Comedy’s in Charlie Nadler’s DNA

After growing up on Martha's Vineyard and going to college in Boston, Charlie Nadler moved to Los Angeles where he is pursuing a career in stand-up comedy.
Photo courtesy of Charlie Nadler

After growing up on Martha's Vineyard and going to college in Boston, Charlie Nadler moved to Los Angeles where he is pursuing a career in stand-up comedy.

Few who knew Charlie Nadler growing up would be surprised to hear that he’s pursuing a career in comedy. Although he’s soft spoken, articulate, and thoughtful, the offspring of comedy writers Marty and Holly Nadler has a humorist’s talent for looking at life sideways and sharing his observations in the form of spot-on jokes.

Currently, the younger Mr. Nadler is following in the footsteps of his successful father, working as a comedy writer and stand-up comedian in Los Angeles. Tonight, Thursday, August 22, he will make his Vineyard stand-up debut, performing a comedy routine as the opening act for IMP – the teen improvisation troupe at Alex’s Place at the Y in Oak Bluffs.

Along with some material from his regular set, Mr. Nadler promises to riff on some subjects close to home, in particular the reality show, “The Vineyard,” which he has been watching regularly in order to mine material. “I’m going to watch all of them,” he said. “There’s a lot there to talk about.”

From a very young age, Mr. Nadler was surrounded by comedy. The elder Mr. Nadler was a well-known television writer who contributed his talents to a number of sitcoms such as “Laverne and Shirley” and “The Odd Couple.” He was the head writer for “Happy Days” and worked as an on-set writer for a number of films, including “Runaway Bride” and “The Princess Diaries” movies.

Holly Nadler met her ex-husband Marty while pitching him a script for “Laverne and Shirley.” She went on to write for a number of television shows, including “Barney Miller,” and she also enjoyed a successful career as a magazine writer. She is the author of three books and contributes pieces, often with a humorous bent, to local media resources.

Charlie Nadler was born on the Vineyard but lived with his family in Los Angeles from the time he was an infant until the second grade when the Nadlers moved here full-time. “I’m an only child,” said Mr. Nadler. “I was around adults a lot. I was part of this strange entertainment world around older people. My dad is friends with Richard Lewis, David Brenner, Jimmy Walker. Then on the Island they [my parents] got involved with people in the theater scene.

“I don’t really remember my dad as this Hollywood person,” he continued. “I just remember both my parents having regular jobs on the Island.”

In junior high school Mr. Nadler had an entirely different plan for his future from the course that he eventually pursued. “I was good at math and science,” he recalled. “I always thought I’d do something in those lines but I realized I didn’t enjoy that stuff. I made a subconscious shift.”

He had discovered that he had a talent for making people laugh. However, he initially limited his efforts at comedy to the digital arena, via instant messaging and Facebook posts. “I was really shy and hated public speaking. I never thought I’d do stand-up.”

After studying film and television with a concentration in screenwriting at Boston University, Mr. Nadler headed for Los Angeles to pursue a career in the entertainment industry. He secured a job as a production assistant on the movie “The Bucket List” then took a job at Castle Rock Entertainment in 2008, eventually working his way up to office manager and assistant to Rob Reiner.

All along, Mr. Nadler was writing — screenplays, television pilots, comedy shorts, etc. Last year he made the decision to focus on his independent projects full-time. He had already begun trying out his stand-up at various venues around L.A. Mr. Nadler is currently taking a year off to hone his stand up skills and work on two comedy screenplays. He’s performed in dozens of bars, restaurants, and nightclubs, and last year he landed a spot in a comedy festival in Denver.

Although he is still primarily interested in screenwriting, Mr. Nadler says that stand-up offers more instant gratification. “Writing is such a solitary thing,” he said. “It’s a very slow process. What I like about stand-up is you can write a joke and try it out that night and instantly have an audience validate it — or not validate it.”

“It’s an egalitarian thing,” he added. “With a screenplay, only a few industry people are reading it. I like regular people. That’s the whole point of entertainment. For non entertainment people to like your material.”

During his time off, Mr. Nadler has done a fair amount of traveling. He spent time in Australia and, after his current one month visit to the Island, he will embark on a road trip that will take him all over the northeast visiting friends and attending two weddings. Mr. Nadler notes that he always tries to find an open mic night or another venue to try out his material wherever he goes.

Despite the fact that it took Mr. Nadler close to a year, once he made a resolution to work up the courage to try out a stand up routine for the first time, he says that he’s relatively calm when he steps up on stage: “You’re always a little nervous, but once they call your name and you get up there, it all kind of slips away.”

Trying to read an audience while delivering your material is the hardest part, according to Mr. Nadler. “That sort of thing takes most people close to a year before they start to really feel comfortable on stage.”

In his R-rated video clips on youtube.com, Mr. Nadler appears completely natural and confident. Far from a hit-them-over-the-head type comic, his relatively low key, likable personality comes across.

“I’m not a very boisterous on stage,” he said. “For me it’s more observational humor, more writing heavy. Impressions or different voices or more acting based stuff is definitely harder for me. I’ve found that it’s always been easier for me to draw from more self deprecating experiences in my life.”

In his short online clips, Mr. Nadler draws big laughs from material that ranges from smart and sly to outrageous. He’s quick to share his humiliations with the audience and, while he relies heavily on jokes at his own expense, he still manages to charm the audience with his very appealing on-stage persona.

Much of Mr. Nadler’s material is at least R rated, but for the upcoming show, he’s cleaned up his act and will cater to an Island audience. He says that he will talk about life in a small town, his Hollywood experiences and, of course, “The Vineyard.” A few of his friends are among the cast of the reality show. “I’m happy for them,” Mr. Nadler said. “I think they do a good job within the confines of the format. I’m looking forward to running into them to tell them I enjoy them on the show.”

Mr. Nadler visits the Island twice each year and hopes someday to live here part time. He’s finding it an ideal place to write. “I love the city life,” he said. “I would like to live in Manhattan but I love the balance you get from having somewhere to stay here. I get a lot of work done on the Island. It’s a good place to collect your thoughts.”

Stand-up Comedy with Charlie Nadler followed by IMP show, Thursday, August 22, 8 pm, Alex’s Place, YMCA of M.V., Oak Bluffs. $15; $11 teens. PG-13. For more information, visit 508-696-7171 or visit ymcamv.org.