Groves High School grad Steve Forbes is an aspiring funnyman who has been making people laugh since grade school, albeit not always on purpose.
"I was always a goofy kid to start with, making light of dark situations in my family," Forbes said. "I liked stand-up and sketch comedy... I started in elementary school by doing shows and musicals. I got the starring role of P.T. Barnum in the fifth grade. It was also the hugest bomb – I forgot all my lines. Everyone laughed, and I started crying and ran off stage. A teacher cleaned me up and said, 'The show must go on.' After that I just kept going."
Schticking with his passion, Forbes later got involved as a performer with the Michigan Renaissance Festival, street theater and children's theater, leading to work with Imagination Theater, a children’s theater in Troy, theater work at Oakland University, and Go Comedy! Theater in Ferndale. Forbes is also a trained puppeteer, having worked with Fantasy E-Fex puppets in Clarkston for nearly two decades. He paid bills doing voice and photo work for print, online and film, and bartending at Streetside Seafood in Birmingham.
"I would get really nervous before a show, to the point where I would completely blow it. To take a stressful situation and use that to shine, and to dance for my food – it's hard," he said. "It's a gradual progression, and eventually you get over it."
Today, Forbes is living in Los Angeles, where he's been working with a commercial agent while doing some stage shows and brushing up with classes at The Groundlings, the former home to generations of comedians, such as Will Ferrell, Kristen Wiig, Phil Hartman and others. In June, Forbes was a performing guest at Second City Hollywood, and he recently finished his first commercial spot with Panera Bread – although he was edited out before the commercial ran.
"There are a million people out here that look exactly like me, trying to do the exact same thing. The only thing that really sets you apart from people is work ethic," he said. "That includes being an enjoyable person to be around for hours at a time. There's no place else like Michigan, and the midwest is where people learn that. Everyone here in L.A., be it in retail or whatever, everyone is looking to hire people from Detroit or the midwest. They know you'll work hard."
Hard work and determination are what Forbes said helped to shape his performance experience in the Detroit area, which made it possible for him to move to Hollywood. From teaching inner-city school students about healthy eating and exercise through a traveling puppet show to playing the Easter Bunny at the local mall for a holiday show, Forbes' early work helped him thicken his skin.
"I forged my suit of armor in Detroit," he said. "Nothing will train you like putting on a bunny suit and running around Somerset (Collection) with eight-year-olds shining laser pointers at you and chucking cookies and shit at you. Now it's just casting agents.
"Now the stuff I did in Detroit doesn't count for anything. The casting agents didn't see me crash any shows at Go Comedy! I have to recreate those successes out here. But it prepares you for what you need to do.
“Detroit is like boot camp, and boot camp isn't easy."