Hemingway: Funny? We’ll See!


What’s so funny about Ernest Hemingway?

James Scott Patterson, a writer and stand-up comedian currently in Key West, found plenty of material beneath the novelist’s larger-than-life mystique.

“This guy’s life was dark,” said Patterson. “I’m trying to hit this note where the tone is sort of reverential. But every joke is about what a jackass he was. The jokes are about the myths, his own myth-making. It’s tricky. I’m presenting the overall arc that he was this estimable figure. He was taken seriously.”

“Hemingway in a Funny Way” will debut at Comedy Key West at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 20, and is scheduled every Wednesday through April 17.

The one-hour show is billed as a special happy hour. Tickets are $20 and include a glass of wine. Doors open at 5 p.m. and the shows start at 5:30.

[Disclaimer: Gwen Filosa has been doing stand-up at Comedy Key West since 2017. ]

For the show, Patterson will present a video of Hemingway images and other photos while standing to the side of the stage narrating it all. Then he’ll take questions from the audience.

I know a ton about Hemingway, but I’m not an expert,” said Patterson, 48, a New Jersey-born comic who became a regular performer at Comedy Key West in 2021. “It’s a little daunting to do it. I’m more curious than anyone how this will go.”

For “Hemingway in a Funny Way,” Patterson steered away from the most commonly told Hemingway tales.

“I found stuff about his childhood, his high school paper, The Trapeze in Oak Park, Illinois,” Patterson said. “Then I have stuff about the wars. I’m hoping all of these are stories no one has heard before. It’s weird stuff.”

Patterson based everything on his research into the life of Hemingway – who was known for embellishing and exaggerating his life experiences.

“I have citations for everything,” Patterson said.

‘Clever and dark’

Known for his dark humor, Patterson has performed regularly at Comedy Key West since 2021.

“The perfect blend of clever and dark,” said Steven Crane, another regular comedian at the club. “James’s jokes can heal old wounds with abundant laughter.”

Patterson has appeared on Comedy Central, at the prestigious Just for Laughs Montréal comedy festival and has his own special, Superior Design, available on streaming sites.

At 21, Patterson moved to Boston for its comedy club scene and scored success. He started appearing on Comedy Central after coming in third in their national comedy contest. He’s bounced around cities for years, racking up about 10 years total in Los Angeles, with stints in New York and Denver.

Choosing Hemingway

Patterson wanted to create a new type of comedy show for the local comedy club, Comedy Key West, and Hemingway was an obvious choice.

The Hemingway tourism route runs directly through Patterson’s stomping grounds in Key West: the Hemingway Home and Museum sits at 907 Whitehead St. while the comedy club is at 218 Whitehead.

“The club is between his house and Sloppy Joe’s,” Patterson said.

So, two months ago, he assigned himself a crash course in literature and history.

“By the time the show has started, I will have reread all the novels,” Patterson told Keys Weekly. “I had read most of his books, but when I was 20.”

On top of the nine Hemingway novels, Patterson read five biographies of the writer, who in the 1930s lived in a mansion in Key West and made headlines for his fishing expeditions, sparring sessions and drinking bouts.

“Hemingway was one of the most famous people,” Patterson said. “You could claim there’s still never been a more recognizable novelist. His face was recognizable to everybody.”

Patterson admits he signed on for a larger workload than he expected, but his

years of stand-up, comedy writing intersect in “Hemingway in a Funny Way.”

Stand-up comedy has a DIY work ethic and an addictive payoff that requires big risks, not unlike fiction writing.

“Ninety percent of the stuff you come up with doesn’t work,” Patterson said. “I’m more surprised when they work than when they don’t. Stand-up has a very weird property where you feel bizarrely in control of the room. That’s not even a part of my personality. It’s a bizarre feeling to be the only one in the room talking.”

4 thoughts on “Hemingway: Funny? We’ll See!”

  1. Good to read your blog Chhristine
    How I would love to go to Key West again and I would like to see the comedy show. Have you ever been to the festival ? I always have a chuckle when I see the look a like Heminway men !!!
    Best wishes

    1. good morning, Pamela! Mail chimp somehow stopped advising of my blog post. I just found out and we have it fixed. YAY! I have been to the festival and the look alike contest is hilarious. All in such good fun! I wish i could have gone to the conference in Spain in a week or two!! So jealous of those who were able to go and speak!! Hope all is well with you! Warmest wishes, Christine

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