Partnering with bars and small theaters, a wave of open mics and DIY showcases rolled into Burque. At these events, local talent gets the chance to show their city what they've got and workshop material.
Laugh Out Loud: An Intro to Local Comedy
BY KEVIN BACA
The desire to laugh — and slay others with our wit — is a virtually universal human trait. Inspired by that perpetual trend, Albuquerque’s stand-up comedy scene continues to transform and expand.
Comedy captured the popular imagination early on — consider the medieval jester — and its appeal hasn’t waned in intervening centuries. Here in the Duke City, the lack of dedicated comedy venues and little more than cursory local press on the subject means indie comedy promotion isn’t always a barrel of laughs.
Some savvy local comics identified this problem and tackled it head on. Partnering with bars and small theaters, a wave of open mics and DIY showcases rolled into Burque. At these events, local talent gets the chance to show their city what they’ve got and workshop material. Creating and coordinating these opportunities was no small endeavor.
Early on, we were lucky to host two open mics per week and maybe one showcase a month. Fast-forward to the present, and you’re hard-pressed to find a night of the week without local comedy action.
Starting off the week on Sunday nights is Spit Ya Bit at Boese Brothers Brewery (601 Gold SW). Hosted by Elena Warden and Tito Dameron, the open space and eclectic décor at Boese lends itself to the intellectual hodgepodge of an open mic. Warden and Dameron’s extensive improv backgrounds enable them to tackle intros with energy and enthusiasm.
As a performer, Spit Ya Bit is one of my favorite stages to frequent. The brewery’s attentive staff serves a fine selection of in-house beers, and the atmosphere is warm and inviting. Sign-up starts at 7 p.m., and there’s an incentive for comics who sign up before the show begins at 7:30 p.m.
Robot Lazer Kitten Open Mic has cured many a case of the Mondays. Housed at Back Alley Draft House (215 Central NW), this open mic is hosted by John Cuellar and your author. The insider consensus? This place was made for stand-up. Low ceilings, dim lighting and a brick background ooze classic comedy club feel.
Part of our city’s old guard, Cuellar hosted some of the first comedian-run showcases in town. His top-notch crowd work warms up the audience, and his punchy style energizes the room. Tasty brews are artfully poured by bartender duo Devon and Stephanie.
It feels a lot like a family gathering. Back Alley shares a menu with JC’s New York Pizza Department, so a couple slices of pizza and a nice beer can be had for around $7. And the catalyst to uproarious laughter is gratis. Sign-up begins at 6:45 p.m., and the show starts at 7:30 p.m.
Taking us into Tuesday is Adieux’n It Well Open Mic Comedy at Adieux Cafe (420 Central SW). This one’s hosted by Kevin Miguel, a member of the “new blood generation,” and yep, me. All prideful boasting aside, Adieux’n It Well is an uncommon open mic. The intimate setting and wireless mic erase any separation between performer and audience. Many comedians take full advantage of that.
Then there’s the audience interaction; competition scores are calculated based on spectator applause translated to a score. The semantics of scoring change on a weekly basis. One week, it might be fluffy baby animals, and the next, the vocabulary of Mortal Kombat-style finishing moves.
High-scoring comics are recalled to the stage. In a semi-orderly fashion, these contestants must make either Tyler (the bartender) or Zach (the chef) laugh enough to receive a “secret prize.” Sign up starts at 7:30 p.m., and the guffaws ensue at 8:30.
Near week’s end, all roads lead to our latest comedy venue. Referred to as a “pop-up” club, The Speakeasy (109 Gold NW) is actually a dedicated Downtown comedy venue. Run by a local cabal, the space is a labor of love. Schedules aren’t set in stone yet, but Thursdays and Fridays look good.
The structure differs from The Speakeasy routine: doors are at 6:30 p.m., an introductory showcase kicks off at 7:15 p.m. and the open mic itself starts at 9:15 p.m. There is a cover charge, but it’s a reasonable $3 single admission or a two-for-$5 deal. Stay in the know at facebook.com/ComedyAtTheSpeakeasy.
Over the decades, the Albuquerque comedy scene has had its ups and its downs. At the present moment, our local contingent of funny is impressive and expansive. We can thank the talent driving this renaissance for the option of seeing local comedy shows throughout the week. For an exhaustive calendar of comedy-friendly open mics and showcases, visit albuquerquecomedy.com.
Albuquerque comedian and promoter Kevin Baca reports on the local comedy scene for ABQ Free Press.