Working Comic: The Beginning of a Comedy Room. – by Shawn Carter.

What a week!  Monday I did Sally’s, Tuesday it was Stadium.  But Saturday,  that was the day I had been looking forward to for months.  I’ll explain.

When the Howard Johnson’s in Fenway closed and there was no more Thursday night open mic in Boston I talked with Thom Crowley about trying to find a new room, a place for all these comics to go and tell jokes on a Thursday night.  We decided to pitch the idea of a Thursday night open mic to the management at Stadium in Quincy.  The manager was open to comedy but they didn’t want to do Thursday nights and they weren’t sure if they wanted a comedy open mic, they seemed more interested in an actual show.  Thom and I pitched them a Sunday night show based on the one we had started doing on Wednesday nights at the Howard Johnson’s.  They went for it and we had our foot in the door.  Over those first few months we would trade hosting between myself, Thom and Christa Weiss while recording all of the themed comedy shows for a podcast.  We weren’t getting a big crowd, but Bill McMorrow was always there.  Without a car and living sort of far away it ended being more difficult for Christa to get there and I’d host more often.  Then Thom got really busy at work and producing the Mendoza Line in Boston on Saturday nights and I ended up hosting all the time.  The show got moved from Sunday to Tuesday because it happens in a sports bar and football is much more important than comedy.  If I ever had any momentum for a booked comedy show, it was gone but Bill McMorrow was still there.

I switched the format to open mic comedy.  At first we’d get 10 people, Bill McMorrow, myself and 9 others.  Then after a few months I could expect 17 people (including Bill McMorrow) to show up.  All of them signing up to go onstage.

One night I was hosting the show and one of the comics brought in about 6 friends.  That was great because it made up our entire audience at the time.  When they were leaving at the end of the night one of them stopped to talk to me and said he’d definitely be back.  Later that night I posted a joke on Reddit and Imgur for the first time ever and it got up voted and up voted and I was on the front page of each and this guy (Jim) that had just seen me hosting the show at Stadium found me and wrote me a message like “dude, you’re going viral.”  I knew that the joke was seen a bunch but I had no idea if this was normal.  When a joke goes viral you can gain some twitter followers and maybe a few people will check out your website, but by far and away the most important thing that it did for me was getting Jim interested in hanging out at Stadium more often.  Since then he’s been helping me create a better environment for comedy every week.  He’s got some new idea to improve the show every week and it always ends up helping.  Anyway, my point is I couldn’t do the show properly without this him and maybe it doesn’t happen if I don’t post that one dumb joke on line that one time.

So Jim started helping me with the show each week and soon it would be 43 comics showing up looking for stage time.  The open mic was going well and every week Bill McMorrow would show up and he just kept getting funnier and funnier.  But I decided to change the format again.  As much as I love open mic comedy, and I do, I already run an open mic on Mondays and this room in Quincy has the potential to be a really great space for a quality show.  I didn’t want to run a 4 hour open mic each week.  I didn’t want comics showing up and having to wait for 3 hours to get on stage.  I didn’t want audience to show up only to be let down by a show that has absolutely no quality control, which HAS to be the case with any open mic.  The best advice I got was from Andrew Mayer and he suggested having some shorter sets for open mic spots and longer booked sets for more experienced comedians and to have some limit on each.

We made the change.  We made it a booked show and we started gaining an audience.  At first we’d get 25 comics and 10 audience members.  Then it was 18 to 18.  Later it changed to 20 comics and 45 audience members.  That was a good week.  We still have weeks where it’s 20 comics and 16 audience members but if that’s our bad night on a Tuesday I think we’re doing alright.  After the show had been doing well for a couple of months the management asked if we might be interested in running a weekend show sometime.  (I say we because there’s no way I could do this show without the help of Jim and Bill, and Sean Rosa who also has been a regular at the show and has developed some great material, and is also nice enough to help set up/break down the room frequently.)  Anyway, we were able to come to an agreement with the bar and land a great comedian that is originally from the area but has been living in New York City for years.  And that is how we got our show with Joe List at Stadium.

After months of promoting the show it all paid off, we had a sold out show.  Joe was amazing headlining the show just as I knew he would be.  I hosted the show.  Jim did everything from helping set up the room to working the door to introducing me at the beginning of the show.   Thom Crowley went first and opened the show with a killer set then Sean Rosa kept that momentum going as he yuk’d it up on stage.  After that Bill McMorrow took his act in front of the sold out crowd and they were into his dark humor and fortuitous word play.  We had a drop in set from Dan Boulger who has been a favorite of mine since I started doing comedy and he was great as always.   Then of course, Joe Killed it.  It was a great night all around and I’m hoping to be able to run another Saturday night show there again sometime.

I still think of this as just the very beginning of this comedy room but it’s taken over a year to get to this point and I’m happy with the progress we’ve made.

But in the meantime, if you’re reading this, feel free to come check out a Tuesday show for free and watch some great new comics develop.

Stadium in Quincy,

1495 Hancock Street.

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