or most of the day, the empty box office and night or to emcee a one-nighter for a big name work- they won't get rich and famo but th '1ll be able
smattering of signed headshots of comedy ing on material, that wall of famous past-performers - make a living doing what th love d ng, and that's
giants in Seva's entryway are just passing pecu- going by the box office, down the stairs and then onto what life is."
liarities for customers walking in and out of the veg- the tiny stage - becomes a kind of symbol for what But open mic night is not just a display of people new
etarian restaurant. Norm Macdonald, Jon Stewart and could be given enough stage time, enough flubbing to the scene, and those new to the scene are not neces-
Tim Allen smile unnoticed from their frames. punch lines and, hopefully, enough validating laughter. sarily in the prime of their life. Looking in the back f
Perhaps customers don't want to stop in the doorway Young comedians in Ann Arbor don't come to be the room at the comedians waiting to go up, whisper-
scattered with wet newspaper; perhaps these comedi- with the best; they come to be where some of the best ing jokes to themselves, flipping through notebooks
ans aren't of interest; perhaps their faces - not yet the learned to fail, be funny and work a crowd. It's one of or just talking about past shows, it's hard to tell who's
"Saturday Night Live" cast member, the political sati- the many small clubs sandwiched between New York fresh and who's a local veteran tryingout new material.
rist, The Tool Man - are too unrecognizably young in and Los Angeles that doesn't beat around the bush Some of the young kids are polished and confident;
their photos to catch an eye. about its focus on cultivating talent. Their website some of the 60-year-olds stutter over notecards.
It's only later when the dinner crowd dwindles and states that one of its central goals is to feature "the best Russel Rabb, a 20-something Ann Arbor resident, is
the waiters start wiping the tables that these black- of the rising young stars in the comedy business." a regular to the Showcase.
and-white headshots start to take on a focused, cul- It's no wonder that the aspiring Louis C.K.s and "Open mic consists of people that are professional
tural relevance. Beneath the floor of this distinctly Ann Mitch Hedbergs flock there on Wednesday nights for comedians, people that have never done comedy in
Arbor restaurant is the Ann Arbor Comedy Showcase open mics, which the Showcase calls "Comedy Jamms" their lives and everything in between," he said.
- a basement, a gritty nook of unrefined creativity, a - a night exhibiting the promising and the not-so- "(An open mic is) not really about the laughs. It's
true club. What could epitomize comedy in Ann Arbor promising, but an essential cog in the great wheel of about, 'let me get in front of an audience that is paying
more? stand-up comedy nonetheless. for me to be here and work some things out - work this
Club owner Roger Feeny opened Mainstreet Com- "As a club and as a business, I know I'm never going bit out.' But then you have the guys that are all about
edy Showcase in 1984 and renamed it the Ann Arbor to make money on an open mic night," Feeny said. "But the open mic: 'I'm competing against this guy; I'm fun-
Comedy Showcase three years later when the club as a comedy club, you have to have an outlet to develop nier than that guy."'
moved to its current location on East Liberty Street. talent." Rabb used his stage time very matter-of-factly. He
The location reflects, or is maybe a result of, the club's Potential participants call in on Thursday to put would say a joke, step back from the moment to evalu-
demographic: Four blocks from campus, the Comedy their name on the list, and then 12 names are randomly ate the room and then run back to his notebook to tran-
Showcase is a long-enough walk to ward off the busy, chosen to perform. On Saturday, they find out if their scribe his results, once even saying, "Never doing that
nervous or uncommitted students, within reach for the name was picked. If there's enough time at the end of joke again." Near the end of his five minutes, seeingthe
brave ones and more than accessible to Ann Arborites. night, a few people on a standby list might get their five red light flashing that his time was almost up, Rabb
minutes. thought of one more thing and said quickly, "I don't
An outlet to develop talent "It's all local and that's where you get your talent really have a joke for this, but here's an idea I think is
from. Somebody somewhere has got some talent and interesting..."
Student not, for those that show up to open mic is gonna be a headliner someday," Feeny said. "Maybe See COMEDY SHOWCASE, Page 3B
PHOTO BY: MARLENE LACASSE DESIGN BY: AMY MACKENS