Local comic returns for homecoming show

In a year of firsts for Comedian A.J. Wilkerson, it’s nice to be home again and headlining tonight in Gainesville at Mother’s Pub & Grill North.

Wilkerson, who grew up in Bronson and then attended Newberry High School, is living the dream—driving around the country in a GMC van and performing to crowds from Orlando to Portland, Oregon.

“Tonight is my first headlining show since I left to go on the road,” Wilkerson, 33, said. “So it’s like a homecoming show.”

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Wilkerson left in January after opening for comic Jason Mewes at an event in December at the Comedy Club in Kansas City. Wilkerson entered a virtual stand-up comedy contest based in Portland and won the title.

The prize was opening for Mewes, and after the show, Mewes invited Wilkerson to join his comedy tour.

Mewes is an actor, comedian, film producer, and podcaster who is best known for playing Jay, the vocal half of the duo Jay and Silent Bob, in his longtime friend Kevin Smith’s films and for his role in Clerks.

For Wilkerson, comedy is a way to share his experience with autism, which is a topic of some of his jokes.

It was just two years ago that Wilkerson discovered comedy writing workshops hosted by Keg of Laughs manager Bob Smith. Smith has been part of the local comedy scene since the 1970s back, when he was a fan watching performers such as Steve Martin, Richard Pryor, Robin Williams and Bill Cosby take the stage at comedy venues or at the annual Gator Growl.

The workshops are held on most Sunday afternoons at 4 p.m. and give aspiring comedians a chance to bounce ideas off each other and try out new material under Smith’s mentoring.

On Sunday afternoon, Wilkerson went back to his roots and joined a meeting in the corner of David’s BBQ restaurant and both pitched material for feedback and gave advice to local comics.

Tonight’s free comedy show starts at 8:30 p.m. with Wilkerson headlining and local Morgan Gallo as the featured act.

“I’m excited for all the regulars to come out and see how different my material is,” Wilkerson said. “I’m taking out older jokes and telling all the new stuff nobody’s heard and the stuff I’ve improved on.”

After the show, Wilkerson’s next stop is New Jersey, where he has landed a role in the movie Clerks III.

But his focus remains on putting on a great show tonight, which will also showcase host Kye Saunders from Tampa and Mike Freed from Jacksonville.

“I’ve been building up my act and I’m excited to share it with everyone,” Wilkerson said. “I came up with this new bit in Denver and it’s already so much better from where it started.”

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