Though his parents came to the United States as political refugees from Jaroslaw, Poland, when he was still an infant, 29-year-old Aleksander "Olek" Krzysztof Szewczyk ("Vanna, can I please buy a vowel?") still has a hint of an accent. If you've been to a comedy show at Liquid in the past two years, you've probably heard it.
Szewczyk occasionally follows the deadpan delivery of one of his jokes with a self-referential laugh. It can make for an awkward moment as audience members look at each other to see if they should be laughing, too.
"I'm just a goofy bastard," he said with a smile.
That's an apt description, but Szewczyk is also approachable, and it isn't long before everyone is relaxed and laughing along--it's like listening to a nerdy nephew tell jokes. Getting any kind of audience buy-in isn't bad for a guy relatively new to comedy: Szewczyk only started doing stand-up about two years ago and took any opportunity he could to work on his craft
"I was methodical," Szewczyk said about his approach. He performed at two or three comedy open mics every week for a year, and then, rather than fight for the limited spots opening for touring comics, Szewczyk started hosting open mic nights. He hosted Liquid's open mic comedy night on Wednesdays for more than a year and is now the club's house MC.
On paper, Szewczyk looks like a guy paying his dues in the hopes of a career packed with touring, radio and TV appearances, and half-hour comedy specials. But Szewczyk is happy right where he is: cleaning houses during the day and doing comedy at night.
"This is what I want to do," he said, without the slightest hint of irony.
The comedian's contentedness with his lot may very well be a factor in his ability to maintain it. He's a soft-spoken guy who doesn't see the stage as a soapbox.
"I'm not very opinionated in real life or on stage," he said. "I don't want to piss anybody off."
Szewczyk's uncontroversial demeanor is no act. He is genuinely a nice guy. He also knows it pays to get along with other comics--"Comics book comics," he said--his respect and admiration for his comedic colleagues is authentic. He feels the same way about his audiences.
"[I] never blame the audience for a bad night," Szewczyk said.
And he believes the keys to being a successful comedian--whatever that respect looks like--are simple.
"Be humble. Work on your craft. Be gracious. And don't get cocky."