Stand-Up Comedy hit its boom in the 80’s. Shows like SNL were bringing sketch comedy to American TVs for a good number of years, and big name acts like Robin Williams, Eddie Murphy, Jerry Seinfeld, Sam Kinison, and Billy Crystal were both touring to clubs-and thanks to HBO, had specials in constant circulation on TV.
Everyone wanted to be a comedian. So in the 1990s (when admittedly some great comedy was still happening) there was just…too many. Cities like DC which had several big name comedy clubs saw demand drizzle and drip-folks weren’t flocking to live shows anymore because, frankly, there was a bit too much exposure and a bit too many people to see. Now DC has one club, the fabulous Improv which is where I learned how to do some stand up( strong language btw ) and-apart from the occasional appearance at Warner Theater for a mega act like George Carlin-is the only place to see a real headliner in town.
The strange thing is that even though there aren’t a lot of places to play there are a ton of comics in this town-a lot of them very good. Where are they all you ask? Well the circuit here in DC is mostly relegated to coffee houses or backrooms in bars once a week. Open Mic-which is where a schlep like me has to go to learn how to be a good comic-is kind of hard to come by. Here is a list of the shows available now-you’ll notice a lot of them aren’t in the beltway or even metro accessible making opportunities for a PT comic such as myself very limited.
Most of the reason I don’t do stand-up anymore is the hassle-Even the guys who do treat you right can only put you on once-tops twice-a month if you are a green like I am: You’re not filling in the seats with your following yet and its lame to have the same comic come up and do the same thing week in and week out. Just a few places to play on any given night and an incredible number of comics (one promoter once told me he gets a 150 emails a day looking to get time) makes for long open mic sets (I’ve seen 17 comics do 5-10 minutes each in one night. Yikes!) and not a lot of opportunity. No opportunity means no growth as a comic. No growth as a comic means less and less for you, the audience to see. So its a problem.
All of this is by way of setting the stage for the punchline-if you will. John Xereas is Riot Act Entertainment and I’ve always found him to be a pretty good guy. No longer at HR-57, John has been looking for a new place to open up not just a once a week show-but a full on, 7 nights a week, comedy club. Unfortunately a big box corporation furniture company is also bidding on the place and he fears it isn’t going to go his way.
Now look-I know this is a strange post and some of you might be reading it as “feel bad for my buddy who wants to open a comedy club” but it is a bit more than that. If you are a person who enjoys comedy, who would like to see more comedy take place or just have a competitor to the Improv in town (and I think this is a situation where competition would help both parties by the way) then I encourage you to read the letter John sent below (after the jump) and help act. If not-hey, no worries. I don’t know if it will do any good, but if you would like to give a try, as I am, then I invite you to do so.
Thanks and Happy Halloween everybody!