For the last four years, I’ve been pretty involved in the Chico comedy scene. Over that time I’ve watched both an improv and a sketch troupe rise and fall, and I’ve watched a comedy club come and go as quickly as any girlfriend I’ve ever had. These are my observations about the Chico comedy scene and what it’s going to take to be better.
Lack of Variety:
Sketch is nonexistent and improv is rare. Even in the bustling stand-up scene, the variety is lacking. The majority of comedians who frequent the open mics are 20-something white males who rely mostly on self-deprecation, and whose acts are “dirty” (myself included). There isn’t an active comedian in town who works “clean” or politically. Someone must rise to fill these niches, and the comedians working now must diversify their acts further.
Doing Stand-Up in a Bar Sucks:
Other than the obvious distractions, bars can make a comedian feel pigeonholed into “blue” or dumbed-down material. I was once chided for making a historical reference at a bar by another comedian because he felt that things such as history are completely lost on the average drunken mob. This is bullshit. Don’t assume your audience is stupid. Play to the top of your intelligence. If an audience doesn’t understand your Stalingrad reference or catch the subtle irony of your wordplay, then fuck ‘em. It doesn’t necessarily mean the joke isn’t funny.
Lack of Interest:
Remember when a comedy club was coming to town and everyone rallied together to fund the Kickstarter because we all agreed it was something Chico desperately needed, and a few months after it opened people just stopped coming to shows? Weird.
The Culture(lessness) of Alcohol:
The excuse of prohibitive ticket costs is often thrown around when people explain why they didn’t go to a show (or play). “Dude, a ticket for a show at the Last Stand (or other comedy shows) costs $10 (or less). Fuck that. Two shots of Jameson.” “That’ll be $9.” Plus tip.
Lack of Promotion:
It’s not fair to imply Chicoans are all slavering, cultureless drunks. They aren’t. Though I feel most people fall victim to the above two points occasionally, there are plenty of people who crave live comedy, but they need to know about your show. 1,800 people were invited to the Facebook event for a double-header comedy show at the Blue Room two weeks ago. Around 30 people attended the first show. Four went to the second. Facebook events do not count as promotion.
If you’re a “comedy connoisseur,” turn off Comedy Bang Bang, find a live show, and go to it. If you’ve always wanted to try stand-up but are too afraid, quit being a pussy and just do it. If you’re already performing your ass off, then write every day, promote your shows, and give people a reason to spend their booze money on you.