Tom Brown’s behind the popular, new(is) show at Apotheosis Comics & Lounge, a South Grand venue that’s found a surprise Saturday night hit by hosting standup comedy. We’ve asked Brown a bit about how the South City Comedy Series came to life and quickly came to find an avid, weekly audience on Saturdays.
How’d you come into the knowledge of Apotheosis as a potential venue? Are you a comics guy, who happened in and conversations emerged? What was the process?
I am very much NOT a comics guy. I had like two comics growing up: a copy of Count Duckula and a issue of Beetle Bailey that I am pretty sure was older than me. Though, if it is Star Wars related, you can probably grab my attention. How this came to be: I thought it would be a cool venue for a show. It is a comic book store, but it also has a bar. When I pitched the idea to the owners of the store, and they were immediately on board. Originally, this was going to be about once a month, but decided that it might actually be better weekly. It’s not a traditional bar that could replace us with a Karaoke machine or a cover band or a DJ. It’s good two-fold: for comics, a place to perform on a Saturday night; and additional revenue for the shop through the bar.
Had you previously run any shows? If so, what were they? If not, what made this a good opportunity?
I have been running a show at 66 Cigar out in Sunset Hills. The June show got cancelled, and that actually led to me deciding to pitch the idea to Apotheosis. I do have at least one more show booked at 66 tonight on October 12th; we will see (if it continues) after that. That has been a fun show that the comics have enjoyed being a part of. Also, way back in 2011, I was the host of a weekly improv show at Lemmon’s.
How do you go about curating a night’s event, in terms of who to ask? And let’s take a step back here and tell folks what they might expect, in the vein of how the show’s structured?
Right now my goal is to book three comics to do 15-20 minute sets. A few of the more “established” St. Louis comics and people who I believe deserve more opportunities to perform. I have also included two guest spots that are a little shorter, comics that I would like to see a little more of before getting them some more time. The show format is pretty basic. As host, I’ll do 5-10 minutes upfront to try and warm the crowd up, then stagger feature, guest, feature.
What makes the room special in your mind? Is there anything gained having a comedy show take place in a colorful, creative environment like this? Also, you’re doing a show in front of large, street-side windows; any interesting interactions with the passing public because of that?
I love the fact it’s on South Grand. There are a lot of great places to go and enjoy a great meal, but not that many forms of live entertainment. I’ve literally pulled people off the street and into the show. I’ve heard a lot of, “Well, maybe after me and my friends finish our meal.” And, shockingly a lot of people have followed through on that! The most interesting interaction was Ron Finger arrived in the middle of my set… dressed as TV’s Batman (the Adam West version). I thought I was killing for a second, turned my head and it was Ron.
Are folks using this venue as a place to try out new material, or work with some of their battle-tested stuff? Any early highlights, so far, where you thought, “wow, (Performer X) really brought their A-game today?”
It has been a combination. Like I said, Ron Finger showed up as Batman and did his set as Batman. While you’re getting a lot of the battle-tested stuff from features, we’re getting some great sets out of the guest spots. John Green really killed it a few weeks ago. Coming to this show, you’re going to see something you’ll tell your friends about at work on Monday.
What else should people know?
The show is $5 cash at the door. It is 8pm every Saturday. There isn’t any drink or comic book purchase required (though it’s highly encouraged).
Editor’s Note: Kelsey McClure is a comic in St. Louis, MO. She also ran Comedy In The Lou, which once served as the only dependable source for information about the STL Comedy Scene. She has worked with national headliners on stage, and has interviewed them for print and digital media. Her opinions are her own. I agree that these are discussions worth having and it doesn’t do us any good to pretend these issues don’t exist. – CDC
I was able to interview T.J. Miller in 2014 before two sold out shows at The Firebird for The Riverfront Times and it was a career highlight. Never had an interview been so relaxed and light hearted. As the interview wrapped, he told me to find him at the show as he owed me a beer. I did, and with a full, warm-hearted embrace he hugged me and thanked me for the interview. I have reveled in the experience since and probably with a few drinks in, bragged that T.J. Miller knows my name.
This morning T.J. Miller taunted me and boasted that like Jeremy Piven, he too will see me in St. Louis. Rewind.
Yesterday I tweeted about a Denver open mic that shamed T.J. Miller off stage in hopes of setting an example for the debut of Jeremy Piven at Helium Comedy Club. Piven’s three-day, five-show run begins tonight. The timing is downright disastrous with the incarceration of Bill Cosby, outing of Aziz Ansari and most notably Louis CK (who has already found his way back to a stage) what comedy does not need right now is not another predator with a platform. We are also at the crux of the #BelieveWomen movement, a result of our country being neck deep in the Kavanaugh hearings. So it was not within me to sit silent and think, “gross.”
