by Karen Saludo, Senior Associate Director of Development and Alumni Relations
Charlie Landsman ’08 has always loved music. At Harley, he was a member of the jazz band with Mike Kaupa (Music, 1997-present) and, if you take a look at his yearbook page below, he was often seen with an instrument in hand, performing with his band or just in random locations around Harley. In his summers, he was a camp counselor, where he enjoyed entertaining the campers with evening campfire songs. “I would play for hours every day, and I got really comfortable performing in front of a crowd.”
He went off to Oberlin College, a school with a first-rate music conservatory, giving some the expectation that he was planning to major in music. But this was during the financial crisis of 2008 and he decided to major in economics to learn why the US economy was struggling. On the side, he was also able to take advantage of the music conservatory, taking theory classes, aural studies, starting a band with conservatory students, singing, playing guitar, ukulele, even some piano.
After he graduated, Charlie joined an investment banking firm and soon discovered that crunching numbers all day didn’t really fit with his personality. His math skills were solid and he enjoyed analytical work, but he wanted a job with a little more balance between the left and right sides of his brain. He was able to find that balance at Comedy Central in New York City.
Charlie started at Comedy Central as a temp doing “menial tasks”, but it was a fun place to work and he did whatever it took to get a full-time job there. He was tenacious and made himself indispensable. When a job arose, he volunteered. If a co-worker left and they were looking to hire someone new, he’d take on the position in addition to his existing responsibilities. If anyone needed help with anything, he was the guy to offer to do it—and do it well.
When Comedy Central was looking for someone to run their new Snapchat channel, Charlie was in the right place at the right time. He was hired as the Associate Producer of Snapchat Discovery, publishing daily content and helping the brand craft their presence on a new platform. Charlie quickly fell in love with comedy, and, with the encouragement of his comedian coworkers, started doing improv comedy at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater and stand-up open mic nights in New York’s Greenwich Village.
Charlie says that stand-up comedy is tough. “When you’re just starting out, your material is terrible, and when no one laughs, it’s a huge blow to your ego.” After a few disappointing attempts, he decided to change up his act and introduce his first passion into the mix: music. “I found a real niche in the comedy world. Not many people can be funny and play music at the same time.” He was always a fan of classic rock, but his interest in music varied enough to include other genres like pop, jazz and bluegrass, and he was able to keep his show fresh and interesting for all audiences by subverting their expectations.
He worked at Comedy Central for almost four years, but after the network decided to shut down their Snapchat channel, he headed west to Los Angeles to take aim at a career in acting and comedy. His goal was to do comedy full time, but he quickly realized that the “gig life” of an entertainer, while it feels like freedom, can actually be very stressful when it means traveling all the time and not knowing where your next paycheck is coming from. Charlie discovered that, for him, having a creative career as his sole source of income was too unpredictable and unstable. He has since made a more balanced life his goal.
He now works full time as a Senior Producer at VideoFresh, a video production company based in Pasadena. He performs his comedy on evenings and weekends, but doesn’t need to rely on it to make ends meet. He is also a member of a local bluegrass band, the LA River String Band. He says he is happier and more successful by having a day job and a creative career on the side. He finds that having a 9-5 job actually helps his creativity. He likens it to his time at Harley as a three-season athlete (golf, swimming, and basketball). During the rigorous schedule of his various sports seasons, he found that his grades actually improved, because he thrives on structure.
Charlie is coming to the Rochester Fringe Festival in September to perform his music and comedy improv show, Stand Up & Get Down. His 2019 Rochester fringe show sold out, so get your tickets soon.
Title: Stand Up & Get Down
Description: Get ready to Stand Up & Get Down with Harley alum Charlie Landsman (’08). This one-of-a-kind music and comedy show is a rollercoaster ride of catchy melodies, irreverent humor, and improvisation that will have you laughing, singing, and tapping your feet all night long. Whether you’re a fan of comedy, music, or simply a good time, Stand Up & Get Down is a show you won’t want to miss!
Show Dates: Thursday, September 14th @ 9:00pm and Saturday, September 16th at 4:00pm
Venue: The Focus Theater (260 E Main St, Rochester, NY 14604)