After a mid-life career change, Dean Delray laughs at the pain

In the past year, comedian Dean Delray was evicted from his apartment, diagnosed with diabetes and had an ugly motorcycle accident.
Some would consider that stretch of bad luck calamitous. Delray thinks it’s good standup material.

“I’ve always said, standup is half tragedy, half comedy,” says Delray, who appears at the Punch Line for three nights next week. “When something crazy happens to me in my life, I try and figure out a way to make people laugh about it.”

While Delray has endured his share of struggles, he’s starting to shine on the comedy circuit.

After slogging through a series of different careers and odd jobs — rock musician, Harley Davidson salesperson — the grizzled 51-year-old found a home with standup. Encouraged to pursue the career by his friend, comedian Nathaniel “Earthquake” Stroman, Delray fully immersed himself in the job at 44, taking on any gig he could.

“I could always get my friends to crack up laughing by telling stories,” said Delray, who grew up in the Bay Area and lived in San Francisco for years.

“But it’s a different animal trying to get complete strangers to laugh. The only way to get better was to practice — and that’s how I’ve ended up doing more than 3,300 shows in the last seven years.”

Inspired by blunt, unapologetically crass comedians like Bill Burr, Marc Maron and Louis CK, Delray speaks candidly (and crudely) about adventures over his unique lifetime, which has seen him tour the world in a rock band and eke out a living doing blue collar work.

Splitting time now between New York and Los Angeles, Delray is constantly working, either doing standup or hosting his podcast “Let There Be Talk,” which airs two times a week.

It’s all in an effort to be the best comic he can be.

“I’m still working on a joke about my motorcycle crash that will get people to laugh, and not freak out,” said Delray. “But I’ve managed to get a good line in about diabetes. I tell the crowd about my disease, and just say ‘you know, I can’t sugarcoat it,’ which usually gets a nice chuckle.”

Although he’s not afraid to delve into life’s miseries, Delray remains unabashedly upbeat about his current profession. A fan of comedy since an early age — local acts like Bobcat Goldthwait and Robin Williams were his favorites — Delray is finally getting to enjoy the standup life he once dreamed about.

“When I’m doing standup, I don’t consider it work,” said Delray. “I’d rather be doing this 15 hours a day, seven days a week, than ever working again for someone else.”

IF YOU GO

Dean Delray
Where: Punchline, 444 Battery Street, S.F.
When: 8 p.m. Dec. 15, 8 and 10 p.m. Dec. 16, 7:30 and 9:30 p.m. Dec 17
Tickets: $23
Contact: (415) 397-7573, www.punchlinecomedyclub.com

Will Reisman
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Will Reisman

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