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COM Student a Force at Urban Knights Radio

Terrell Butler steps up at UKR, while finding success at local comedy clubs

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Urban Knights Radio Program Director Terrell Butler. Photo by Bob Toy.

Terrell Butler isn’t one to sit around and wait for opportunities to come his way. Last spring, for example, the Academy of Art University School of Communications & Media Technologies student took it upon himself to learn the ropes of running Urban Knights Radio by shadowing graduating program director Von Bellows.

“I’ve always loved radio and one of my goals was to get more involved with the station,” said Butler, who took over the job last summer. “When I heard they were looking for someone to replace Von, I stepped up and started going into the station and spending time with him to learn the ins and outs of being a program director.”

His drive and initiative got the attention of UKR General Manager and COM instructor Matty Staudt. “I tapped Terrell for the position because I was so impressed with the show he produced for the station and his interest in learning more about radio,” explained Staudt. “I look for people who go and do things without me having to ask them. Terrell took it upon himself to meet with Von without having any promise of a job.”

According to Staudt, Butler also possesses a stage presence that makes him a natural leader. “Other students gravitate to him and trust his opinions and advice because it comes from a place of knowledge,” he remarked. 

Butler’s responsibilities include setting the schedule for new shows, adding fresh music to the regular rotation mix, helping out with promotional activities and providing music for special campus events. In addition to his UKR duties and classes, Butler also works hard at—and has fun—doing stand-up comedy.

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Urban Knights Radio Program Director Terrell Butler. Photo by Bob Toy.

His love for the art form dates back to his childhood when he and his friends entertained each other with their renditions of acts they’d seen on HBO’s  Def Comedy Jam. Butler started doing live comedy in 2007 after losing a job and googling “how to become a stand-up comedian.” That search lead him to a website with information about open mic nights in the Bay Area.

“The first name I recognized was a comedy club called Tommy T’s in Pleasanton,” said Butler. “I went there and signed up for five minutes of mic time and kept going back. As I got more comfortable performing, I started to take my stand-up comedy more seriously.” 

Local comedy clubs began to take him seriously, too. Earlier this year, he won a new talent comedy competition at Rooster T. Feathers in Sunnyvale. And he recently hosted a weekend of comedy shows for national headliners at the same club. 

“My status is rising a bit in the Bay Area comedy scene,” admitted Butler, who draws on experiences from his own life, such as the differences between dating at his current age (37) and in his twenties, for his routines. “People are starting to recognize me—I get a lot of love in Sunnyvale.” 

Other highlights of Butler’s burgeoning comedic career include performing at the Throckmorton Theatre in Mill Valley where Robin Williams was a frequent headliner. Butler was invited to perform there with Larry “Bubbles” Brown after he won the comedy contest at Rooster T. Feathers.

“I’ve been there twice,” said Butler. “I like that club a lot; I could really feel Robin Williams’ spirit.”

Along with the hands-on experience he’s receiving at UKR, Butler values the Academy for providing him with new skills to help him keep up with ever-changing technology and media. He also appreciates the opportunity to learn from professionals, such as comedy writer Anne Beatts, whose credits include writing for Saturday Night Live.

“I took a comedy writing for TV class from her, and she really helped me strengthen my monologue and joke-writing ability,” said Butler.

After he graduates next year, Butler is looking forward to working in comedy, radio, TV or all three. “All my life, I’ve just had small jobs,” he said. “But once I graduate, I’ll have the skills I need to have a real career for the next 40 years.”