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Depression, puppets and comedy: The droll poise of John Poveromo


Curlies Comedy Club in Rochester, NH, is going to be starring a familiar face on Friday, March 6 and Saturday, March 7 when comedian John Poveromo brings his stand-up act to the stage. Poveromo, being familiar with the area, has performed at Curlies multiple times in the past and has a certain affinity for the comedy club. He attests this to how the club is ran in a very comedian-friendly way, owing it to manager Jay Grove, himself a comic.  

“I love going back there,” said Poveromo. “I get to hang out for the weekend, see a lot of regulars and a lot of new faces. It’s going to be a lot of fun. It’s just a really great feeling. Rochester’s a great town and full of amazing people.” 

Poveromo first got interested in comedy when he was a child, drawn in by the relatability of the adult comics he saw on screen and encouraged by the world of Jim Hensen, that would later prove an inspiration for him. 

“When I was a kid, comedians were adults who didn’t take the world so seriously,” said Poveromo. “So, it’s a weird way to see things because growing up, you’re surrounded by your parents, your teachers, people who come from a place of authority and then you see a comic and they’re older and they’re breaking away all the bulls***.”  

Poveromo is involved in many pursuits other than stand-up comedy. He has published a book of comics entitled “Drawings From A Nobody,” which was the start of his collaborations with Jetpack Comics, also in Rochester and just around the corner from Curlies. There, he has held autograph signings and received recommendations on branching out from Marvel comics, falling in love with new comics and artists he’s found there in the past. Poveromo explained his eagerness to gather new reads at Jetpack Comics on Saturday when he’ll be visitng the store for an event, bringing along some of his new artwork as well. 

Additionally, at the end of September last year just in time for Mental Health Awareness Month, Poveromo wrote and starred in a short film entitled “Duppet.” The film was co-written by a friend, Vinnie Nardiello, directed and produced by Chris Fitz and production company ifitfitz, and was released on Amazon Prime and YouTube.

The puppet design of “Duppet.” was inspired by The Muppets, using an old puppet that Poveromo had previously acquired along with a children’s Elvis wig and a $25 leather jacket from Target. The use of puppets in the short came about in that joking way when someone pitches something they don’t really believe in, only for people to sit back an hour after hearing the idea and saying, “Well, actually… we could though.” “Duppet.” was puppeteered and voiced by a friend of Poveromo’s, Greg Johnson.  

The film itself was inspired by Poveromo’s own experiences with depression and anxiety, particularly a three-year period after moving to California, which exacerbated ongoing issues in his life, such as a bad break-up and the loss of his parent’s home in Hurricane Sandy. Poveromo’s character in “Duppet.” goes through a downward spiral, unable to meet up with friends or start a relationship. He is constantly being nagged by the depression puppet that hovers around him, encouraging him to be his worst self.  And the remedy to this? According to both the character and the real Poveromo: communication. 

“I learned over time that it’s just as important to talk as it is to listen,” said Poveromo. “I think learning those skills early on helped me be able to deal with it. My friends are always checking in on each other, we have a close group chat, where we’re like, ‘Everybody doing alright? Haven’t heard from anybody in a while, is everybody doing okay?’ And that’s nice to have. It sounds slightly terrible to be like, are you miserable, I’m miserable, that’s great news! But it does make you feel better and you’re able to really get it out in the open.” 

What inspired him to get into comedy is the exact thing that “Duppet.” conveys—relatability.  

“That’s the most important thing, being able to connect with other people, but you never know,” said Poveromo, “You hope whatever you make is good. And you hope whatever you’re putting out there resonates with people, but you never know until people start seeing it. And when people did and started saying such nice things about it, that was the most important part to me. Thank god, because even I was afraid to watch it at some point after it was finished.” 

Despite Poveromo’s natural inclination to be depressed (as he calls it), specifically the three-year period that inspired his short film, his struggles with mental health have not affected his stage performances on a day-to-day basis. 

“It doesn’t bother me when I’m functioning, when I’m surrounded by people or friends, especially when I’m on stage,” said Poveromo. “It never bothered me. I think when you’re on stage, whatever you’re going through, for however long you’re on stage, is gone. I’ve performed shows when I had a 102 degree fever when I had the flu and every time I’d go on stage, I’d do 45 minutes and I’d be fine. The minute I got off stage, I was huddled in a corner, shivering, trying to eat soup and drink tea.  

“You put that kind of s*** in the back of your mind and you just do your set. Mostly, it makes you feel better.”  

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