Say you live in the Mid-Ohio Valley, you love making your friends laugh, and you one day want to try out stand-up comedy. Where do you go around here to do so? Joel Gant, wanting to do just that, has begun working on opening up opportunities for comedians like himself.
Growing up (in Ohio and West Virginia), Joel has always enjoyed making his friends laugh. Sometimes he’d tell funny stories, and always he seems to just work comedy into a conversation. It wasn’t until about 3 years ago that he officially started writing jokes while on Twitter.
There’s something that encourages precision of your words on Twitter. “With only 140 characters, you have to get the joke ‘out there,’” he shared. And this was where he felt his stories and ideas begin to refine into part of a “routine” – leading him to wonder where he could do live comedy in town.
When Joel decided he wanted to try live stand-up comedy, he was surprised by his lack of options for performing (in this area). While there are a few venues who offer comedy nights in the Parkersburg/Marietta area, they currently tend to cater to touring comedians who already have a booking agent, and not to those comedians who are testing the waters, or just starting on their comedic path. But this didn’t stop Joel from looking for a good fit for where he was, and where he wanted to be.
During Gant’s search, he’s explored performing and hosting comedy and/or open mic at local bars and events, but was finding the crowd wasn’t necessarily the best match for a comedy show. While he’s been grateful for the opportunities he’s been offered, he reflects on events past, “On Friday nights, people go to the bar to talk and drink and socialize. They don’t want to sit there and listen. If you go to a cover band, or an open mic (music) night, most of the songs you hear are songs you grew up with – radio songs. You can talk through all of it (a cover song), sing the hook and go back to talking. But with comedy, you can’t talk through the first portion of a joke, and then catch the punchline.”
So how do you find (or create) the crowd that is there for comedy, able to listen to the whole joke, and still have a great time with their friends?
While the hosting and performing gigs have helped Joel to gain experience in the comedy world (and to begin to understand what the crowd and performers want most, for a good comedy night), Joel and his wife Laura noticed something special at the comedy nights at Wylie’s in Dayton. Joel has friends in the Dayton area, so it was only natural that he’d find himself enjoying their local comedy scene at some point. After the first visit to Wylie’s, he and Laura left impressed. The audience was there for comedy, and other comedians were there watching, too.
Joel loves meeting new comics, listening to their work, and learning from them, and pulls inspiration from every comic he meets. While visiting the comedy scenes in Dayton, Bridgeport and Charleston, W.Va., he’s discovering a great group of talented people who are wanting to come to Parkersburg to perform. He has found a strong connection with the comics at a Charleston club called the Monkey Barrel, and drives there every other Thursday to perform and support the other fellow performers. “I drive over an hour to do a 10 minute set, for what is pretty much (right now) a room full of other comedians. (and) If you can get other comedians to laugh, that’s a good thing,” he shared about his experieinces there.
Joel Gant is an inspiring fella’ who wants local comedians to have an outlet – a place to work on their craft, and get together for good times. “Sometimes people complain about Parkersburg, about how there’s nothing to do in this area. That’s not gonna change anything – you have to start something,” he shared with me. As for Joel’s desire to start something, while he has a full time job and a family, he considers comedy his close 3rd, and is beginning to get paid gigs for his hard work and contributions to the local comedy scene. But his main objective? “I’m just trying to bring comedy to Parkersburg,” he said.
It’s working. The local comedy community is growing. Each comedy open mic seems to gain in size (with comedians and crowd size), and there are no signs of things slowing down. Saturday, May 28th, Joel will be hosting comedy night at the Polo Club at 8:30 p.m. The comedians Joel has met in Charleston have been especially supportive. Talented comedians Jacob Hall, Andy Frampton and Lee Hale will all be joining Joel on stage for the Polo Club’s comedy night. The evening is only $8.
The next Open Mic Comedy Night at the Coffee Bar is on Friday, June 4th. Bring your friends, your jokes and be ready for a great night of laughs. Comedy Open Mic is open to anyone interested in performing/appreciating comedy. While the show is offered as “All Ages,” given the open nature of the sign ups, some jokes may be for mature audiences.