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Observational stand-up comedian Joshua Dittrich leaves audiences laughing

Joshua Dittrich performs a stand-up comedy routine on stage. The fourth-year communication student frequently performs sets across Los Angeles. (Courtesy of Joshua Dittrich)

By Emma Mieszala

Oct. 19, 2023 12:33 p.m.

This post was updated Oct. 22 at 7:42 p.m.

Joshua Dittrich’s parents might stitch people up, but he keeps people in stitches.

The son of doctors from Boise, Idaho, and a fourth-year communication student said he was first inspired to pursue comedy when watching “Saturday Night Live” as a teenager. In addition to frequently performing sets across Los Angeles, he recently staged a stand-up routine at UCLA’s “Arts in the Union” event. A self-described class clown, Dittrich said he has always expressed himself primarily through humor.

“I have so many elements of myself that I can make fun of to the extreme,” Dittrich said. “My standup and my sketch is very influenced by … stuff I experience in daily life.”

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Dittrich said his style of comedy is observational, and studying how people interact is crucial to writing humor. He said he often takes elements he finds funny or odd about himself or others, combines them into various characters and then incorporates them into his stand-up bits or sketches. Topics he frequently turns to for comedic material include being an Idaho native, the college experience and the contrast between his career and his parents’, he said.

When it comes to his writing process, Dittrich said he has an extensive notes log on his phone where he adds jokes as they come to him – which can be at any moment of the day. Later, when he sits down to write, he goes through his log and jots down any related material he can come up with, he said. Then, he steps away – for a few minutes or even a few hours – and returns to determine which of that material he wishes to include in his next set, he said.

“Force yourself to write even when you’re not feeling funny or creative,” Dittrich said. “By forcing yourself, you train the muscles so you can write more. … Even if I write for an hour and nothing good comes out of it, it’s still a helpful exercise.”

Dittrich was invited to perform at UCLA’s “Arts in the Union” event, organized by the Student Committee of the Arts and Associated Students UCLA during Week 0. When it comes to performance anxiety, Dittrich said he feels more nervous performing for people he knows than strangers – and he can feel it as soon as a joke doesn’t land. The response from the crowd is immediate, and for the performer on stage, there is no escape, he said.

Last spring, Dittrich worked as an intern on “The Daily Show” in New York City, collaborating with all of the program’s comedian guest hosts, he said. While in New York, Dittrich said he also hosted open mics and performed for local crowds. Cornell graduate and business developer Skyler Holzman said he participated in one of Dittrich’s open mics and was immediately impressed by Dittrich’s ability to get a crowd energized. The two quickly became friends and writing partners, he added.

“That’s probably his most notable characteristic, is his constant energy,” Holzman said. “Even when he’s tired, he sounds like he’s excited about being tired.”

According to Holzman, Dittrich’s passion for creativity knows no bounds, and he is continually reaching for his next great idea. He said Dittrich can be described as personable and empathetic – traits that make him a wonderful comic to work with. Dittrich said these interpersonal skills are partly derived from his major.

After entering UCLA as a cognitive science student, followed by a two-year stint in business economics, Dittrich said he ultimately settled on communication. He said the major has given him important experience in learning how to interact with others, send a message to people and appeal to an audience.

“A lot of (communication) is just basic emotion, … that’s been very helpful in creating jokes and a persona for myself on stage that people like,” Dittrich said.

Fourth-year mathematics/economics student Gavin Pola, Dittrich’s friend and frequent writing collaborator, worked with him as part of a sketch group last spring. Pola said although a comic’s material may be similar from show to show, the way it is presented and the manner in which a comedian interacts with the audience may differ greatly. These subtle nuances can be hard to grasp, he said, but Dittrich is skilled at tuning into what an audience is receptive to.

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Pola described Dittrich’s method as fluid and experimental, and Dittrich isn’t afraid to play to his audience and deviate from his planned material, he said. A key component of modern comedy culture is the element of surprise, Pola said, which Dittrich is adept at incorporating into his sets. Continuing their partnership, Dittrich and Pola are currently working on a new project together – “Scenes from a Fraternity Bathroom.” The sketch will be a portrayal of characters inspired by Dittrich and Pola themselves, Pola said, and the evolution of their friendship as told through scenes in the fraternity bathroom they shared last year.

As for other future projects, Dittrich said he hopes to one day write comedy for television. Dittrich said discovering comedy has completely changed his career path and has proven to be a cornerstone of his own self-discovery. He has met some of his closest friends at comedy events, he said, and his time working as a writer in New York City solidified his desire to be a late night comedy writer. Dittrich said comedy has ultimately allowed him to find himself and his voice, enabling him to become more confident on stage.

“There’s no adrenaline rush like when you get off stage,” Dittrich said. “If you’re a thrill seeker but you don’t actually want the thrill of dying … I’d recommend it.”

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