“When I drink beer I say haha. With mojitos it’s jaja.” Stand-up performer climbs comedy ladder

After watching comic Grant Toliver take the stage at Teatro Trail in Coral Gables, you might be surprised to know this tall, brown-haired jokester got his start studying psychology at a small private college in the midwest. 

 The jokes just start rolling.

“I don’t know why the show is named Gringo Grant, no one’s ever called me that my whole life,’’ said Tolliver, who is 6-foot-7-inches tall. “I’ve had many nicknames, like ‘big G,’ ‘stretch,’ ‘slender-man.’ The most annoying was when people called me ‘preying grantis.’”

Toliver, 33, grew up in a small town near Indianapolis, a place so plain it’s actually called Plainfield. 

Four years ago, he took a leap of faith to come and test his luck in the melting pot of Miami. Since his arrival, he has produced five comedy shows and performed in multiple venues. He continues to work toward his dream of becoming a headliner. 

Born on July 16, 1989, the youngest of three siblings (he has two sisters), he grew up outside Indianapolis, where he played sports with the same kids from elementary to high school. In 2008 he graduated from Plainfield High and enrolled at Indiana University.

 “I went to college at IU,” Toliver said. “It took me 5 years to graduate with a psychology degree. I chose psychology because I changed my major like five times so I had to pick one.”

In college, Toliver struggled with public speaking. His passion for comedy pushed him to face this fear. His first ‘show’ certainly didn’t go as planned.

“I was super nervous,” he said. “I remember one time, when I did it in college, I drove to Louisville and then drove back, said I did stand-up but didn’t actually do it. I lied to my family and told them it went well.”

After he graduated in 2013, he decided to not pursue a career as an entertainer.

“I traveled the country for a year and dealt with mental health issues like every other comedian/millennial,” Toliver said. “Also, I worked odd jobs, like Postmates, Uber and worked for my family.”

With his psychology degree, a few college Spanish courses and hunger for comedy, Toliver packed his bags for Miami in 2018. Transitioning from the homogenous Midwest to Miami and its the different customs, cultures and nightlife required some adjusting. 

“Definitely a big culture shock,” Toliver said. “I’m still not used to the kiss hello or the constant traffic. Also, I’ve learned that no one here will show up on time to anything. At first it annoyed me because it goes against my white guy instincts of being an hour early.”

Miami began to feel more like home as he made friends. His weekends usually consisted of kickball games at “Club Sports.” Soon enough, Toliver found himself in a tight-knit friend group that rooted for his career. 

“I think he’s pretty good. I actually give him points,” said Luiz Apa, a friend since Toliver moved to Miami. “By now, I know 95 percent of his jokes. I really do go to a lot of shows.”

As he continued pursuing his new career, he began to collaborate with well-known headliners, such as actress and stand-up comedian Esther Ku, who appeared in a female series comedy sketch called “Sorry Not Sorry,” and Kyle Grooms, comedian/actor who worked alongside Amy Schumer in the film “I Feel Pretty.” Both have made appearances in “Gringo Grant and Friends”. 

Grant Toliver and comedians at Toliver’s self-produced stand-up comedy show. (Maria Lozada/SFMN)

“Miami has a bunch of people that are pro headliners,” Toliver said. “There’s this comedian, called Marcelo Hernandez, [who’s] on SNL now and we’ve done shows with him in the RedBar Brickell but now he’s gonna be on SNL.”

Although Toliver’s passion is comedy, he still drives for Uber in the day and referees club sports on the weekends. However, Toliver’s ultimate goal is to make comedy his full-time job and travel around the world to perform. 

He is available to book for different events, such as bachelor, birthday, and wedding parties. You can book him through GigSalad or DM through his Instagram @tallhumancomedian . Keeping a piece of the night is possible with Toliver’s merch shirts sold for $25.

Toliver’s jokes range from kid-friendly to Nickelodeon after-hours to Spanish depending on the show he is doing. 

Despite the distance from home, Toliver’s family continues to cheer him on from the sidelines. 

“We mainly get to keep up with him through his hilarious Instagram videos,” Anne Toliver-Pratt, his sister and fan, said. “But we’ve noticed how he has continued to hone his craft and get better each time we are lucky to get to see him perform live.” 

For now, Toliver continues to work on perfecting his jokes and building his online presence. He produces his own comedy show called “Gringo Grant and Friends,” which takes place once every two months. In five years, Toliver sees himself making it big. 

“I hope to make it a full-time career in comedy and traveling the country doing shows for like 200 people at improvs, that’s the goal,” he said.

Maria Lozada is a junior at Florida International University majoring in Digital Broadcast. She has a passion for writing and editing videos. She looks forward to graduating and pursuing a career in the media industry.

Janetssy Lugo is a student at Florida International University majoring in digital journalism. She loves reading, baking and listening to Bad Bunny. Working at a radio station is one of her goals as well as traveling the world.