Key Lewis' ambition was to be a comic. He just had to wait for the time to be right.
He grew up a big fan of Richard Pryor and Redd Foxx.
"I was probably writing material even before I felt like this was something that I wanted to do," said Lewis, in a phone interview in advance of next weekend's shows at Ogden's Wiseguys Comedy Club.
"All this time, I should have known it was a calling."
Lewis noted that Eddie Murphy was just 21 when he was on "Saturday Night Live." Dave Chappelle started stand-up when he was 16.
But Lewis just wasn't ready for a comedy career at that tender an age.
"I was in the service, and I have a family, and there is a level of sacrifice that you have to make and stuff you have to set aside," Lewis said.
It wasn't about trying to get onstage as early as he could. He waited until he had the confidence and found his comedy voice. He wound up starting his stage career when he was 30 years old.
"That's kind of been my success, where I have had things that have happened to me and my confidence is at another level than it would have been when I was 19."
He's been a comic for eight years now, taking him from his hometown of Sacramento, Calif., to Seattle. Now he calls Salt Lake City and its comedy scene home -- he moved to Utah two years ago.
Lewis said Wiseguys owner Keith Stubbs helped change his act to appeal to more fans.
"He never really put reins on me. But he challenged me to clean up my act a little bit and to be a little more conservative -- which I need to do (to do) television," Lewis said.
"I think I have a shock appeal without being blue."
Keep it personal
Onstage, Lewis shares stories about his wife, kids, work -- it's his way of inviting the crowd into his life.
"Once I let them into my life and into my story, and I have captivated them with my truth, then to me, that makes what I do much more enjoyable," Lewis said. "So it's the ability to create a relationship without doing backflips."
He tries to create that relationship, for example, while talking about having to deal with customer-service reps -- something everyone has had to endure.
A great storyteller can get the audience to relate to the subject and the comedy.
"That's a gift. Everybody can't have it. Otherwise, there would be a bunch of Cosbys and a bunch of Seinfelds," Lewis said. "At the end of the day, I think that's what separates the greats -- if you laugh without them trying."
While he strives to excel in storytelling, Lewis has always incorporated a healthy share of crowd interaction.
So he will talk to the crowd to strike up a connection with them.
"Sometimes I have managed to create genius from just a conversation," Lewis said. "Because we are all the same in some aspects."