From Behind The Curtain: Support Local Comedy

Note: Chris Cyr contributes the very minimum amount of work he can to help promote the St. Louis Comedy Scene on this site. While he’s performing at Flyover Comedy Festival, he is not a member of the organizing team. Opinions expressed below are his alone. He’s typing this disclosure in the third person because he’s convinced it makes it seem more official. The actual body of this post will be typed in the first person.

This week in The Grove, Flyover Comedy Festival will take over a number of venues, and for the third year in a row will give us three days of shows ranging from live podcast recordings to stand up showcases from a mixture of local and touring performers at various stages of their careers. Not only is the festival fun to attend, but each year the event’s organizers have created an experience that shows the public St. Louis has a comedy scene worth exploring further after the weekend has ended. It’s a great thing for us to have and I hope you support it. For only $45 you can purchase a wristband that gets you access to performances from Kyle Kinane, Sasheer Zamata, and somewhere near a hundred other performers. It’s a bargain.

I love this comedy scene. That’s not hyperbole. In just over six years since I became a part of it, I’ve seen St. Louis comics go on to bigger markets with great success. I’ve seen peers share the stage with some of the biggest names in comedy and hold their own. I’ve seen comics go from just another open mic performer to headlining that same club. And I’ve seen comics who, when faced with a limited number of options to get on stage each night, rolled up their sleeves and helped build a DIY scene with stages in coffee houses and bars that feature everything from the weird and fantastical to shows that could easily be dropped into any club in the country and leave an audience satisfied with how they spent their money.

I mostly see this scene through the lens of stand up, but there’s more to it than that. There’s a full service club dedicated to improv that has two stages of programming every weekend. There are sketch shows that produce hilarious content on non-existent budgets. There are shows that pop up each month that can’t be classified into any single category. If you want to laugh, St. Louis has something for you.

We can be better, I freely admit. I’m an old white guy and it’s easy for me to love a scene in an industry where people different from me have to deal with obstacles and prejudices I don’t. I’m not going to pretend these problems can be fixed by a paragraph or two in a post like this. I can only acknowledge those problems exist, and support the work of shows, performers, and bookers who actively expose audiences to a diverse range of performers (and looking at the roster of comics for this year’s Flyover, you can see the organizers are among such people).

We’re building something here. The work started decades ago and will continue long after many of the stages we stand on have turned to dust. Like the city itself, St. Louis Comedy is forever a work in progress, and I’m proud to be a part of it.

In an industry where bias leans towards performers from markets that benefit from the geographical immediacy of the gatekeepers of the biggest opportunities, comics from the middle of the country have to be willing to put in the work it takes to differentiate themselves. And I see examples of people who do that all over our scene. Whether you’re into the classic three comic format you see in a club, the “weird” stuff that happens in a Thursday night basement show, or any of the other different ways comedy can be experienced, I guarantee that if you give the St. Louis Comedy Scene a chance, you’ll see those examples too.

This week, Flyover Comedy Festival is a great place to start. Go see a show.

Or don’t. I’m not a cop.

-Chris Cyr

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