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Morgan Belanger of Weare warms up the audience at Recycled Percussion's New Year's Eve show at the Palace Theatre in Manchester. (Victoria Connor Photo))

Weare comic feels right at home on stage

Although she's known as a funny girl, Morgan Belanger might not have struck anyone as a future comic when she was a student at John Stark Regional High School.

She hated getting up and giving speeches in English classes. She shied away from theater productions because she was too afraid to go on stage.

But Belanger, who grew up and works in Weare, recently made her comic debut – after being invited to do so by the founder of the "junk rock" band Recycled Percussion.

Belanger, 25, opened for the band – known for using ladders, buckets, trash cans and other unconventional items in their act – five times at the Palace Theater in Manchester at the start of the new year.

Her performances, done in front of hundreds of audience members, are the start of what she hopes will be a blossoming career in the world of comedy.

"Making people laugh is what I really want to do with my life," said Belanger. "Now that I have (performed), I want to do more."

Belanger didn't expect that she'd be making her debut so soon. After she posted two 8-minute videos of material on the Facebook page of Legacy X – an organization started by Recycled Percussion founder Justin Spencer – he told her that she would be opening for the group for their early January shows.

Giving her the chance to go on stage is in line with the organization's mission – helping people find their true selves and define their life's purpose and inspiring them to leave a legacy they're proud of. It inspires people to make changes in themselves and in the community they live.

"The thing about Justin is: you don't say no to him," said Belanger, who is active in Legacy X, with a smile. "He's just one of those guys that gets what he wants. He's really good at that."

Belanger first saw Recycled Percussion perform when they held a show at Center Woods Elementary School when she was in first grade and she has remained a fan of the band.
After she graduated from high school in 2008, she earned an associate of science degree in veterinary technology at Great Bay Community College. She now works at Weare Animal Hospital as a certified veterinary technician.

It's a job she loves, but she also wants to do more with comedy. She plans to do open mics – live shows where audience members perform at the microphone – take a stand-up comedy class in Boston and deliver some of her material on YouTube.

"I've always thought that I see things differently; things in my brain work differently," Belanger said. "I find humor in just normal, everyday life."

In the future, she might audition for big gigs, such as an appearance on a late night talk show. And she would love to someday join the cast of Saturday Night Live.

"For now, I'm seeing where it goes," she said.

Belanger's first show at the Palace was before a full house crowd that came to see Spencer's band on New Year's Eve. Belanger was surprised that Spencer didn't have her perform a trial run, instead putting her on stage for the first time in front of the large audience.

"It was kind of crazy. It was not something I expected to happen," recalled Belanger, who was very nervous prior to going on stage. "My very first night I probably had a 10-minute routine, and I learned very quickly what would work and what didn't work up there."

Spencer, who watched backstage, gave her some constructive criticism after the show. She also got helpful feedback from Jim Roach of JJR Productions, an entertainment company that works with several comedians, including Bob Marley, Jimmy Dunn and Lenny Clarke.

"His big thing was to 'trim the fat,'" Belanger recalled Spencer telling her. "(I) cut out about three minutes of just unnecessary things that people weren't laughing to or didn't need to be said."

Over the next three days, she went on stage four more times. With the improvements, Belanger was more confident, but nervous that she wouldn't remember the changes.

"By the third time, I got into a rhythm and I was pretty comfortable with how it was going," said Belanger, adding that she kept her material, including sharing that she grew up in the small town of Weare, pretty light-hearted.

Belanger, who counts Robin Williams, Ellen DeGeneres and Dane Cook among her comedy idols, has been encouraged by people to do stand-up all her life. The improv training she took in high school helps her think on her feet, she said.

"I've always been the person who makes everyone laugh. That's just my role," she said. "There's the serious friend, there's the friend everyone goes to for advice and then there's me making everyone laugh. I just try to have a good time. I don't like tension, I don't like drama. I just try to solve everything with humor, which 99 percent of the time works."?

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