Welcome to the Thunderdome, Funny Guy
You need to have your game face on when you are working at Harvey’s comedy club. The room is big, the ceilings are high, and the crowd can be a bit “unruly”. It’s a throwback to the comedy boom that I am way too young for, and some of the dated headshots on the wall act as tombstones for careers of people you’ve never heard of. Harvey’s is in the business of filling seats and serving drinks and in the process they have given stage time to a lot of really talented people. For that we need to give credit where credit is due.
Harvey’s comedy club has made me become a way better comic than I was when I started working for them. It is also one of the rough edges of the Portland comedy scene. One of the very few rough that I am aware of. I have I to say, for a city that prides it self on being weird and speaking nostalgically about what a dirty, grimy, sin town, it used to be, we really seem to want to nerf the world when it comes to comedy.
Yes there are bad parts about the coked up, bar room, probably white mail comic talking about his dick that some people reading this think I’m about to advocate for. Yes, some mics are breeding grounds for people to espouse nonsense and quasi, or out right racist garbage under the guise of being “edgy”. I get it, those things suck, and that’s not what I mean.
Back to the Story:
What I’m talking about is comedy for people who just want to laugh, or better yet the people that need a laugh. The razzing, holding-court style, ball busting comedy that at its core is based out of love. Not every joke is life changing and compelling. A lot of jokes are pure hack nonsense, and that’s okay. Not every joke has to appease the comedy nerds of the world. There is a place for comedy for a normal person on a Friday night that had the choice between going to a movie or going to see stand up.
Say what you will about the hack stuff the average person will laugh at, it’s the casual audience that allows comics to make a living while building their own niche audience. Its also the casual fan that laughs at something that as a new comic you thought was brilliant, but that you would now look down upon and cringe. It’s a rough road learning to do standup. Some nights crush your soul. Those laughs you may or may not have earned are vital sips of water in a desert of failure that is the first few years on stage.
Why Do I Like Harvey’s?
Why do I like Harvey’s? I like it because it's raw and its real. I was lucky enough to snag a guest set last week on the Friday night late show. I arrived at the transition between the 7 pm and 10 pm show. Introduced myself to the other comics and thanked them for sharing the stage with me. As I walked up front to speak with the manager of the club he greeted me, pulled the phone away from his ear, covered the mouth piece and called out across the emptying room “Do we still need that ambulance!”, he then shook my hand and casually continued his conversation with dispatch. Sounds like we’re ready for the late show !
Everyone has different reasons for enjoying standup. For me, stand up started as a way to appease a really chaotic home life. When you grow up with one parent that’s ready to turn the world into a war zone at any moment, it pays to come up with a plan. Turns out that even a drunken bipolar person will have a hard time holding on to anger through laughter.
The enjoyment of laughter is universal, so much so that “good sense of humor” is a top attribute that hot girls on bumble that don’t match with me list on their bios. If Harvey’s were a little league coach he would for sure have a flask in his pocket, and if you were hurt the extent of your medical treatment would be to “walk it off”. People paid money to see you. Some things could be better, but tough shit. Go out and do your job. It's not something you want to hear every day, but right now in my generation we need to hear direct stuff like that more often than we currently do. So remember comedians, no one gives a shit, go be funny!
by Joe Dimeo