He’s keeping his day job, but Cascade High teacher is a successful comedian

Ask Cory Michaelis to say something funny. Go ahead, put him on the spot.

I asked. The Cascade High School teacher’s comeback was worthy of a laugh.

“What I always say to people is, ‘Yeah, it’s hard to do that.’ It’s like going to a surgeon and asking, ‘Could you just cut me open real quick?’ “

“Stand-up comedy, people don’t understand what it is. It’s not just telling a good joke,” the 31-year-old Michaelis said. “We write our act out. We practice and maintain the same mannerisms. It’s all planned in advance.”

By day, Michaelis teaches history at Cascade. He also oversees a class called AVID — Advancement Via Individual Determination. The program helps prepare students for college.

Michaelis moonlights as a stand-up comedian. It’s an art and skill he has been honing since an open microphone event at a Seattle club about five years ago. He also took a comedy workshop through the University of Washington’s Experimental College.

Since then, the teacher-comic has opened for comedian Louie Anderson in Las Vegas. He has been featured at Laughs Comedy Spot in Kirkland, at the Tacoma Comedy Club, on KING-TV’s “Evening Magazine,” and has done stand-up at many Seattle venues.

Next week, his students have a chance to see their teacher in his other line of work. Cascade High School will host a Comedy Night at 7 p.m. Tuesday. Michaelis and David Roberts, another history teacher at the school, will perform along with Seattle comedian Kermet Apio and a few brave Cascade students.

With a $5 admission fee, the comedy show will benefit Cascade’s AVID program. Michaelis said proceeds will help pay for college visits.

“I think it’s great. A lot of the kids have never seen the Cory I’ve seen. He’s their teacher, they’ve never seen him perform,” said Apio, who will headline Tuesday’s show.

Apio, 44, has been a comedian since his early 20s. He was bitten by the comedy bug after doing stand-up at Seattle’s Comedy Underground. In 1990, Apio quit a job with United Airlines to be funny full-time. The 2009 winner of the Great American Comedy Festival, Apio has performed all over the country and in TV appearances.

Being funny is key, but Apio said a comedy career takes more than humor. Courage and tenacity help, too. “There’s so much rejection,” Apio said. “We make our friends laugh, but strangers aren’t your friends. They don’t know your sense of humor, and they don’t care about you. It’s terrifying. You’re so worried about bombing.”

For Michaelis, ease being in front of an audience comes with the territory of teaching. A Cascade High graduate, after high school he was a leader in the Young Life organization. That also helped him speak to groups.

Is his dream to hit the big time? To tour or land a TV deal?

“It’s not something I want at 31 and married. I don’t want that for my life,” Michaelis said. He would like to combine comedy with his education background, perhaps as a motivational speaker for kids.

In the meantime, Michaelis is working on establishing a regular Everett Comedy Night. The first one is scheduled for 8 p.m. April 8 at Chopstix piano bar in downtown Everett. Michaelis will host other comics. That event will be for all ages, but some content may not be suitable for kids.

Tuesday’s show at Cascade, though, will be “squeaky clean,” Michaelis said.

Along with seasoned comedians, a few students plan to give stand-up a try.

“This will be my first time doing comedy,” said 17-year-old Dejean Thomas, a junior at Cascade. A student in the AVID program, Thomas said his teacher has given him some comedy pointers.

“He just said to find a story you think would be funny,” the teen said. His stories include one about his “goofy dog,” a pug named Cheeto, and another about going out with friends and getting into “some shenanigans.”

“My friends think I’m pretty funny,” Thomas said. “But I’ve never done anything like this before.”

Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460, muhlstein@heraldnet.com.

Cascade High Comedy Night

Cascade High School will host a Comedy Night at 7 p.m. Tuesday. The event is a fundraiser for AVID, Advancement Via Individual Determination, a program that helps students prepare for college. Seattle comedian Kermet Apio is the show’s headliner. Cascade history teachers Cory Michaelis and David Roberts and some students will perform. Admission $5. The school is at 801 E. Casino Road, Everett.

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