Orland Park comic Michael Palascak chases stand-up dreams from his childhood bed.
Michael Palascak’s career is taking off, and fast: At last year’s Las Vegas Comedy Festival, he won a stand-up contest that secured meetings with top Los Angeles talent managers (though he admits he doesn’t know what managers “do”). His calendar is loaded with road gigs at colleges and small-town, lamely named clubs (Sidesplitters, Funny Bone, Hermosa Beach Comedy and Magic Club). So, except for occasional stints at Chicago-area venues—he’s performing at Zanies’ Vernon Hills outpost Friday 18 and Saturday 19 (see Comedy)—Palascak is rarely in town these days.
But when he is, we know exactly where to find the 25-year-old comic. “A lot of people have had to move back with their parents to save money,” he says at the top of nearly every set. “I’m proud to say I haven’t had to do that…because I never left.” It’s a line that elicits awws from empathizing twentysomethings and sympathizing parents.
Why stay shacked up with his folks? The reasons are obvious: Comedy is fiscally risky; he pays no money in rent. While most rising stand-ups work day jobs, for the last three years Palascak (that’s Pal-a-sack, as his MySpace page makes abundantly clear) has avoided the daily grind. Hell, his mom even does his laundry, though not as regularly anymore after hearing his joke, “Our machine’s state-of-the-art. I put my clothes in, and they come out…folded on my bed.” And there’s dinner: The Palascak clan—his brothers, the younger in college and the older in law school, join in on school breaks—gathers every night for home cookin’. For Palascak, living with his parents is more than just the foundation of his comedy act, it’s actually pretty sweet.
On a recent Monday night, a shoeless Palascak opens the front door and gives a quick tour of his parents’ modest suburban home. Mom and Pop are away (they declined to be part of the story), so he’s got the place to himself. We head to his bedroom, a time capsule of Palascak’s teenage years: Michael Jordan and Kramer posters adorn the walls; old Nintendo cartridges are stacked next to books about Second City; his high-school football photos rest atop his dresser; and a twin bed sits in the center of this ode to 1998. Palascak says he starts every morning with “me” time. “One of my friends says your subconscious is more powerful than your [conscious mind] just before you go to sleep and right when you wake up,” he says in all seriousness. “So if I have a big show coming up, [that morning] I try to hear people laughing—like, if you visualize it, it’s more likely to happen.”
True, this morning ritual doesn’t kick off till 1:30pm, but that’s because when he’s not staying in watching CSI with his parents or putzing around on funnyordie.com, Palascak’s at open mikes in the city until late at night. The fruits of his labor rest on a white board; every joke he’s written gets categorized (“College” and “Living at home”) and placed in a running order. When he jots down rough material, he uses a spiral notebook covered with pink patterns and a smirking cartoon tiger. (He says he chose the girliest design he could find because it would force him to fill it up—then he’d be spared the shame of carrying it around.)
Palascak spends most of his day writing in his parents’ home office (he sits at a tiny desk that would be more appropriate for a 10-year-old, positioned next to his mom’s full-sized one), either working on his act or on one of the many other projects he’s got cooking. Last year, Palascak completed a screenplay— Midwestern Man, about a superhero whose powers, like the ability to grow corn really fast, are handy in these parts—and a TV pilot—a ridiculous fantasy about a guy who moves back in with his parents after graduation, which he’ll be reading at iO May 8.
But will his inevitable exodus (likely to New York or Los Angeles) mean scrapping his loser-lives-at-home material? “I’d like to hold onto those jokes as long as I can,” he says. We’re guessing he could milk the act for a while, since comics are expected to stretch the truth—we’ve heard guys rail on married life and current dating woes in the same act.
Palascak’s not rushing out the door, so he’s still got plenty of real-life experiences from which to draw material. “Every now and again, after giving unsolicited advice, my mom says how I must be tired of hearing what she and my dad have to say, and that I’ll want to move,” he says, adding that his older brother lived at home for a few months after college graduation, but moved when he couldn’t take it anymore. “I think it’s easier to be a comic and not feel bad about hanging around at home than, like, an engineer.”
Watch a video gallery of Michael's stand-up performances.