Like many comedians, Ziggy Klett has learned how to turn his personal pain into punchlines, but his goal is to give his audience more. To Klett, laughter is carbonated holiness and his comedy is a sacred art that he’s hoping will help heal, inspire and intimately connect with his audience.
Born in Wisconsin, the Bloomfield Hills resident was influenced by the late comedians George Carlin and Robin Williams, and began his stand up comedy career in 2006 at the ripe age of 50 years old, at Mark Ridley’s Comedy Castle in Royal Oak. During that same time, he battled life-threatening stage 4 cancer, 29 rounds of chemotherapy and three lifesaving surgeries. Yet he persevered and set out to fulfill his lifelong dream in comedy.
”I’m the perfect example showing it’s never too late to make your dreams come true and to fulfill your purpose. But you have to work very hard to make them happen.”
Klett firmly believes laughter is poison to fear, and hopes all of the things that he’s put in his comedy act – like a difficult childhood, divorce, dating and life-threatening health issues, can connect with people on an emotional level, make them laugh, think, cry, and help them release some of their own pain and struggles.
Taking his self-produced one man show, “47 Chairs” – an astute perspective of his life off-Broadway last year – has been a pinnacle in his career. The thinking man’s comedian is now performing it across the country and Canada along with his stand up act. His performances have been described as raw, truthful, contemplative and touching the heart – all intentionally without profanity. Locally he has ongoing dates at the Matrix in Detroit and February 1-3, in Traverse City, including headlining the Traverse City Comedy Festival. Bloomfield Community Television (BCTV) is currently showing “47 Chairs,” and Klett is planning more projects with the station director, Carrie LeZotte.
When he isn’t bicycling or taking a cold plunge swim in Wing Lake, the 67-year-old comic is laser focused on writing all of his own material, and by his own admission it’s a painstaking process and the one area in his life he strives to be a perfectionist. All joking aside, Klett explains comedy is very serious business.
“There is a science to stand up comedy. Our routine is judged every 14 seconds by the audience, so the material has to keep delivering jokes in a set to keep everyone engaged and entertained, and there’s an art and science to that. I judge my performance by the laughter from the people. If I have a three snort show, I know I’m killing it,” says the comedian and father of two.
Future goals for Ziggy the performer are to take his work to larger venues with more expanded routines and he isn’t ruling out a Netflix special if they should offer. “As my life goes on and evolves, so does my material and I want to share it all,” he noted.
And finally, how has today’s cancel culture and “woke” ideology affected the comedian‘s work? “Not at all,” said the now cancer-free Klett. “I feel that stand up comedy is one of the last unfettered bastions of free speech in our country, and the fact that we are still allowed to have our own perspectives and humor makes Americans unique.
“I feel I have a personal responsibility and I’ll never let that be taken away from us, at least not on my watch.”
Story: Susan Peck
Photo: Laurie Tennent