My course of action included posting on social media, a couple ugly and fierce pillow cries and reaching out to Helium Comedy Club as well as a number of news and entertainment outlets in St. Louis. T.J. Miller is an excellent comedian who too is a sexual predator because I #BelieveWomen. He is not welcome to take the stage from, while maybe not decent, but certainly less controversial comedians. Jeremy Piven, however, is not a stand up comedian which follows at a close second as to why he too is not welcome to take the stage in St. Louis. Jeremy Piven has taken to stand up when his television career bottomed out on account of the sexual assault allegations made against him. ‘Lil homie doesn’t even have an album under his belt, no Netflix Special or even a Comedy Central Half Hour. Which begs the questions, what is it he intends to do at a comedy club?
I demand St. Louis continue to be a safe and productive place for comics to approach the most difficult, dark and intimidating topics on stage. If we lend our platform to predators like Jeremy Piven (and now T.J. Miller in December), we will lose what we have worked so painstakingly to create, an art form that is re-defined every time a comedian takes to a microphone.
There are no prerequisites for sexual assault. We have learned who sexual predators are and who they can become (i.e. Supreme Court Justices) and I, Kelsey McClure, a distinctively average comedian, will not stand to lend my stage to any of their sort. In my city, in St. Fucking Louis, sexual assaulters do not get a platform.
So while Piven is making his rounds on various entertainment (105.7 The Point) and news (Fox 2) platforms in St. Louis to promote his shows… Here I am, asking you, yes, you specifically, to take the lead and start a conversation. Do you #BelieveWomen and if so, what is to be done?
On Monday, June 11, the Heavy Anchor will host another edition of the weekly open mic, Comedy Shipwreck, helmed by Chad Wallace at roughly 10:00 pm. A special treat’s in store early, though, as an indie tour shares the venue with a 9 pm start time.
Dubbed Your Uncle’s Girlfriend, the tour features New Orleans comics Laura Sanders and Kate Mason. After a stop in Memphis, St. Louis’ gig will be the second on their June tour swing.
The bio for the show reads like so: “Laura and Kate grew up mere hours apart in Columbus and Pittsburgh, respectively, where they honed their loud voices, love for mushy foods, and ability to fake confidence to avoid ridicule. They met in New Orleans where together they host the beloved weekly open mic, Bear with Me, at Twelve Mile Limit. With over 15 years of stand-up, sketch, and improv comedy experience between the two of them, their credits include being featured on Fox’s LaughsTV, Limestone Comedy Festival, and Denver’s High Plains Comedy Festival. Laura’s comedy album, Oh God Please Like Me, debuted at number one on the iTunes comedy charts.”
Writing from home in NOLA, Mason notes that “this is a single tour, but we would like to do more in the future, so it could end up being a recurring one! We’ve built the tour through friendships with comics in other cities. We’re really lucky to have this network, because each show becomes like a trust fall with the local indie comedy scene. We’re so excited to see who local show producers have picked to be on the shows with us, and get to know each city’s local comics even more.
“This tour is actually a friendship anniversary for us,” she adds. “Laura moved to New Orleans in the fall of 2015. We dodged each other for as long as we could, but by June of 2016 we were unable to deny that friendship was inevitable. Laura started hosting the mic on Monday nights at Twelve Mile Limit around the time we became friends, and I jumped on board a year later.”
The pair look forward to road life.
“One thing that I think is surprising to many people,” Mason adds, “is how amazing comedy shows are in cities that you wouldn’t necessarily associate with great comedy. People tell us how impressed they are by shows in New Orleans all the time, and I think the same goes for a lot of small-mid size cities across the U.S. People are producing incredible, creative shows with fantastic talent all over the country, and you don’t need to pay a lot to see it.”
(In fact, the this Monday’s gig is a “donations accepted” affair, so open your wallet to the sum that moves you.)
Thomas Crone continues his year long visit with #STLComedy’s performers in St. Louis Magazine with profiles from Andrew Frank, Sarah Pearl, and Rob Tee. All three recently made it into the semi-finals of Helium Comedy’s “Funniest Person in St. Louis” competition, where Frank ended up taking third place.
“Taylor dreams of opening what he says would be St. Louis’ first black comedy club.”
– (“What Are You Laughing At”, St. Louis, Riverfront Times, February 4, 2004)
The statement seems prescient, as this week Jessie Taylor announced the soft opening of The Laugh Lounge, his new comedy club. This new club promises to be home the city thriving urban comedy scene, but Taylor isn’t limiting the reach of his audience or comic base. Continue reading “The Laugh Lounge Opens This Week”
St. Louis Magazine continues Thomas Crone’s monthly profile of comics at various levels of the St. Louis comedy scene. This month, they asked questions of Ella Fritts, JC Sibala, and Eric Brown. It’s a fun look at their views on the craft of comedy.
We’d be remiss if we didn’t point out each of them stress the importance of open mics in developing material, since we’re in the midst of Death Mic 2017. Our favorite is Ella’s declaration that:
“I, personally, don’t consider someone a comic until they’ve done open mics for at least three months, no matter what shows you’ve done or what comedy you’ve participated in.”
Shots fired! Also, we agree. Get out there and do the work. Here’s a list of open mics.