Dennis Gaxiola didn’t set out as a young man to make a living as a comedian.
Indeed, the Berkeley native spent 20 years in the Air Force, not exactly a place where one might expect that making people laugh would go over so well. But at one point during his military career, a chance meeting during a leadership class would change his life and lead to his second career as a successful funny man.
“The guy I sat next to in the class had won the base talent show as a comedian, and we just had a blast the whole month. At the end of the class, Michael dared me to go on stage with him, and he introduced me to stand-up comedy,” said Gaxiola.
“He passed away a few years ago, and I cried like it was my own brother because of the impact he had on my life,” remembers Gaxiola. “It literally changed the trajectory of my life and what I’m doing in my second career.”
The son of a preacher, Gaxiola was used to seeing his family speaking in front of large crowds but had never imagined himself going into a show business until that fateful first gig.
“The adrenaline rush you get from being onstage in front of a bunch of strangers who are listening and laughing to your thoughts — next thing you know, I was getting on every stage I could find,” Gaxiola said.
Over the years, Gaxiola has gone from performing at small local clubs to appearing on major television specials, including “Comedy Central’s Laffapalooza with Jami Foxx,” “Stand Up Revolution with Gabriel Iglesias,” “BET’s Comic View,” “STARZ First Amendment Stand.” Up” and more.
Gaxiola doesn’t swear or tell vulgar bits as part of his act, joking that he wanted his mother to be able to come to his shows without getting offended before sharing a little more of his thinking on the subject.
“Getting into clean comedy was the best thing I could ever do for my career, because it just makes you work harder,” Gaxiola said. “Clean comedy is harder because finding the punchline without profanity is a bigger challenge — but it’s more rewarding.”
“I’m excited for this coming Saturday night,” adds Gaxiola. “Now I’m not worried about my mom, but that I’m going to be performing at a school where my grandkids are going. It’s pretty awesome.”
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