Like Stand Up? Want More? Read This and Help Out

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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!

Hello Citizens,
I hope all is well and this e-mail finds everybody healthy and happy.  As many of you know I have been doing a lot more theatre stuff and I opened up a cool, small place underneath a HR57 Jazz club on 14th Street last year here in DC.  Although intimate, the space lacked many of the amenities and services I needed to function properly.  I have been looking for a new location.  I happened to find the best building possible about two blocks away and some amazing partners for a building on 14th Street.  We have been negotiating with the landlords intensely.  I had hopes of securing the 2nd floor for a new comedy club, the first floor would be The Diner/Tryst from Adams Morgan and the third floor and independent movie cinema specializing in local and more concentrated works (The E Street Cinema people).   It is a beautiful building with tons of potential for a great arts center and a great spot to bring together the community.
Having put in an almost identical bid to purchase the building, it appears as if the sellers are leaning towards selling 14th and T to a big box corporate furniture chain out of Minneapolis called ‘Room & Board’.  Not only would this snub any effort to put an arts based, community related facility in the location but if Room and Board gets the spot it means:

Less jobs and less jobs/revenue for people in the community.
Less revenue for other local businesses
The 10-12 independent furniture stores already on 14th would close within the first 2 years.
Going against 14th Street concept and plan as an Art District
Denying three local businesses with more than 35 years of operating model businesses in the city
Less safety and foot traffic at night
Less community interaction and programs for adults and children
Less fundraising and charitable opportunities for the community

In Addition: ROOM AND BOARD MAKES ALL OF THEIR OWN FURNITURE IN SOME FACTORY WAY FAR AWAY! When they want to make an order they call some assembly line in another town that employs people from that state.  When The Diner/Tryst, Riot Act Comedy Club, or the Cinema make an order for  napkins, dishes, silverware, food, beer, wine it will be to a LOCAL distributor to in a LOCAL office that employs LOCAL people who will have LOCAL people that deliver their goods to us.  LOCAL every step of the way and the money stays in the community.   Room and Board is looking to make people in Minneapolis rich. (nothing against Minneapolis Dwight)

MOST IMPORTANTLY:  This place would give me the opportunity to put on comedy shows 7 days a week, provide a more opportunities for comics, and provide comics and customers with an amazing, modern facility.

Here is the article in the DC City Paper (feel free to leave a pro ‘ARTS’ comment!) )

PLEASE SEND AN EMAIL directly to the CEO of Room & Board and CC our Mayor and the two Councilmen whose Wards are most effected by these plans.  Tell them this is NOT how Room & Board should be introducing themselves into the DC area! Local comics please let them know you already have no place to work on your skills. Let them know they are welcomed but NOT at 14th & T Streets NW!
John Gabbert, Founder and President of Room & Board,
Mayor Adrian Fenty
Jack Evans, Councilman for Ward 2,
Jim Graham, Councilman for Ward 1,

Please BCC (if you can):

2 minutes of your time could really help change this whole thing for the better and set this whole thing right.  Fight The Power!

Hope all is well with everybody and hope to see you soon.
John Xereas
Riot Act Entertainment

1 Comment so far

  1. Like Stand Up? Want More? Read This and Help Out (pingback) on October 31st, 2008 @ 6:48 pm

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