NEWMARKET, N.H. — If you’re looking for someone who took an unconventional road to a life in standup comedy, consider the career of Juston McKinney. After growing up in Portsmouth and Kittery, he studied law enforcement at York County Community College and landed a job with the York County Sheriff’s Office, where he patrolled fourteen small towns. When he started with the Sheriff’s Office, he was all of 19 years old. “I wasn’t old enough to buy bullets,” McKinney says dryly. His partner had to buy them for him.

After a few years, he moved to another job in the department, one that, oddly enough, opened the door to comedy just a crack. “I started working in the schools as the DARE officer and working with kids,” he recalls. “That’s what got me up in front of a crowd, which I really liked.”

Think about that for a moment. Here’s a professional comedian who’s made a living performing around the country for more than two decades--and he was inspired to first give standup a shot by the response he got in front of elementary school students. Taking the lesson plan and injecting humor helped teach him a lesson. And it gave him a bit of confidence. “Granted, my audience was 5th and 6th graders, so I had to make an adjustment when I went to a comedy club. But [teaching DARE classes] was kind of where I got the bug.”

It all sounds like an amusing and charming story, and it is. But that’s only part of the arc of Juston McKinney’s life. There have also been setbacks and heartbreak. Watch our interview to find out what he overcame before finding success.

Note: Juston McKinney will be performing January 24th at Stone Mountain Arts Center in Brownfield, January 31st at the Camden Opera House, and February 1st at City Theater in Biddeford.

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