Comedian Alingon Mitra is living proof that the “nice guys finish last” maxim is wrong. The 27-year-old from Worcester, Mass., not only won the 2013 Boston Comedy Festival Contest, he divided his $10,000 prize between One Fund Boston - a charity for victims of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings - and 95 other contest competitors.
Mitra is a veteran of NBC’s “Last Comic Standing,” where he triumphed in the Comic Comeback contest, and has appeared on "The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson." He initially caught the comedy bug while watching Comedy Central in middle school; he later went on to graduate from Harvard University, where he wrote for the Harvard Lampoon. We caught up with Mitra ahead of his five-night run at Acme Comedy Co.
Q: At what point did comedy become your full-time job?
A: After performing on "Last Comic Standing," there was enough in the pipeline to make it work.
Q: Do you feel that comedy is a craft or an inborn talent?
A: Probably like in music or sports, people have an inborn talent that leads them to have a certain proficiency with it. But, like anything else, you have to build on what talents you have to make sure you have all the tools in your belt when you’re performing.
Q: How did you pick up the tools you use?
A: Whenever I’m watching stand-up, I try to find the stand-ups that are doing well or that I appreciate and try to decipher what elements they are using to generate laughs. If there’s some way to learn those skills, I try to do that. At that point, it becomes a trial-and-error process.
Q: What is your favorite thing happening in popular culture right now?
A: I’m not really big into pop culture; when things strike me, that’s when they turn into material. I guess the big thing going on right now is the North Korea leaks and “The Interview.”
Q: What are your thoughts on censorship in comedy?
A: If there are pre-determined rules when you’re going into a show, as a professional, you should abide by them, but what normally dictates what you should say as a comedian is: Are you getting laughs from what you’re saying? As long as you’re getting laughs and they aren’t coming from a place of malice, you shouldn’t be prevented from saying those things.
Q: Tell me about a time that a joke bombed.
A: I try to forget the jokes that I bombed. I’m sure if I go through my joke book, I’ll find one, I just can’t remember one off the top of my head.
Q: How do you use social media in your comedy?
A: I wasn’t big on it for a while. I felt it was important to develop the material before trying to get a fan base, but on “Last Comic Standing” two semi-finalists who weren’t chosen to be in the finals were picked to be in an online contest where people were voting on Twitter. That’s how I started making use of Twitter. You could see online who was voting for you. I tried to connect with everybody who voted for me by thanking them. Since then, I’ve tried to make a little bit of a presence on the Twitter.
Q: Have you had any blowback on Twitter?
A: Not really. I’m not saying anything that generates hate. I joke about, like, Disney movies, so it’s hard for people to come after me on that. For the most part, I just try to connect with the people who are positive and ignore the negativity.
Q: Do you ever get hecklers at your shows?
A: My style isn’t really that abrasive or confrontational. Normally, I’m not dealing with hecklers in the ways other comics deal with it. I don’t get people talking trash, I just get drunk people who, if you say something that connects with them and they have something to add and they’re too drunk to realize that’s not what you’re supposed to do in that setting, start talking about it with you and you have to explain that we’re not here for a conversation.
Q: What are your resolutions for 2015?
A: The usual stuff. Eat fruits and vegetables. Not eat cookies for breakfast.
With: Randy Liedtke.
When: 8 p.m. Tue.-Sat.; 10:30 p.m. Fri. & Sat.
Where: Acme Comedy Club.