Valley residents don’t need to travel hours away for good stand-up comedy. There are a number of regular shows in the region.
“My friend Bill Russum and I run a great comedy open mic at Civil War Cider, in Lewisburg, every Thursday night,” said comedian Billy Kelly.
“All are welcome to get up on stage and try to make people laugh.”
That’s what Russum and Kelly do.
“I think what people enjoy most about my comedy is that it’s just a silly good time,” Russum said.
Comedy acts sign up at 8:30, and the show starts at 9 p.m.
“It’s a great time. We’ve been doing this show every week for over four years, and it’s a great mix of first-timers, people who have been at it for a while and working comics who come in to try new material out,” Kelly said. “It is also just a great show even if you don’t want to get up on stage.”
Kelly, a Grammy-nominated family entertainer, has opened for President Barack Obama, duetted with Davy Jones of The Monkees, and released a family-friendly standup comedy album.
“When I got into standup I decided to work clean and come up with an act that parents and young kids (ages 8 and up) could enjoy together,” he said. “I decided not to talk about politics, or relationships, or work or stuff that a kid wouldn’t relate to. Instead I talk about whatever is left after you remove those subjects and luckily almost everything is left … microwaves, animals, awkward social situations, the supermarket, family vacations, turtles, Benjamin Franklin, outer space, Batman and so on.”
Though he said his comedy is sometimes greeted with silence and “occasionally loud groans of disapproval,” laughter is the biggest response.
“My favorite reaction when performing comedy for audiences with kids and adults is seeing a parent and their kid both laugh at a joke and then turn to each other and share a ‘that was a good one’ kind of moment,” he said, adding mockingly, “I just love seeing that, both times it happened.”
Even when his jokes fall flat, Kelly continues with standup because he keeps thinking up jokes that might make people laugh.
“Sometimes I am right and it feels great,” he said. “Sometimes I’m not right and then I bomb. I would have to say I prefer not bombing, but at some point I realized that even when I bomb I am still doing what I love, so I might as well enjoy that too.”
Dylan Sholly has appreciated the venue’s welcoming atmosphere for people who are new to comedy.
“I’ve been there a couple times and everyone is very encouraging and helpful,” he said.
Variety of acts
The Bull Run Tap House, in Lewisburg, offers a Wednesday open mic night, which usually draws musicians, said owner Braden Klinger, but also brings in some comedy.
“You get the full gamut,” he said. “It’s hard to say what will happen. It’s everything from Jeff Foxworthy to Eddie Murphy.”
Whatever the act, the reaction usually results in laughter, especially since people in the audience might be the next one at the mic.
“They’re listening. They’re intent,” Klinger said. “They’re respectful. They learn from each other.”
At the Front Street Station, in Northumberland, owner Jay Seidel is gearing up for a comedy night featuring Tom “The Coach” Whiteley, described on his website as “an authentic college football coach of 30 years” known for his “bizarre, lunatic-type antics.” He will be joined with warmup acts by Rose Vineshank and Stan “The Man” Hayes next Friday at 9 p.m.
“He has a pretty good draw,” Seidel said. “He’s always funny.”
Prior to this event, the last comic act Front Street hosted was in May, featuring Rivers Langley, a stand-up comedian, actor, and podcaster based out of Los Angeles.
Reactions to the comedians are mixed, Seidel said.
“Some are so crass, it kind of shocks the crowd,” he said. “Others are PG, and they’re still funny. Some people really bring down the house, and others just bomb.”
Joe Dubaskas Sr., club manager at the VFW Post 6631, in Selinsgrove, has had to turn people away when scheduling comedy acts. The Amish Comic has performed there every January for the past three years.
“For the Amish Comic, I filled the room with 300 people,” Dubaskas said, noting that 300 is his limit for seating. “They loved him. That’s why I keep having him back. So far, we’ve sold out every year with him.”
On Nov. 27, a comedy/music act hosted by Jackie Wyker will perform at the VFW with comedians Gary Limoge, Andrew Glessner, Kyle Neff and Greg Billet. Some of them have performed in New York, Dubaskas said. Old School band will perform after the comedians.
On Feb. 8, Jackie Wyker will again host a comedian act, yet to be named, along with local band Jesse.
“I think it’s something I’d like to have more of,” Dubaskas said of comedians.
In late-breaking comedy news, Kelly is recording a show for Audible in New York City in October. Details are here: https://www.theatermania.com/off-broadway/news/audible-announces-two-performance-run_89486.html.