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“No matter how good you are, if you’re starting at zero, it’s going to take ten years for people to know who you are,” says comedian James Adomian. Though he has been working on his craft for more than a decade, he still isn’t well-known outside comedy-nerd circles. That will change.

He balances stand-up and impressions with comedic acting and radio work. His mind works as quickly as any stand-up working today, but most people know him because of his characters. He’s able to make obscure references while performing equally obscure characters—-on stage and off. His style could have made him a radio star in the ’30s. But where does it get him in 2011?

Podcasts. He’s a listener favorite on Comedy Bang-Bang (formerly Death-Ray) and The Todd Glass ShowPatton Oswalt and Andy Richter are fans. Adomian is already an alt-comedy superstar; sooner or later, the mainstream will catch up.

He didn’t begin to do impressions because he knew what comedy nerds would like; he just knew how to impersonate Republican politicians. “When I was in junior high school I used to call into AM radio stations and I would do impressions of the prominant Republican political figures of the time, like Newt Gingrich. That was when I was 14,” he says. “I started calling into a radio show, and after listening to the weirdos call in all night, I started calling in… [I] figured out it was easy to get on air. [Then] I started doing characters, and they gave me the studio number and that was it.”

Some know him as a character from the extremely popular web series “Yacht Rock“; others from last season’s Last Comic Standing. But most people probably know him from his Jesse “The Body” Ventura act. “I do everything for fun. Before I was doing stand-up, I was doing sketch comedy and characters. I do less of that now, but I channeled a lot of that into podcasts. I’ll still do Jesse Ventura or my drag-queen character or Dov Charney. The most people who are ever going to see it live are 200 people, so I might as well do it in a podcast.”

“I used to get sad about it,” he says, “but now I’m resigned [to the fact] that I get known for different things to different groups of people. No one has figured out exactly what I do.” But he does make people laugh. Whether at a nontraditional gig, opening for Joan Rivers, or playing to an elderly casino crowd, Adomian needs to entertain. “If [I] don’t perform every so often, I’ll go crazy,” he says. “If I go two weeks, it’s maddening. Normally if I go two or three days without a show, I get antsy. It’s like exercise.”

A TV show would be nice. “It’s not a sustainable lifestyle to just work on the internet,” says Adomian. “Basically, I do live comedy because that’s how I make my living. All the shit I’ve ever done for podcasting or Internet videos has been for free, but that’s normal.” And he’s OK with it, for the most part. “I have limited means and I do what I can with it… I’m not obsessed with getting rich and famous.”

James Adomian headlines Cool Dudes Hanging Out this Saturday at Subterranean A. 7:30 p.m. $5.

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