Features July 2020

Head of the Class: Local Dad Finds Success on Stage

Over the past few years, father of two and local teacher-turned-comedian Paul Diedrich has thrilled audiences at every comedy club in Arizona as well as on the road, touring through Washington, Nevada, California, New Mexico, and Colorado.

“Life is a funny thing, or at least right now it is,” says Diedrich, whose early life was spent on the road, at times nearly homeless.

Diedrich’s father was a Marine who lived with an undiagnosed mental illness and diagnosed physical disabilities. At one point, his decided that the family of six would more or less live in a car and travel to all 50 states, no matter how many years – and night sleeping in said car or a tent – it took.

After making it to 48 by Diedrich’s 8th birthday, the family sort of settled down in Minnesota. Through charity, they actually lived in a house owned by a local church, and Diedrich began attending regular school.

Then his dad had a new dream. Living rent free, he decided to use his social security payments to purchase land by a lake in rural Minnesota and build a house – with no electricity or running water.

“Dad moved there and lived in a tent while building. I remember mom being miserable, but dad was living his dream, until we then passed away,” says Diedrich.

Over the next five years, Diedrich’s mother – with no college degree, no sustained work experience, and no money – followed her extended family from one city to another, living off their charity and accepting piecemeal jobs.

“I started working at 9, and graduated high school early at 16, at which time I started working even harder,” says Diedrich, who worked hourly jobs until he exhaustedly moved to Arizona, where his mom had relocated a few years prior.

Once in the Valley, he began a job at Chili’s, where he met his future wife – Carrick Bray.

“She talked me into attending community college, then Arizona State University. I graduated at 28 with a degree in marketing and took a job in corporate sales,” says Diedrich. “But it didn’t feed my soul.”

At 35, after seeking help for mental health issues inherited from his father, he decided to make a change and went to school to become a teacher. By 39, he owned a home, was happily raising two children with Carrick and working as a P.E. teacher at a local school.

“I had always thought I could write and be clever, so I decided to cross Stand Up Comedy off my bucket list before I turned 40,” says Diedrich, who signed on for a program at a small comedy club soon after.

The eighth week of the workshop was a student showcase show, and Diedrich shined. So much so, in fact, he was hired by the club owner to perform on stage in earnest for paying customers. Work at other clubs across the Valley soon followed.

Then, he met comedy giant Frank Caliendo, a fellow Valley resident, completely coincidentally in 2015.

“We actually coached flag football together for our kids. I didn’t mention to Frank that I did stand up for over a year of knowing him. I thought it would be like telling Michael Jordan, ‘Hey, I played a little ball in 7th grade.’ Eventually, we became friends and I shared it with him,” says Diedrich.

Caliendo then helped Diedrich write some jokes and paved the way for performances across the Pacific Northwest and California. With his newfound stage success, Diedrich soon wanted to give back, founding a company called Comedy Roadshows in recent years.

“Through it, I work with nonprofits to host comedy events, giving all proceeds to the organization as a means to help them raise critical funds to support their programs,” says Diedrich.

And even more recently, while still working as a teacher full time and navigating COVID-19 – including his own daughter’s high school graduation in May – Diedrich also found the time to produce his first-ever comedy album.

Sadly, his launch event was sidelined due to the pandemic. But, he recently launched his own website to sell it direct, and it is also available for just $10 on iTunes, Amazon and similar platforms.

“Given my vocation and the winging road that has been my life, I called it Teachable Moments,” says Diedrich. “I deal with adult themes in a clever, funny way without straying into obscenity. I discuss marriage, parenting, owning rescue dogs, teaching, and even my unique childhood,” says Diedrich.

To learn more, or get your copy now, visit www.pauldiedrich.com.

Written by: Annelise Krafft

Annelise Krafft, the daughter of local reporter Steve Krafft, earned her Bachelor of Arts in Strategic Communication with a dual emphasis in Public Relations and Advertising and a minor in Spanish from Northern Arizona University before settling into the world of freelance writer and public relations at HMA Public Relations in Phoenix earlier this year. In her spare time, the Arizona native enjoys spending time with her boyfriend, Daniel, playing with her two dogs and tracking the latest celebrity gossip. akrafft@hmapr.com.

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