By Ed Karvoski Jr., Culture Editor
WILMINGTON – Steve Bjork of Wilmington decided as a child to become a comedian. He achieved his career goal with three decades of appearances at comedy clubs nationwide and on television commercials. Along the way, he wrote the book on being “almost domesticated.”
The 7-year-old Bjork received a Bill Cosby album from his mother because its cover pictured the cartoon’s “Cosby Kids.” Hearing the live comedy album sparked Bjork’s career choice.
“The idea that a guy could just talk onstage and keep people laughing absolutely captured me,” he recalled. “I thought, ‘Wow! No heavy lifting. This is for me!”
When “Saturday Night Live” popularized Eddie Murphy, Bjork’s mother bought the comedian’s first album for her then-12-year-old son. Together, the family listened to Murphy’s album – unaware of its adult content.
“It was probably one of the most uncomfortable experiences of my life,” Bjork relayed. “At 12, I had to pretend that I wasn’t getting all the jokes. That’s when I decided to work as a clean comedian.”
From stages to pages
Entering his freshman year at Salem State in 1986, he worked as a doorman at the now-closed Stevie D’s Comedy Tonight in nearby Middleton. He learned stand-up skills by observing Boston’s comic legends onstage.
Bjork focused on performing open mics in 1990, starting at Boston’s original Stitches. Several months later, he landed his first paying stand-up gig. He got $25.
“I showed the paycheck to my father,” Bjork proudly proclaimed. “He looked at it, looked at me and goes, ‘You better get your grades up.’”
Since then, Bjork has performed around New England and beyond on tours. He opened for The Platters, and shared stages with fellow comics Dave Chappelle, Tommy Chong and Steven Wright.
Bjork’s humorous observations go from stages to pages in his book “Almost Domesticated.”
In his collection of essays and short stories, readers can figuratively take his supermarket shopping trip to the deli.
“They’re serving #15,” he noted. “My slip of paper has got the symbol for infinity.”
As seen on TV
As an actor, Bjork’s TV commercials range from Bauer Hockey and Olympia Sports to T-Boost male revitalizing caplets.
For the T-Boost job, he auditioned and got hired without knowing the commercial’s product.
“If I had any integrity at all I would have asked, ‘What’s the product?’” he acknowledged. “It wasn’t until I got the gig that I learned it was for male enhancement.”
Before-and-after scenarios were filmed with Bjork’s character and an actress playing his wife. A bedroom scene contrasts her donning lingerie while Bjork wears a sleep mask. After taking T-Boost, he’s lounging in a leopard print robe with a rose in his mouth.
“It was fun,” he said, “but T-Boost isn’t necessarily a product that I want to be a spokesperson for.”
After raising an only child, Bjork and his now-former wife adopted four siblings. He aspires to follow his role model’s example of fatherhood.
“My father was the best dad in the world,” he shared. “If I’m half the man that he was, then I’m doing a good job with these kids.”
Bjork took his children on a road trip complete with a hotel stay and a chance to see him onstage. Their regard for a comedian’s profession differs from the 7-year-old Bjork.
“They got to witness dad make 500 people laugh,” he recounted. “The highlight of that trip for them was the hot tub.”
Working amid pandemic
When some pandemic restrictions loosened in spring 2020, Bjork was among the first New England comics to return to work. His atypical comeback took place at a drive-in-style show in a parking lot.
“I’ve got a lot of bills,” he quipped.
Since then, Bjork continued working his childhood dream job while adjusting to the changing pandemic restrictions through 2020 into 2021. His work schedule included outdoor venues, virtual shows, and club gigs with socially-distanced, limited seating capacity.
“You’ve got to cherish those moments when you can laugh,” he noted. “If I can bring laughter to somebody who has had a rough day. I can’t think of anything much better than that.”