Gid Pool has risen quickly through the comedy ranks in eight short years.
That might not be so surprising unless you consider his age: 69 years young. Life changed forever when Pool took a class at McCurdy's Comedy Theatre in Sarasota, Fla.
"My wife was a high school guidance counselor and her principal took a comedy class," Pool says. "They have a graduation show and he invited us to come see him."
Surprised to learn that comedy was taught in classes, Pool was intrigued.
"Growing up, I was always the class clown," he says. "I was always in trouble for saying the wrong thing at the wrong time.
"I took the class and sort of got hooked. I thought, 'This is it.'
"I was in real estate at the time and it was starting to slow down," Pool says. "I thought I'd never get the chance to try comedy again, so I'd better do it."
Next, Pool began to prepare for his new career in earnest.
"I read books, went to seminars, did everything I could do," he says. "I got to emcee at Visani Comedy Dinner Theater, a comedy club in Port Charlotte.
"When we'd get the headliners in each week, I'd offer to take them to lunch if they'd talk comedy with me.
"I learned an awful lot in an awful quick time," Pool says. "The more I studied it, the more I wanted to do comedy."
Playing a grumpy old man on stage, Pool talks about life as he sees it. Offstage, he's as friendly as his persona is gruff.
Pool was featured in a Wall Street Journal article about older people who change careers to chase their dreams. That led to an appearance in the "Your Life Calling With Jane Pauley" AARP segment on the TODAY show.
"That's when you know the stars are lining up for you," Pool says. "I got off a cruise ship in Fort Lauderdale and got a call from the producer of the segment."
Filming was done at a comedy club and on a cruise ship, and Pauley traveled to Sarasota to interview Pool. The segment can be seen on YouTube.
Savannahians will get the opportunity to see Pool perform March 7 at the Bay Street Theatre. A native of Kentucky who now lives in Florida, he is looking forward to coming to Savannah.
"I've got to come and get a dose of Southern cooking," Pool says. "Once you get past the state line of Florida, you're in Michigan."
This is not his first trip to Savannah.
"My son was at the Hunter Army Airbase," Pool says. "He lived on Tybee.
"We'd come around and kick around. I was here back eons before they had the new bridge.
"You can come down here and feel right at home," Pool says. "The more you walk around, the more Southern your accent gets."
Inspirations for Pool's comedy range from Jerry Clower to Bill Cosby.
"I grew up with all these guys," Pool says. "I had a guy tell me, 'You're a white Bill Cosby - you don't tell jokes, you tell funny stories.'
"For my perspective, there are two kinds of comedians: some who say funny stuff and some who just talk about life. I'm more the storyteller. Maybe I exaggerate a little, but by and large, it's true life."
One of Pool's idols also came to comedy late in life.
"Jerry Clower was a fertilizer salesman," Pool says. "He traveled to farm conventions and gave speeches.
"People said, 'Jerry, you're funny. You should be a comedian.'
"He was more of a storyteller, too, and I like him from that perspective. I also like Ron White's sarcastic delivery."
Pool writes his own material.
"One of the things I do now is compare the kids of today with what we were like growing up and some things that are wrong," he says. "Of course, it's the parents' fault."
Pool's comedy is aimed at all ages.
"What's funny is that when I get a crowd of younger people, they think I'm making fun of old people," he says. "For example, Publix will hire really old bag boys, and I do a joke about their 'Senior Shuffle.'"
In addition to performing, Pool teaches comedy for Celebrity Cruise Lines.
"I spend 80 days a year doing it," he says. "The cruise line brings in speakers and somehow I got involved in that.
"I've been doing that almost five years now," Pool says. "Last November, we crossed over from England to Fort Lauderdale."
The cruise job has taken him to Amsterdam, Venice, Chile and other parts of the world. Pool can't believe the path his life has taken.
"It's like winning the lottery," he says. "When Jane Pauley interviewed me, I said, 'We're the first generation to get a do-over.'
"When my grandparents were my age, they were physically beat up by life," Pool says. "Today, we have better health care and live and stay healthy longer."
Saying his comedy is rated PG-16, Pool does a clean show.
"My mother would crawl out of her grave and find me if I didn't do clean comedy," he says. "As I say in my act, 'That's why we buried her face down.'
"I've always said, 'If you can't do clean comedy, you can't do comedy,'" Pool says. "If you have to rely on shock effects, you can't do comedy."
Atlanta comedian Mark Evans recommended Pool for the Savannah gig.
"I don't do a lot of comedy clubs," Pool says. "I'm too busy.
"I have an agency that books me for functions like conventions. At comedy clubs, I don't make nearly the same money, but sometimes I do them because I like the smaller room."
Sometimes as a child, Pool wished he could be a comedian.
"It sort of came and went when I was younger," he says. "There was no real way to do it back then.
"When the '80s hit and the club scene exploded, I was in a place so far off the radar screen I could never have done anything in comedy. I never had the opportunity."
Currently, Pool is working on a book, "The Power of R Squared: You Can Get There From Here."
"It is based on my journey into comedy and the insights into what I did to get here from there," he says. "It has to do about concept, about saying, 'I'm going to reach this point and this is it. I'm going to do this.'"
Many people make career changes late in life.
"I think most people are not afraid of trying something, they're afraid of learning something," Pool says. "Once you begin to learn something, it takes you in all different directions that you never thought it would go. I get pulled into venues to do things I'd never done before.
"I want people in my situation to know it's not over," he says. "I think most of us honestly want to do stuff, but we grow up and then worry what everybody else thinks, so we don't."
Staying busy keeps a person young, Pool says.
"Try to think of one famous comedian that ever died of Alzheimer's or dementia and you won't find one," he says. "It's because your mind is always on.
"I'm like everyone else, I think I'd be great in a sitcom, if they'd let me do my character," Pool says. "I'd love to do something like that."
Ever ready for new experiences, Pool will go to the Edinburgh Comedy Fringe Festival in August. But first up is Pool's appearance in Savannah.
"I hope to get a crowd," he says. "I have a really good time with people.
"My immediate goal is to really start working on cruise ships as a comedian.
"But it doesn't make any difference, because I'm having a ball," Pool says. "I'm the most juvenile 69-year-old in the world."