When Donnie Sengstack was growing up in Damascus, he loved Jim Gaffigan’s comedy and was inspired to write his own material.

However, the jokes remained in his journal for years—partly because he was born with a stuttering speech impediment. 

He didn’t break out of his shell until a high-school drama teacher, who also had a stutter, encouraged Sengstack to act in Anything Goes. Now a freshman at the University of Maryland, Sengstack hasn’t looked back. 

“My stutter is unpredictable,” he says. “I always want to address it to the crowd right away, so I’m always writing new jokes about it.” 

He describes his act as “observational wordplay,” and certainly uses his stutter for material. (“I put the stud in stutter,” “I can turn a one-liner into an entire HBO special.”) 

His witty sets earned him a finalist spot in the New Comedian of the Year Competition at Magooby’s Joke House and performances at the Baltimore Comedy Factory and Broadway Comedy Club. 

Sengstack says performing comedy full-time is the ultimate dream. “I have tried speech therapy,” he says. “But this isn’t going away, so I have learned to embrace it and make it funny.”