In the 18 years since he made his Indianapolis debut, comedian Jake Johannsen has gotten married and fathered a daughter (now 7), built a house, did a couple of comedy specials – most recently "I Love You" in 2010 – made nearly 40 appearances on Letterman, continued his successful standup career ... and been back here exactly once.
"Let me just say this: I've got all new material," he declared. "The downside is, you missed a lot of good material. The upside is, it's all new."
Johannsen isn't sure why his trips here have been so infrequent; the last time was about six years ago when Morty's was the Funny Bone. But that bafflement sort of fits his comic persona, which is a man bewildered and bemused by the world around him. (You can see a sample of his comedy or hear him on The Bob and Tom Show on Thursday morning on WFBQ-FM 94.7.)
"I'd like to come back once a year so that if people like me, they get a chance to see me again and I can develop a following," he said. "It's kind of tough when people come and they see you and they like you and they see you again, but they sort of forget who you are after 3-4 years. Or they forget that they liked you. That's why it helps to be really fat. If you're really fat, people go, 'Oh, yeah, it's the fat guy. I remember the fat guy.'"
The Iowa native's visit here follows a four-week vacation in New Zealand, where his wife is from, and a weekend gig doing standup in Sioux Falls, S.D. So he promises to be rested and ready to go.
He didn't do any standup in New Zealand – there are few venues for comics, he said – but the trip gave him the opportunity to observe America from a distance. At one point, Johannsen tweeted: "In New Zealand US debt ceiling 'debate' looks like monkeys fighting for a peanut while driving a school bus full of babies down a mountain."
Johannsen felt bad for the New Zealanders.
"I feel sometimes like I wish I had more control over what's going on," he said. "But at least I get to vote. And at least I get to have conversations with other people who get to vote about what's going on. They're on the other side of the world going: Are these jugheads just going to destroy the earth? It's very interesting to get that far outside of America and realize there are people who are at our mercy that we're not thinking about attacking or harming, but they're watching us like, What is it going to do now?"
The vacation was great, he said – jetlag notwithstanding – but he's happy to be back on the road.
"My career is in the Brian Regan vein of the guy who's making his living on the road more than the Jerry Seinfeld having a massive hit TV show," he said. "It would be great to have a massive hit TV show, but it's pretty fun to go on the road and do comedy clubs. You know that my job is fun when a guy who's got Jerry Seinfeld's money is going back out to do standup."
Johannsen said he's in the early stages of planning his next comedy special and is pitching a TV pilot he and a friend made.
He's also trying to figure out social media.
"I'm not going to be a friend with my gas station," he said. "My gas station is like, 'Hey, follow us on Twitter.' What are you going to tell me: Hey,we've got gas? I know that."