Florida comedian lives in a van to turn his stand-up comedy dreams into reality

Published: May. 3, 2021 at 9:52 PM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - How far are you willing to go to pursue a passion? A Florida comedian is going pretty far, trekking thousands of miles on the road to make sure pandemic shutdowns didn’t crush a dream.

A.J. Wilkerson’s story is relatable to so many who put plans — or even careers — on hold when COVID-19 hit. His story is one of perseverance and rolling with the punches. Or in his case — the punchlines.

“Welcome to my van,” Wilkerson said recently after making the trip to Tallahassee from his native Levy County. “It has a nice master walk-in closet... I live in the closet.”

Wilkerson’s 1987 GMC Safari Passenger van has been his home for about a year. He wouldn’t trade van life for the world.

“Now I can’t imagine not doing it,” he said.

In 2019, Wilkerson was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. A therapist suggested a creative outlet to help figure out who he is.

“Try to go up on stage and talk to people,” he said. “I was like ‘Yeah, what do I have to lose?’”

At first, he said laughs were sometimes hard to come by. But eventually, he found a groove.

“I was so focused on thinking about the negative reactions I might get, that the positive reactions were just mind-blowing,” he said.

His stand-up took the identity of Captain Autism, using the branding to build an endearing standup routine about living with Autism.

The success took him to Tallahassee in March 2020 for a touring gig that could pave the way to bigger and better things. Then the world shut down.

“I realized if I wanted to keep doing this, I would have to do something extreme,” he said.

A thousand bucks later, the van was the answer. Wilkerson crossed the country in search of a laugh.

“As soon as I got out on the road, all the stress and COVID anxiety just fell away.”

Soon, he won several comedy competitions, catching the eye of Actor and Comedian Jay Mewes, who asked to join him on tour.

But the tool that got him there, the van, is falling apart. The roof has a major leaking problem, and a recent overnight storm pushed Wilkerson nearly to the brink.

“I don’t have the space in the vehicle to get out of my wet clothes and get dry without soaking everything else.” he said.

So, he has taken to GoFundMe, reluctantly asking the public to chip in to buy a new van. So far, over $4000 dollars has been chipped in.

“These are people who believe in me so much, they’re willing to reach in their own pockets so I can keep going on this journey,” he said.

A stand up comedian, standing tall through all of life’s cruel jokes.

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