Grandma’s Eulogy #11: No More Grandma’s

Grandma’s Eulogy #11: No More Grandma’s – by Matt Kona

One of our favorite comedy clubs has just closed its doors. As such, we’re having a few comedians write eulogies about their beloved, Grandma(‘s Basement Comedy Club.) This is the #11th…


Regardless of whether the scratched up, Benny Bosh autographed banner of a stock photo old lady and a 1950’s radio mic hangs up ever again, Grandma’s Basement, as most of us know it, is over.

 

I’ve wrestled with what to so say for a while and I still don’t know.  I’d like for it to not be sentimental at all, but that’s tough. I do have a special place for it in my heart but maybe not for the reasons everyone else is talking about. I disagree with some of the things said in the previous eulogies about it being a supportive community of comics. Fuck that.

It was a tough room.  That’s what a comic needs, to try to get good.

It was the third stage I ever got up on and the first place I bombed. Hard. It didn’t feel good, but it kept me honest and it got me to work hard, and harder. Even if the jokes I had were good and got laughs at other places, that didn’t mean shit at Grandma’s. The comics waiting around to get up did not give a fuck. Do your time and get out of the way. They’re either trying to figure out what they’re gonna say or they’re trying to have a separate conversation in the back.

shocked and horrified

I first heard about the open mic through the Kvetch board on The Comedy Studio’s website. I just had an address. I didn’t bother to jot down any other information. I knew it was at a bar.  That section of Boylston street only had two bars at the time, the Baseball Tavern and The Ram Rod. I went to both and got confused looks and no help. I then looked across the street and saw ‘Tiki hideaway’ on the marquee of the Howard Johnson’s and went in.

 

Benny was talking about the recent semi scathing blurb in the Weekly Dig that failed to mention the “Red Sox games nullify the open mic” policy. I went up and did my awful jokes (I remember one bit about ‘why you can’t hit on anyone at a wake because you’ll never end up putting your ‘casket’ into her ‘grave’). The silence and harsh looks caused me to pull the plug at about the 2:30 mark.

Year’s later, a fellow comic, Laura Crawford, said to me about that set “I didn’t like your jokes, I didn’t like YOU.” Fair enough!

 

I think a lot of people felt that way. Some still might. My goals at first were to get laughs and if that failed at least to try to get Shawn Donovan and Ted Pettingell to turn around when I was on stage (which I eventually did with a fake act out bit about the difference between how Alligators and Crocodiles walk).

 

I would return there every week, showing up earlier and earlier to avoid going on at midnight. (These were the days where the list wouldn’t go past 30 but everyone would do at least 7 minutes and plenty of people with a few more year’s experience would bump in)

 

I didn’t attempt to talk or socialize with anyone else at open mics. I wanted to win them over with my comedy. That eventually happened (for the most part, I think) and one Thursday on the T, headed to Grandma’s, I had an amazing interaction with someone that I felt comfortable sharing with the group of earlybirds hanging around the bar before the mic started. That event would go on to become my best bit and the first bit of comedy that I was really proud of and the way that I talked about it to everyone made the sometimes difficult task of making friends somewhat easier for me that day.

TV's Sean Sullivan and open mic-ers

One night I coaxed Benny into letting myself and John Paul co-host the mic while he was away.  It was my first experience in that role and I loved being able to tag people’s jokes, connect them in some way to something I had and play around with John Paul, one of the first people I became friends with at open mics. I went to the first booked show there which had a low single digit audience turnout and Benny let the comics that watched all do a few minutes after the inaugural headliner, Steve McConnon.

Over the years I got to do sets on weekend shows, host a weekday showcase, a live podcast, then a storytelling show/podcast (both of which were called “Comics Coming Up” and able to be heard on iTunes or MattKona.com if you’re feeling nostalgic already) and of course a yearly New Year’s Eve show called Y2Kona.

I tried to hide it but it warmed my heart to preside over a room full of people who all were drawn together by comedy, but especially this little tiki lounge in a decrepit hotel.

Y2Kona

The shows there ranged from empty to half full to sort of full for a while. Rarely was any money actually made. Sometimes I didn’t even feel like badgering the people already at the bar, afraid that I would ask them for $5 and they would leave instead.

 

I was looking forward to being involved in some fun new concepts for shows in the New Year that were all nullified one Sunday night after an open mic when Gary sat me down in his car and gave me the bad news.  It was not devastating or surprising. I knew it would eventually be gone and I have grown accustomed to hardening myself emotionally to be ready for the demise of a room. From the first open mic that ceased to be since I started (Comedy on Fire at Smokin’ Joe’s) to the demise at the first real weekend comedy club I was starting to get worked at (Mottley’s) I was used to bad news and harsh realities.

 

Gary let me put together the last Friday show and even do two shows, though I just pushed them together into one monster three and a half hour marathon to a mostly full room. I hosted another Sunday open mic later that weekend, desperate to squeeze as much stage time as I could from that room.

 

Grandmas’s gave me a lot, but I clawed and clawed to get it.

It may have been a clubhouse but I never let myself feel too comfortable there. I knew most of the comics and I was friendly with them all, but I didn’t want to just use it as a place to hang out or take for granted. I seldom went to “Shitty Movie Sunday” because I wanted to get on stage and get better somewhere that would have me. (when I did go I had fun and felt a little shitty about not always going, but again I felt the need to keep grinding out sets even if it was to grizzled ‘Nam vets in a Medford VFW hall)

 

I am glad that I made friends there, but there’s a lot of friends that I made there that have since moved away, that I barely keep in touch with. That’s the thing with comedy, some people are casual comedians with no illusions, and some people want to chase this highly unrealistic dream. (Grandma’s had it’s fair share of both.) It’s not that I’m not a good friend to them, or them to me. It’s just that they’ve moved on and are performing in cities full of tough rooms trying to pay their dues and get better at standup comedy.They’re also probably not spending over an hour writing about the demise of a comedy room at an open mic when they should be figuring out what jokes they’re going to tell.

 

I know some people that don’t do comedy anymore who still liked to go to Grandma’s and hang out because of that atmosphere. They’re trying to recapture it, I guess. I’ve never bothered to ask them if it worked, I don’t think it could.

 

I don’t think that it can be recaptured anywhere else. It’s over. It’s just the latest footnote for one generation to say to the next. After the first wave of Boston Comedy people may have asked each other “Was the Ding Ho around when you started? What about Play it again Sam’s?” Then later on it was “You never performed at The Comedy Connection?” and soon we’ll be asking

“Were you around for Grandma’s?



Matt Kona

Matt is a contributor for UnSceneComedy.com