It’s brutal honesty.
Within the wide-spectrum of creative mediums, standup comedy may just be the most vulnerable and jarring of the artisan crafts. Standing in front of a roomful of strangers, all staring at you, comedians peel back the layers of who we think they are, who they think they are, and who they actually are — warts and all.
Named of the “12 Comics to Watch” for 2013 by LA Weekly, Atlanta-bred comedian Dave Stone has been taking over the stage with his southern flare meets keen observations of modern society.
What could’ve been a lifelong haunting moment for most turned out to be an epiphany for Josh Merrell.
“I farted in front of my fourth-grade class. The teacher asked who did it and instead of sheepishly hiding at my desk, I raised my hand,” he said. “The room erupted with laughter; I even made a few friends. That’s when I got a taste for comedy, although I took the fart bit out of my routine just recently.”
Terrifying, exciting and kind-of liberating. That’s how Tom Scheve describes the inaugural experience of telling jokes on stage. And usually, he says, you either get it out of your system then and there, or the performance bug gets you.
“We’re trying to develop and encourage people who do it for the first time and try and see who’s going to catch the bug,” says Scheve, which is part of why he’s teamed up with a local comedian who styles himself Shucky Blue and No Name Sports Pub in Sylva to start an open mic comedy night.
Now, for the budding humorist who doesn’t want to trek to Asheville, there’s a local evening where they can test out their best cracks.
The show is scheduled every Monday night, and beginners to seasoned pros are welcome on the stage, says Scheve. The regular performers, in fact, were one of the biggest factors in the night’s genesis.
“Performers that have been doing it for a while, they want to get on stage every night,” says Scheve, and he’s one of those guys. “I try to perform as much as I can and also build as much stage time as possible for regional performers. And there wasn’t anything close to me on Monday night. The closest one is in Greenville.”
With this new night, he’s hoping to cultivate something of a little comedy scene in Western North Carolina, like the one that gave him his start in Asheville.
That town, he says, now has a pretty vibrant comedy scene, even hosting an annual comedy festival with the appropriately tongue-in-cheek moniker, Laugh Your Asheville Off.
But it started, he says, with a night called Tomato Tuesday, where guests were given tomatoes to throw at a gong when they wanted you of stage.
Yes, it sounds pretty brutal. But Scheve says it was exactly what he was looking for.
Sylva’s evening of laughter may not be quite as caustic, but do expect it to be unexpected.
“This is an open mic, which means no promises, no expectations and it’ll be basically whoever decides to show up that night,” says Scheve. But he kind-of likes it that way, and the impromptu nature of an open mic offers benefits to performers and patrons alike, he says.
For the novices, it can be a try-before-you-buy experience. Not sure if you can hack comedy with a live audience? Then try it on stage for one minute, two minutes. It’s an open mic, so no one will commit you to a longer, more daunting time slot.
For the comedy consumer, variety is the selling point of nights like this.
“It’s just really fun because you really don’t know what’s going to happen,” says Scheve. “If you really hate it, if you wait a few minutes, somebody else is going to be on stage.”
In addition to being a performer, Scheve also writes the Asheville Disclaimer, a satirical column in the weekly Mountain Xpress. Plus, he has experience running shows. He’s at the helm of a similar comedy evening on Wednesdays in Asheville.
And part of making them a success, he knows, is having a good venue on board.
No Name was perfect in that sense. It was actually looking for some help with a comedy evening, and with some assistance from the sometimes-reliable Craigslist, got matched up with Scheve.
Though it’s only been on its feet for a mere two weeks, Scheve hopes that just the night’s existence will entice closet comedians onto the stage, giving them a community where they can hone and cultivate their skills.
“I want it to be a vehicle that kind-of nurtures and develops a little comedy scene west of Asheville,” says Scheve. “The people that want to perform comedy are out there, and they’ve been thinking about it and looking for a chance. I‘m hoping that they’ll come out and give it a try.”
What: No Name Comedy Night
Where: No Name Pub, 1070 Skyland Drive, Sylva
When: 8 p.m. every Monday
What else: Call 828.216.2331 for more information