Nick Griffin could have become a stock broker like his father, except for the booze run in college, and the bar, the open mic, the laughter, yes, the laughter. And then, also, his aversion to numbers.

That was a long time ago for the 52-year-old comedian, who became a favorite of David Letterman, and who brings his comedy Friday night at 8:30 to Gurney’s Newport Resort, as part of Newport’s Winter Festival. Also appearing is Ray Harrington. Tickets are $20 in advance or with bracelet, $25 at the door; VIP Tickets $40 in advance or with bracelet, $45 at the door.

It was that first “booze” run, and the stop at the local bar that helped define Griffin’s future. He was a communications major (“I tried to find a degree that didn’t make you do math”) at William Jewell College in Liberty, Missouri.

“After 10 times on stage, I caught the bug,” he says.  “Once you get the taste of a few laughs it’s tough to let go.”

He’s developed into one of the most sought-after comedy club headliners, sharing his stories of divorce and his life’s experiences — “observational, personal…man, woman, relationship stuff…how we interact with each other,” he says.

One of seven children, he was brought up in Kansas City, his mother a stay at home mom, his father a stock broker. He went to William Jewell College to play football, not really knowing what career to follow. It found him, when he found the open mic.

Griffin says he wanted to get on Letterman and followed the advice of friends to move to New York, perform around the city, and soon he would be on. It took 18 years before he was invited on the show.

“I grew up loving Letterman,” Griffin says. “That was the show that kind of adopted me.” He appeared on Letterman 11 times, and on Conan, several other television shows, and hosted his own half-hour special on Comedy Central.

His performance at Gurney’s is perfect for Griffin. He prefers “the intimacy of a small room, feeding off the audience’s energy. Comics are notoriously insecure. Audience is super important.”

He sees his performance as a way for individuals “to just have some time away from their own thoughts and worries, get away from their problems.

“I’m a divorced guy, and some people come up afterwards and thank me for talking about divorce, depression, areas with which they can relate.”

Political humor? Not for Griffin. “I’m not bright enough to understand all the intricacies of the politics,” perhaps an understatement in this current environment.

For tickets and more information, visit the Newport Winter Festival website.

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Frank Prosnitz

Frank Prosnitz brings to WhatsUpNewp several years in journalism, including 10 as editor of the Providence (RI) Business News and 14 years as a reporter and bureau manager at the Providence (RI) Journal. Prosnitz began his journalism career as a sportswriter at the Asbury Park (NJ) Press, moving to The News Tribune (Woodbridge, NJ), before joining the Providence Journal. Prosnitz hosts the Morning Show on WLBQ radio (Westerly), 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. Monday through Friday, and It’s Your Business, also on WBLQ, Monday and Tuesday, 9 a.m. to 10 a.m.

Prosnitz has twice won Best in Business Awards from the national Society of American Business Editors and Writers (SABEW), twice was named Media Advocate of the Year by the Small Business Administration, won an investigative reporter’s award from the New England Press Association, and newswriting award from the Rhode Island Press Association.