The Comedy Studio is one of the most venerable institutions of Boston Comedy. It has a reputation of being the place both new voices and national headliners like to hang out. Some would even say it helps turn those new voices into national headliners. Most Boston comics have some kind of deep emotional attachment to the club. Hell, I met my wife there. So it was no surprise to me that the Studio was running the largest lineup of remote shows, hosting comedy six days a week.
Every Tuesday Kathe Farris hosts Farris in Friends, which is the kind of comedy showcase the Studio is famous for. Wednesday you’ll find Angela Sawyer hosting Tales from the Inside, a story teller’s show. Thursday is double feature; here on the East Cost Niki Luparelli hosts Niki’s Boob Tube, which I can only describe as a modern vaudeville act, while Ellen Sugarman hosts a more traditional stand-up show, Wicked Good Comedy, from the West Coast. However, Friday through Sunday belong to the owner, Rick Jenkins, who hosts the well named Virtually the Same.
Pretty much every comic in Boston knows Rick. He’s bought most of them a beer at some point. He has also been running the studio for nearly twenty-five years, starting out in Harvard Square’s Hong Kong Restaurant (an institution in it’s own right, although not exactly venerable) and moving into his own space in Somerville in 2018. The new location had only been open for a year and a half before Covid forced it to temporarily shut down, but I knew Rick wouldn’t stop performing for long; the man has been doing stand-up 6 nights a week since 1996, so I figured it would only be a few weeks before he’d find some way of getting back on stage.
Still, I was surprised by how blasé Rick was about the transition over to remote shows. He tells me it took a lot of work from his crew, but once it was set up, he seems to see it as business as usual, “Essentially, we stayed open and put all that work into digital.”
When asked about how his act has adapted a Zoom format, he seems equally unphased. “Style and delivery changes a little; you are talking through a different air,” he admits, but, “if anything, it’s MORE intimate. All of a sudden, you can see each audience member sitting in their home, and their name! You see someone eating pizza and you wonder if you are losing the crowd.”
This intimacy seems to be the one positive Rick keeps coming back to when discussing virtual comedy. “The performer sits a foot from his screen; the audience is a foot from their screen,” He tells me. “They are two feet from being nose to nose.”
With the Comedy Studio, there’s a good chance that you’ll recognize the face you’re two feet from. As I mentioned before, the Studio has a reputation of developing talent, and that talent tends to come back. In the past, that’s usually meant dropping in for a guest spot or headlining a weekend when they’re in town. In 2020, that looks like a virtual evening with the some of the Bob’s Burgers cast.
Tomorrow night, at 8PM, Rick will host Eugene Mirman and Dan Mintz, who play Gene and Tina Belcher respectively. Mintz will be performing a longform stand-up set, while Mirman will be handling a Q&A. “Dan is a great stand-up who has produced a CD, a special, and been on the late-night shows,” Rick tells me. “Eugene is, well, in a category all his own. Really fortunate that some of our ‘alumni’ are helping out.”
According to the most recent episode of the Comedy Studio Podcast, it appears that Jonathan Katz of Comedy Central’s 90s breakout hit Dr. Katz is also slated to make an appearance. Rick also seemed to imply that another adult animation creator might be making an appearance tomorrow as well, but since he didn’t directly confirm that, I won’t say anymore.
What I will say is that this is hands down the best lineup I’ve seen on a virtual show so far, and tomorrow, I’m going to do something I’ve never done in my entire life; pay money to see a show at the Comedy Studio. Be sure to buy your tickets in advance by clicking here.
P.J. Westin | Supreme Overlord of Editing