Delaware was the 42nd stop for Project Highway – a tour of two stand-up comedians determined to visit all 50 states. The duo performed at Sully’s at the Witherspoon in Middletown on Feb. 12.
“We’ve travelled about 33,000 miles,” said Barbara Perez, a Denver-based stand-up comedian who makes up half of Project Highway. “We’ve been on the road 17 months and we’re still going.”
The project is part tour, part “social experiment,” Perez said, and it involves living on the road and getting to know the culture of people the duo meet along the way.
The idea for Project Highway came to Perez in 2012 after performing at numerous small venues in New York that were attended by mostly tourists.
“It occurred to me to be able to really bond with audience members. If I went to all 50 states, I would have something to say to relate with them. Like if I asked them, ‘where are you from?’ No matter what state they would tell me, I would be able to say ‘oh I was [there] and that would allow me to bond with them,” Perez said.
Perez originally thought about going solo on the adventure of traveling across the country, but invited her best friend and fellow comedian, Mike Motz, to come along. In September 2013, the two hit the road determined only to perform at mom and pop establishments.
“I’m really passionate about supporting local businesses because if people do not start putting their money towards their community, these businesses will go away,” Perez said. “America was built on the dreams of the small business person.”
A bumpy ride
With very little financial backing, the road has been difficult for the performers. The two have faced challenges that questioned their ability to finish the project. They tell stories of their 2002 Dodge Caravan breaking down in the middle of no-where Texas, and of Perez’s accident in Florida where she broke her leg. All in all, the comedians have been able to adapt and look at the positive side of things.
“Everything from her breaking her leg to us blowing our transmission to all these things that have happened, there is always a way around it if you keep yourself open to going on different avenues,” Motz said. “A goal is far off and you don’t know the road that you’re going to take. You have to be willing to sometimes take a left hand turn when you thought you were gonna go right. You have to keep yourself open to the path.”
Passion for comedy
Each comedian has a different routine. Perez focuses mostly on being a woman and her life as a single mother raising two daughters in a working class neighborhood in Denver. Motz’s material is centered on his experiences as a New Jerseyan encountering different types of people he meets in his travels.
“I always knew, my whole life, that I was supposed to be a comedian,” Perez said. “One day I realized that if I don’t start doing it, I never will. I put everything on hold and got into it. And that’s the other message to this, you’re never too old, or too young, the wrong color, the wrong weight, the wrong look, or whatever – if you have the passion inside of you and you’re not acting on it, you’re going to be unhappy and when you start acting on it, it all falls into place.”
Impressions of Middletown
After visiting so many places across America, the two comedians said that they had a good impression of Middletown.
“I was like ‘Wow, this is a quaint little town,’” Motz said. “What’s amazing is that there are literally thousands of Middletowns around the country. Some are more different than others and each in a way can still be unique. It’s exciting. I love little towns like this one.”
Jenny Carr and her family were at Sully’s the night of Project Highway’s performance and said she really appreciated the laughs.
“I thought it was awesome. It was very unexpected. We came out for dinner and saw a great show afterwards,” Carr said.
“I think their project is innovative and cool. It’s very unique,” Tom Carr, Jenny’s husband, added.
In the audience was also Amy Wolinski of Middletown. She told the Transcript that it was her first time enjoying a comedy performance at the pub.
“Sully’s is good at having live music and stuff like that, but the comedy thing was really great. I had a really good time.”
Perez and Motz videotape each show and their audiences at every stop and hope to put together a documentary about their adventures in the future. With eight more states to go on their tour, including Hawaii and Alaska, 44-year-old Perez said that she can’t wait to finish this tour so that she can do it all over again.
You can see a list of Project Highway’s remaining stops at, www.projecthighway.net.