“Comedy is a way to make sense of chaos. It's a way of dealing with things that are overwhelming, that threaten you; it's a way to survive and get closer to the truth.” - Laura Linney
“The only honest art form is laughter, comedy. You can't fake it. Try to fake three laughs in an hour - ha ha ha - they'll take you away, man.” - Lenny Bruce
A large part of the allure and appeal of comedy resides in that suspended moment of the unexpected that hangs at the end of a story or anecdote like a trapeze artist caught in mid-air between maneuvers: will he connect, or tumble to the ground and miss the net. Or as Mel Brooks once put it: Tragedy is when I cut my finger. Comedy is when you fall into an open sewer and die. As with much in life it's all about timing and delivery; and for the un-polished or unprofessional, it can get pretty messy if you don't land properly.
The same is true with comedy venues: it takes a professional team of individuals to properly cultivate, nurture, and build the market for comedy. Back in the late '80s and up until about ten years ago, there existed venues like Shooters Comedy Club and The Comedy Club on Hamilton Street, in the now-empty structure across the street from the Red Eye that weekly would bring in a top-flight litany of national & regional comedians working the circuit, to appreciative crowds and audiences in the Great Lakes Bay area hungry for laughs.
Today, thanks to the vision and leadership at Downtown Saginaw's Temple Theatre, top-flight comedic talent is being featured on a weekly basis and presented with all the best elements of viewing live comics intact at The Leopard Lounge Comedy Club, which showcases new mid-level & national comics every Wednesday in the intimate & jazzy setting of the Temple's Leopard Lounge.
According to the Temple's Operations & Marketing coordinator, Tony Serra, the genesis for this ambitious new Comedy Night were approached by a national firm about bringing comedy into the Saginaw market on a weekly and affordable basis. “We were intrigued by the prospects and started delving into it further,” explains Tony. “What would it take to bring to fruition in terms of finances and marketability; and is there actually a market here for comedy? Our research showed this is something the region really wanted and once we decided to start it up, people have been coming from all over the region to catch the shows.”
The Temple started their Wednesday Comedy Night on October 3rd and in a little over a month do not see an end in sight. “Every week we showcase two comics - a feature and a headline performer, “ continues Tony. “The feature comic is usually an up-and-comer and often a local talent from Grand Rapids, Lansing, or Detroit. But last week we had a feature perform that was from Seattle. The headliners are also coming from around the country, with Bob & Tom Show credits and appearances on shows like Last Comic Standing and HBO's Live at Gotham, as well as Letterman and Leno credits. All of the comics we feature are really well-rehearsed and well-practiced.”
When the Temple launched their first comedy night they had about 40 people attending, but since then it's grown to a point where the 125-seat Leopard Lounge is nearly filled to capacity. Both comics perform for a total of 90 minutes with no breaks in-between, so patrons are open to constant laughs from top to bottom. The doors and bar open at 7:00 PM and patrons are encouraged to stick around after the show for as long as they desire. “We want to keep this as casual and fun as we can,” notes Tony. “So the last thing we want to do is kick people back on the street after the show is over, especially if they're having a good time on a Wednesday.”
As one would expect with cutting-edge comedy, a majority of the comics are oriented towards PG-13 to R rated material, so the age is limited to an 18- and over crowd. “The comics we've featured talk about some very interesting topics,” continues Tony, “but none of them have offended the crowd. Saginaw has a particular taste and these comics do a good job of reading the crowd and tailoring their set to the type of audience. And they're very funny. One of the comics we featured, Dwayne Gill, is a Michigan State police officer from Detroit who told stories to make your jaw drop, I actually had to leave the room twice because I was laughing so loudly. These guys are quality acts.”
“Admission is only $10.00 and $5.00 for students, plus we feature a cash bar with reasonable prices,” adds Tony. “Basically what this offers is a fun way to get out of the house on a Wednesday night instead of sitting home watching the 6:00 News for the umpteenth time. Plus like they say, laughter is a good workout.”
The company providing the roster of comics featured each week is drawing upon a talent pool deep enough to last at least a year before all the comics are showcased. “Plus their roster varies in tiers from the most affordable Children's Party comic to an A-list of headliners,” notes Tony. “In fact we're talking about bringing a couple of gentlemen into the Lounge that you have definitely heard of and seen on TV and film; but until we announce the show, I can't say who they are because it isn't official yet. But we are talking about bringing in some serious names. This town needs a little lift now and then.”
Some of the upcoming comics that will be featured in November at Wednesday Comedy Night include:
November 21 * NORM STULZ. Truth is always funnier than fiction and no one tells the truth more humorously than this comic. Norm takes the events of the daily life and transforms them into hilarious pieces that are timeless. He's been seen on HBO, Comedy Central, Showtime and comedy specials on NBC and ABC. He can also be heard on the Bob & Tom Show, Johnny Burke & the Morning Crew on Friday mornings, and XM Comedy Radio.
November 28 * ALEX ORTIZ. Alex has appeared on Comedy Central, BET, Latino Laugh, NBC & HBO. This Hispanic comedian is extremely athletic, a nimble dancer, possessing great skills in his climb to the top! Exploding with dynamic talent, Alex is sending crowds into fits of sidesplitting laughter worldwide.
December 5 * BRYAN McCREE. This nationally known comic has been seen on Mad TV and Comedy Central. His at will astound you with astute observations on life which are on the edge and simply hilarious. He has a natural charm on stage and an infectious giggle that often incites laughter among the masses. His natural talent shows through in his act, especially when playing his funniest character: Himself.
Additionally, booking reservations are encouraged and patrons may reserve tables up to fifteen minutes before showtime, along with comfortable booths to sit upon that are also open for reservation.
“We're really excited to be offering this to the Great Lakes Bay Region,” concludes Tony. “It's been doing so well that I've been thinking of getting t-shirts made up that say 'Wednesday is the New Thursday',” he laughs. “It used to be that Thursday was the 'threshold night', but now its Wednesday - our Hilarious Hump Day'!”
The Leopard Lounge Wednesday Comedy Club is located at 203 N. Washington Avenue in Saginaw's Temple Theatre. Doors open at 7 PM, show starts at 8 PM. Admission is only $10.00 for adults; $5.00 for students. Book a table today by phoning 989-754-SHOW.
PHOTOS: Comedians Lauren Bishop and Bill Bushart entertain patrons in the Leopard Lounge for Wendesday Night Comedy Club • Photos by Thor Rasmussen.