Joke a Lot: A Comedy Scene Develops in Southern Illinois
Southern Illinois now boasts its very own standup-comedy scene. Organized by Kyle Scanlan, a senior at SIU in radio/television, Southern Illinois comics have been performing to laughing crowds during weekly showcases since September of last year. Their next standup performance takes place Monday, August 23 at Gatsby’s II; their weekly showcase takes place Wednesdays at the Crown Jewel Lounge.
“We usually have about fifteen [comics], and everybody does about five minutes,” Scanlan told Nightlife. “Lately we’ve been getting some guys who went to school here and are doing comedy at Second City or out in L.A. and Minneapolis and Chicago. I don’t know how, but I keep finding these guys.”
After hosting weekly standup for almost a year, Scanlan said that many of the wrinkles have been ironed out.
“The bars have really good drink specials every time we do it,” Scanlan said. “We have new faces in the audience every week. If people gave it a shot, they would really like it. We’ve worked out the kinks and we’ve done a lot of work to it in the past three months, and we are constantly improving the show. For people who have or hadn’t seen it, it is constantly improving, and there are always new comics.”
“We had a passion for it, and there’s just no niche for comedy anywhere close to Carbondale in Southern Illinois,” said Nathan Colombo, an SIU student in speech communication and another comedian working in the group. “It was something that this town needed, and we were here to fill it.”
The group itself doesn’t yet have an official name, but because it is the only group of its type in the area, it doesn’t necessarily need one. “People would almost know us as the comedy guys,” Colombo said.
The work necessary to keep the group going requires a lot of passion.
“We all do standup, and we all set up the shows also,” Colombo said. “We’re in there moving tables, getting speakers set up, getting the sound check ready, so we do pretty much all of our own work there— also, getting all the comics together, getting the setlist made, and promoting the shows. We do our own promotion. We get out there on Facebook, all the comics are out talking to people, saying, ‘Hey, come check out the show,’ and we do our own fliers and all that good stuff. We don’t really have anybody doing anything for us. We’ve had one bar put an ad or two out in Nightlife, but other than that, it is all about getting the word out and doing what we can do to get name recognition....
“The show runs really well, and it has become a professional showcase,” Colombo added. “There’s not a lot of lag between getting comics on and off stage, and transitions are very smooth. The comics are very professional when they are on stage. They don’t just walk up there and go, ‘Uhh,’ and scare the audience away. It’s a constant laughter going about within the crowd due to the funny comics we have.”
So many people are now interested in doing standup at the showcases that the organizers have had to implement a policy that only the first fifteen comics to arrive get stage time. This keeps shows at or less than two hours.
“One of the big draws to our shows is that we have so many comics, that on any given night we have the perfect comedian for everybody,” Colombo said. “On some nights we’ll have eight guys that come out and do it, on other nights we’ll have twenty different comics.... We do have a little bit of everything for everybody. I think that’s a strength that we have right now, being that most everybody who does this comedy with us is just starting out, but having that five minutes to kind of have a focused set allows everybody to really pull in a very strong comedic focus on what they’re good at.”
The group is always excited to see new and different faces in the crowd depending on which comics perform. Colombo is particularly pleased that as each new comic adds his or her talent to the group, the scope of the audience changes.
Colombo, who is pleased to say that he was born and raised in Carbondale, is particularly excited to have this organization operating in the area, as Carbondale is not a transitional stop for him.
“[I’m] Carbondale born and raised, going back three generations— this is my home town and probably always will be,” Colombo said. “When I found out about this, I wanted to jump on and get as involved as I possibly could because I know that a lot of people that do this are students and in transition. They’re here for a couple of years and then they split. I myself am still going to college, getting my degree, but I know that I will be here for some time to help this show expand and grow as the comedy niche here expands and grows. If only I could make a career out of this, I would be so happy.”
For more information, search Facebook for Monday Night Comedy in Carbondale.