Chris Barylick, founder of the Geek Comedy Tour, met up with me at the very crowded Tynan coffee house in Columbia Heights this past weekend. We were fortunate to find two seats by the coffee machine. For a minute we stared at this knitting club that was hanging out right next to us. That was the first knitting club I have ever seen. It looked like they were having fun, but come on! I don’t get how people can just plant themselves at a coffeshop for hours and hours like it’s their den and think that it’s cool.
Anyway, Chris, 33, is from Providence, Rhode Island and moved to DC in 1996 and has been performing stand up for the past six years. Additionally, he runs an open mic at the Eleventh Street Lounge in Clarendon, VA every Monday. The first time I met Chris was at his open mic there. The weather that night was a little brutal, but a lot of comics showed up to do their thing. Chris announced the lineup of comics that were going to perform and then we moved down to the basement.
The whole experience reminded me of a scene in Fight Club. We all marched down the stairs together into the underground room. The lounge has a huge spread down there and the walls are lined with cozy couches. Chris said “What’s at Eleventh Street is great and it has the potential to be amazing. I love the space, the mic system is good. It can be an intimate thing or it can be larger if it needs to be. Even when it’s crowded it’s not uncomfortable.” The actual open mic in Clarendon has been going on for two years, but he has been the hostosting for about a year and is working hard to make sure that the show reaches it’s full potential.
Chris’ comedy journey began when he performed for an audience back in high school in the halls in between class periods. He was around 105 lbs at the time and had trouble being around the jock scene and started mouthing off to blow of some steam. ” I could really piss people off with a great amount of talent and for some reason the upper classmen said, ‘Hey, you’re funny’ tell us stories.” He found himself writing up stories to tell people in the halls and after three weeks of performing he was called into the head of the high school’s office for causing trouble. The principal asked him why he was doing this to which he replied “I don’t know why I am doing this.” When he was 27 he realized what he was doing back in between class periods and said “then I was like I want to do comedy no matter what.” He started out in the comedy scene by filming other comics sets and made dvd recordings for them to buy to use to promote themselves. He decided to performing his own material when local comic Seaton Smith told him “You are funny man. Fuck shooting, you got to get up there and start working on your stuff.”
Chris said that it took him about seven months before he had his first good set, but once that happend he began making new friends. “Comedy is sort of instant family. These are people that would get out every night if they could and when you have that in common with someone, alliances form. You tend to bond pretty quickly.”
Chris shared that his best experience as a comic has been performing with the Geek Comedy Tour last year at the Katsucon 17 convention. The Geek Comedy Tour began in late 2005 and is a “nerdcore” comedy group that goes to various science fiction and anime conventions around the area. He said his group performed in front of around 500 people at Katsucon 17 and will again this year at the Gaylord National Hotel & Convention Center this Feb. 18-20. He said the crowd was great “Because we’re freaking nerds and we have a nerd audience. That’s a match made in heaven. This is stuff that we love and refer to and it’s stuff they love.” His group is sponsored by some comic shops and they will be giving away free comic books sometime during their “hybrid” Q & A session schedule on the 20th.
Chris emphasized that D.C. is a great town and a wonderful place to live, “but it’s also a town that takes itself way too seriously sometimes.” He believes that people should go try visiting an open mic, because it’s a free product and “all you have to do is show up and get a drink that you would order anyway and sit down. If it’s funny enjoy it and if it’s not then someone else is coming up in seven minutes.”