By James Crowl and Gabriella Parsons | Seeds Entertainment
New York City, L.A. and Chicago; these are the cities where comedy thrives, where comedians young and old flock hoping to make it big by making people laugh. These are the cities where dreams come true, but also where dreams die. Oversaturation in these cities’ comedy fields creates a competitive and cutthroat environment, and people are likely to drown underneath the countless other hopeful souls chasing the same goal.
Because of this, it’s often times more beneficial to hone one’s craft in a less crowded place, ushering in a new generation of comedy scenes that are lively yet survivable. In recent years, cities such as Austin, Denver and Portland have established themselves as places where the demand for comedy is high and the supply keeps getting bigger, and it may be time to add Lincoln, Nebraska to that list.
Lincoln has never been known for comedy. But like so many other avenues of art and entertainment, Lincoln is home to much more than the stereotypical and caricatured version of the town, and comedy holds it’s very own and special place within the unique mosaic of our local culture.
Local comedian Drew Bohlke describes the Lincoln comedy scene in one word: Growing. Bohlke alongside several others make up a close-knit pool of comics who regularly perform stand-up comedy at venues in Lincoln and Omaha.
22 years ago, the first open mic night was held in Duffy’s Tavern, becoming the first regular avenue for local comedians to make an audience laugh. Today, it continues to provide a consistent open mic on Monday nights. Bohlke and another local comedian, Abby Rosenquist, both lost their stand-up comedy virginities at Duffy’s. While the bar remains a local favorite for comics, other venues have taken notice and begun offering open mics as well. 10 Below now offers an open mic on Friday nights. It’s hosted by a comedy club called Uproot Humor, who also puts on shows frequently at the Cask. Grant Parsons alongside Joey Zimmerman, both local comedians, often host shows at venues like the Bourbon, the Zoo Bar and Knickerbockers.
These local shows play an immensely foundational role within the local comedy landscape because, open mics are where every comedian begins, like Bohlke and Rosenquist. Fellow local comedian Jack Comstock still remembers his first time on stage at a similarly structured open mic nearly two and a half years ago.
“It was about 1:15 in the morning, but a bunch of my friends stuck around,” Comstock said. “I was nervous but there were still a few people there who laughed for me. Later, I watched the video of it and realized I had picked my nose a bunch, so that was kind of funny. I guess that’s my comfort blanket.”
While some local comics feel Lincoln is playing catch-up with Omaha, Rosenquist highlights the advantages Lincoln holds over Omaha. “Those who are putting on shows in Lincoln have been great about mixing up the line ups and including a lot of comics so it’s not the same people every time,” she says. “I think they do a better job of that than Omaha.”
Comstock believes this influx of local shows makes Lincoln an excellent starting point for beginning comedians, as opposed to industry hotspots like NYC and LA.
“Lincoln is good to start in because there are a lot of locals right now working to put on their own shows and it’s easy to get a bunch of stage time,” Comstock said. “Lincoln and Omaha are really growing as comedy scenes right now.”
Rosenquist sees the fact that Lincoln is home to fewer comedians as an occasional setback, but also an opportunity. “It’s kind of hard sometimes since there are only so many Lincoln comics and those comics only have so much material,” she said. “It’s important to keep reaching out and getting new people to come to shows because people aren’t going to always keep coming to shows if they’ve already heard those jokes.”
As someone who previously lived in Lincoln and currently resides in Omaha, Rosenquist would like to see the Lincoln and Omaha comedy scenes collaborate more often, as so many comedians already travel back and forth between the two. Bohlke believes that a comedy club similar to Omaha’s Funny Bone could be feasible in Lincoln and has hopes of seeing a venue that provides a consistent outlet for comedy established in the near future.
Upcoming comedy events include the open mic nights at Duffy’s and 10 Below as well as the show at Vega on Friday, Apr. 11 at 9 p.m. featuring local comedians Grant Parsons, Joey Zimmerman and Brad Stewart, hosted by Drew Bohlke.