|Jack Lunn and John Grapes|
by Jeff Moles
By day, Jack Lunn works in sales, as he has for 37 years. By night, he is a stand-up comedian. As he puts it, “I’ve worked about every comedy gig you could do in my 15 years of doing stand-up. From Zanies, to a psychiatric convention, to doing Elvis impersonation at a corporate conference in Chicago, to driving five hours to perform twenty minutes for free, to working the seediest little bars and hang-outs you can do. It’s all part of the world of stand-up comedy, and I’ve done it.”
However, Jack’s favorite place to share his comedic gifts is Room In The Inn. Since 2010, laughter has been reverberating through the halls of Room In The Inn when “Funnyman Jack” is teaching his comedy class. “My goal is to get laughs early and often, not just from me, but from everybody. I get them to write jokes, tell jokes, brainstorm. I challenge them. They get a chance to perform in the end.”
It is rare to not find John Grapes sitting in Jack’s classroom on a Friday. John has been struggling with homelessness for three years, and takes part in many of the educational opportunities offered at Room In The Inn. Comedy class is his favorite.
John spent years in the music industry. He played drums with such superstars as Eddie Rabbit, Kitty Wells, James Brown, and George Jones. He says, “Music is all I wanted to do since fourth grade, and I made it work.”
Suffering from severe stage fright made performing difficult for John. He turned to drugs and alcohol to numb the anxiety that would overtake him. John got clean thirty years ago, but a physical ailment kept him from continuing with his passion for performing. Looking back, he wishes he would have listened to his father’s advice to finish school, and to have a “plan B” to fall back on.
About John, Jack says, “John self-admittedly has stage fright, one of the big causes he says for picking up some bad habits that were a negative influence in his life. I believe stand-up comedy has hit this problem head on and given John more self-confidence, particularly in front of an audience. Laughter brightens his life.”
Jack says that he knows he can depend on John, something that is reinforced in the community nature of his comedy classes. Community is an active force in his classroom. “My class does a lot of brainstorming and that means all of us pulling together on the same rope. We’re always searching for that killer joke. And by working together, a lot of times we get there. I love it when students laugh and support one another’s material and jokes and performance.”
John says that the encouragement he gets from Jack and his classmates is invaluable. It helps him look his fear of being on stage head on. Every few months, Jack and his students present a comedy showcase in Room In The Inn’s Clancey’s Café. Jack is constantly looking for new student comedians to perform, and also relies on his regular class members like John.
In John’s words, “I like to share my comedy because it lets people get away from themselves for a few minutes. They don’t dwell on how miserable they are, and they don’t have to use drugs and alcohol to escape. Jokes get people away from the cold, cruel world.”
John says that after he finishes his time on stage it’s like a tremendous weight is lifted off his shoulders. His teacher Jack says, “I don’t know where John is headed, but I hope he gets there. He makes me laugh, early and often. We’re close to the same age and we have a lot of similar likes and interests. So we connect as a couple of friends cuttin’ up and moving through this thing called life. I wish John happiness, clarity, direction, and determination to find his way…wherever his heart desires.”