Comedy in DC: Become a Local Comic, Support a Local Comic

Photo courtesy of
‘Stand up 371′ (Jay Hastings)
courtesy of ‘YoLoPey’

Exciting stuff in the local comedy world this week, everyone.  There’s a new open mic, and a fun showcase happening at the Improv.  Make your plans quick, or you’ll miss out, and you don’t want that. Oh no, you don’t.

First, the open mic: Standup comedy has returned to the Comedy Spot in Ballston. Every Thursday night, Hot Broth Comedy starts at 7:30 in the Comedy Spot’s black box (which is really more of a gray box) stage. Show up at 7-ish to get on the list.  Okay, yeah, look, it’s not technically in DC. But there are some reasons you should check this out anyway- First, it’s run by Tyler Sonnichsen and Jake Young, who, in addition to being hilarious and committed to running a quality show, are also very professional (for comedians, I mean really), courteous guys who make newbies feel welcome. So if you’re looking to try this out for the first time, this is the show to hit.  Second, it’s ridiculously convenient for driving, metro-ing, AND planning- you don’t have to sign up in advance. And finally, it’s in a dedicated space rather than a bar like a lot of open mics are. So you won’t have to compete with the bar conversation, the local sporting event on the TV, the jukebox, or whatever. I’m delighted to see this happening and can’t wait to go check it out myself.

Second, the showcase: This Saturday, January 31st at 8PM, there’s an audition showcase for the Just For Laughs Comedy Festival in Montreal. Which, let me just say it, is kind of a Big Freakin’ Deal. It’s the biggest, baddest comedy festival there is. It’s like, I don’t know, Cannes for Comics. Many of the area’s finest comics (including the scruffy guy adorning the top of this post) are going to be showing off for the scouts, so for a mere $20, you can go laugh yourself hoarse and support local performers. It’s a win-win, people. I mean, what were you going to do with that money, see Paul Blart: Mall Cop? Go watch some live comedy instead and have a little more respect for yourself in the morning. Go buy your tickets. 

News about local comedy events can be sent to tiffany at we love dc dawt com. I’ll love you forever. Seriously.

Tiffany Baxendell Bridge is an Internet enthusiast and an incurable smartass. When not heckling the neighborhood political scene on Twitter, she can be found goofing off with her ukulele, Bollywood dancing, or obsessing about cult TV. She is That Woman With the Baby In the Bar.

Tiffany lives in Brookland with her husband Tom, son Charlie, and two high-maintenance cats. Read why Tiffany loves DC.

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4 thoughts on “Comedy in DC: Become a Local Comic, Support a Local Comic

  1. I like to consider myself a local comedy fan, but I don’t feel that there is a whole lot of support for local comedy in DC. Outside of a couple of columns where Aparna Nancherla was bashed and defended (I think she’s good by the way) there have been very little comments left on the Comedy in DC entires compared to other entries on this site.

    Where’s the love for local comedy guys?

  2. I don’t think a lack of comments is entirely indicative of a lack of support. A lack of comments just indicates that people aren’t feeling the need to type out a bunch of text to agree/disagree/go off on a tangent on a blog post. That’s an entirely different sentiment than “I don’t care about local comedy.”

    The shows that get put on in the Improv’s Lounge regularly sell out, from what I can tell. I don’t have broad knowledge of attendance at local shows that get put on in other venues, but I do know that rooms that aren’t comedy-specific suffer a great deal from lack of support by the *venue* managers, not necessarily from lack of audience. Top Shelf had the rug pulled out from under it at Solly’s a few weeks ago with no notice. The open mic at O’Sullivan’s in Arlington used to pack what was otherwise an empty bar on Monday nights, but the management didn’t like the comedians’ *language,* so they canceled it. (One wonders just what they thought they were getting when they let COMEDIANS into their BAR.) Curt Shackelford’s show at the Hyatt has been very consistent, but sounds like they’re constantly under threat of closing if the food/bev receipts aren’t what the hotel expects.

    It seems to me that the Improv’s decision to rent out its lounge space has been a huge boost to the local scene, because it makes the produced shows feel a little less ad-hoc and more polished than if they were performed in a bar, and there’s actually a contract involved.

  3. “The shows that get put on in the Improv’s Lounge regularly sell out”

    Those sell outs unfortunately have very little to do with supporting local comedy and are due in large part to whether or not the main room sells out that night.

    “It seems to me that the Improv’s decision to rent out its lounge space has been a huge boost to the local scene.”

    I would respectfully disagree. While it is cool as a local comic to be able to say that you performed at the DC Improv it has done little to boost the local scene. I’ve been a part of shows in the lounge. The crowd is either made up of friends or people who couldn’t get tickets to the main room so they chose the lounge as an option since they were already there. Did they have a good time? Sure, local comedians in DC are great, but are those audience members now going to locally produced shows outside of the Improv? Probably not.

    There are local scenes in Seattle and Austin that are thriving. Seattle has a locally produced show on Wednesday night that sells out every week and we’re talking a venue that seats over a hundred people.

    That would never happen here in DC and certainly not on a weekly basis.

    The closest thing to that type of support are the shows that Curt Shackleford puts on at the Hyatt, RiRa. Outside of those shows it seems like comedians need to pull teeth to get some folks to watch a show.

    Some of the blame falls on the comedians for not promoting enough, but for the most part I just don’t think DC is a comedy town.

  4. It’s certainly true that a lot of the sellout Lounge shows get that way because of overflow from the mainstage, but I don’t see that as a bad thing for two reasons:

    1. It means the ticket buyer is there to see comedy, rather than ONLY being interested in seeing the mainstage headliner. Don’t forget, upon being told that it’s a sell-out, the patron could just as easily turn around and go do something else entirely. Instead of leaving, they CHOOSE to spend money to see a slate of relative unknowns.

    2. As a result, the locals in the Lounge get to perform in front of people who might otherwise not have gotten to see them, people like comedy but may not be aware of the local comedy scene, and who then might actually choose to see them at some point in the future. No matter where these new audience members come from, I don’t see how this could be anything but a net positive for local comedians.

    As for Curt’s shows, I think there’s something to the idea that Curt works really hard to turn whatever space he’s using into a more conducive venue for comedy. I mean, I love the open mics that happen in bar basements and stuff, but they’re mostly good for testing your material out on other comedians. If you want people to watch your comedy show for its own sake, a microphone in a bar with a desk lamp is not going to cut it if you’re still having to yell over all the bar chatter. That’s why I’m excited to see how the show at the Comedy Spot does.

    I do think there’s a promotion problem- I was delighted a couple of months ago to turn on XM Comedy and hear Hampton Yount’s set from the Improv’s contest finals, but I had no idea that it was airing. I surely didn’t hear about it from ANY of the comics on the bill, and I’m acquainted with/on the mailing list of several of them. I definitely think a lot of local comics spend a lot of time securing a venue, booking the show, and developing a cool-looking flyer, and then have absolutely no idea what to do from there. I have to go chase comics and ASK them where they’re performing just to have material for this column, in fact.

    Hm. Being an internet-y comedy fan, I may have to put some more thought into this particular aspect of the problem.