This Thing’s On
For a while, local comedy was all crickets. It wasn’t that jokes fell flat; there was nowhere to tell them. Thanks to Michael C. Hall, a comic, promoter and all-around hustler, and a crew of comedians, what was once a humorless wasteland has become a heckler’s heaven.
Open mics aren’t for mass appeal. They’re more utilitarian for comics to hone their acts. This is the night for the rough and rusty joke, where inexperience and experiments are de rigueur. The two best open mics for comedy are held at Station Bar and Edge Bar. “Station is the smallest room, but it’s a lot of fun,” Hall says. “It’s one of those ‘for comedians by comedians’ type of shows. Hall says the newer open mic at Edge Bar has promise. Comics sign up when they get there and try out new material. “It’s a great way to write and network,” Hall says. “When we say ‘open mic,’ anything’s on the table. It’s not always funny at first, but it’s what Chris Rock and Louis CK do–if you lived in New York, you’d see these guys out there almost every night of the week, working on new stuff.”
“We have three different types of shows produced locally,” according to Hall: “Open mics, showcases and features.” A showcase will generally feature 10 comedians–who have already established themselves on the open mic circuit–doing 8–10 minutes each. “If you’re consistent for a month and you’ve honed a good 10 minutes,” Hall says, “then we’ll book you at Bar Seven.” Bar Seven is attractive to Hall and his comedians because there they can push the envelope of comedy. “We’re trying to take the route of doing things that nobody else is doing for the audience. The theory is people can see good comedy on TV at home. But people can’t always go to a good party at home. We provide the party.”
Debuting on Friday in the Celtic Room at O’Tooles, Jose Dynamite will host a shorter showcase of three comedians every Friday except First Friday.
Your best shot at a good local set is at Hawaiian Brian’s (HB) and Indigo Restaurant and Bar. The little showroom in HB is a versatile spot: Taj Mahal, the Vandals and Steve-O have all performed there. But, Jackass? Yes, it’s actually great for comedy. The lighting, stage and sound, while vital to a music concert, are equally important to a comedy show.
The Opium Den within Indigo is the room most resembling a typical mainland comedy club, meaning the bar isn’t in the same room as the comedian. “Plus, we try to make the staging, lighting and seating arrangement most like a club from New York,” Hall says. “We have a couple of waitresses; the room is dedicated for the show. We definitely try to give people that comedy club feel. We make sure you’re seeing something special, not just another thing going on in a bar.”
Mainland clubs like the Improv and Laugh Factory are the stages for mid-tier, nationally known comics such as David Alan Grier, Sebastian Maniscalco, Bobby Lee or Joe Rogan. The Republik is Honolulu’s polished needle in this vein of comedy. With Bill Burr’s sold-out show in January and, most recently, Jo Koy’s two sold out shows, The Republik has the resources to fly in good talent (If only they could do something about those hulking columns in the middle of the showroom). Next up is Stephen Rannazzisi, known for his role as Kevin in FX’s The League. Hawaii Theatre and Blaisdell are also good stages, but with names as huge as Bill Cosby in a room as big as the Blaisdell Concert Hall with ticket prices as high as $75, local comedy, costing free-to-$8, is not only affordable, but also approachable and building into a solid punchline.