wanna do some corporate gigs while I’m over there,” he deadpans, “so I think I’m gonna try to do some sweatshops. I just sent a package to Nike.”

While he enjoys finance, he refers to his major as “something to help my dad sleep at night,” really hoping to make comedy his career. If he does become the next Seinfeld, however, Gleeson looks forward to keeping the University of Denver a significant part of his life.

“It would be an incredible community for me to come back to, because they’re so supportive,” he says. “It’s a place where I could do everything from test new stuff to see old friends. It’s an incredible ally to have a university on your side.”

[Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to correct an error in describing the community where Gleeson will be performing. We regret the mistake.]

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