Meet Will Melendez
It all started when I got together with a former college classmate who I hadn’t seen in thirteen years. He was convinced that I would have pursued standup comedy after college instead of working in corporate America. I performed standup comedy during my last semester of college and my friend could still remember his favorite jokes from when I performed at a student event right before graduation. I was a French major in college, meaning I had no idea what I was going to do with my life after college other than move to France and meet the man of my dreams. Surprise! It didn’t really work out that way!
I decided to move to Los Angeles one year after this conversation from North Carolina where I was working as a marketing manager on the Burt’s Bees brand. I had always wanted to move to Los Angeles to be closer to three of my best friends and I had concerns about living in a red state during a Trump presidency. It was a difficult decision to leave the best job I’d ever had in my career up until that point but it was ultimately the right decision for me.
I’ve always loved comedy. The movie Airplane starring Leslie Nielsen was the first movie I remember watching and laughing hysterically with my family. It also helped me learn English right after my family moved to Orlando from Puerto Rico when I was 4 years old. In Living Color was my favorite TV show as a kid. I loved it so much my brother Jorge and I revolted against our parents and would not attend church on Sunday nights until our parents fixed the VCR to tape record the show. I then discovered Steve Martin, John Leguizamo, and Margaret Cho’s standup and one-man shows and thought to myself “I love what they are doing and I want to do that.”
Standup comics are my favorite people. It’s a tiny segment of people who know exactly what you are going through and have gone through the exact same emotions and you have. Artists are special people. They are willing to be vulnerable and willing to be judged and take the consequences for the choices they make to a crowd of strangers.
I’ve been lucky enough to perform in comedy clubs and gay bars all around LA. I’ve performed at comedy festivals throughout the country. I was also a semifinalist in the 2018 and 2019 US Comedy Contest and performed at the World Series of Comedy. I would classify my material as silly, sharp and clumsy with a political edge.
There is nothing smooth about standup comedy. It’s been a roller coaster ride but I’ve always loved riding roller coasters. The moment you think everything is going well, “boom” you bomb harder than you ever expected to bomb and those thoughts about quitting altogether start creeping in. But there is something to be said about having that humbling and humiliating experience of bombing in front an audience no matter how large or small. You learn. You grow. You adapt. It’s about how you deal with it.
What I have loved most about this journey is the comedy family I’ve gained in just over two years. I’ve always felt like such a freak, weirdo dork child but I just feel like myself when I’m with my comedy family. There is good, bad, and ugly in all of us and all the comedians I’ve met on this journey have made it easier to break down those walls and make it easier to accept all those insecurities even now at 39 years old.
Not too long after I started doing standup, Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico. My parents live in Ponce, the second largest city in Puerto Rico located in the south central part of the island. I didn’t hear from them until 1 week after the storm hit. Fortunately, since my brother works at JetBlue airline, he was able to get them on a relief flight 9 days after the storm hit and they were able to stay with my sisters in Florida until they returned after power was restored two months later. Recently my brother evacuated my parents once again after the southern part of Puerto Rico was hit by a multitude of earthquakes. They live in Ponce, the second largest city in Puerto Rico after San Juan. Talking about my feelings about the entire experience on stage has helped me get through it.
I’m not shy about showcasing that I absolutely love being gay and Latino. I was born in Puerto Rico, grew up in Orlando and lived most of my adult life in New York and North Carolina. My parents didn’t speak English growing up so representing my experience growing up gay in a Spanish-speaking household is central to my point of view on stage. I realize not everyone can relate to my experience but my journey is also a truly American one that I hope people will understand and appreciate.
I’ve just tried to live my truth as authentically as I can and it’s allowed me to meet and work with some of greatest comics in the industry today.
Being a gay Latino working in corporate America for last 10 years has helped shape my point of view as a comic. I’ve always felt like it’s been my duty to represent my communities knowing that sometimes I’m the only one in the room to speak on their behalf since management in corporate America is still predominately white and straight. This is the case for many industries but I welcome the challenge to represent those who do not have the opportunity to voice their point of view, whether at the conference room table or on stage.
I wouldn’t change a thing. While I sometimes think about what would my life be like had I continued performing standup after my college graduation instead of taking a 14-year break, I realize that the reason why I have a point of view to share now is because of the life experiences and decisions that I’ve made which have led me to this point. I can honestly say that I didn’t really know and accept who I am as a person until I turned 35. Now, I just look forward to sharing my experience with others and hopefully it will help other “late bloomers” learn to accept their insecurities at an earlier age to live a more fulfilling life of self-love and self-acceptance.
I define success as moving forward and getting better. I learned to not compare myself to other people while I was in college. There is always someone funnier, smarter, better-looking, richer, more well-connected so instead on competing with other people who have a completely different life experience than me, I just try to focus on sharing my own life experiences in the hopes that the audience understands. If my jokes get tighter and if I consistently see progress then I know I’m on the right track. I told myself to keep an open mind and go where the love is. There isn’t really a marker as much as there are milestones that indicate that you are ready for the next level. It’s a never ending cycle that you need to keep pushing for.