Local comedians on where their scene is headed next
From left: Landry Miller, Laura Cook, TJ Clark, and Evan Hughes
That Tulsa’s comedy scene has grown exponentially in recent years is no secret.
The once-fringe artform exploded out from the Loony Bin and the occasional open mic into countless monthly and weekly mics, showcases, podcasts, and our own Blue Whale Comedy Festival. Local comedians have traveled the nation, spreading awareness of how comedy-friendly our city is.
Much ink has been spilled over the scene in TTV’s pages, as the scene has proven it is something to spill much ink about. I talked to several local comics about the sustainability of Tulsa comedy and where we might be heading after the banner year of 2017.
What do you see as the next evolution for Tulsa comedy, and what moves do we need to make to get there?
Landry Miller, Channel Four and a Half member and writer of a nationally broadcast late-night talk show (which he is bound by penalty of death not to disclose):
I think the next step for Tulsa comedy is for us as a collective to take a very self-aware look into the way our community operates. We have comics here in Tulsa that are just as good as comics anywhere else in the country. But I believe there’s a deep-rooted feeling of self-doubt among the comedians here that makes us feel like no matter how well we do, no matter how many shows we’re on or how many people are there, it doesn’t matter. Because we’re in Oklahoma. It’s a state no one looks at. But that’s not the case at all. Tulsa has the opportunity to be a hotspot for comedy. A place that people all over the country could look at as a place to see comedy at its best. But the comics here, the foundation, have to believe it’s possible to be just as good as the best comedy cities in the country before that can happen. We have the talent, we have the potential; all we need is the confidence.
Laura Cook, host of The Beehive Lounge and The Starlite Bar showcases:
Now that we’ve bulked up, what should we do now? Keep going. Continue to stand with one another. We need to do for the Tulsa comedy scene what Tony and Michelle Cozzaglio (organizers of Fuck You We Rule fest and the Punk Rock Flea Market) have done for the Tulsa punk scene. I want to make Tulsa a place touring comics will want to visit and a place where they will want to perform. And we absolutely have the resources! Every year, Blue Whale gets bigger and more exciting. Open mic at Fur Shop grows and grows. Not just with new comedians, but new audience members. Low turnout can be so frustrating, but when everything comes together and you have a great turnout and a great lineup giving great sets, all those frustrating times are worth it.
Evan Hughes, Inner Circle Vodka Bar social media coordinator:
I’d love to see more comedy before and after live music. I’ve performed on shows with Iron Born, Joe Myside & the Sorrow, Alan Doyle, Fabulous Minx … so many others. I think we’re already at the point where people aren’t surprised that a comic is booked on a music show, but as a community we still have to keep pushing for stage time. We can’t be home on the couch waiting to be hit up about doing shows. We have to be out there networking.
TJ Clark, inventor of the “Weight Wife”:
I think the next move for Tulsa comedy is the caterpillar, my favorite of all the breakdancing moves. Because Tulsa comedy is soon to become a big ol’ butterfly. A butterfly with buffalo wings for wings.
But more realistically, I think the next move for Tulsa comedy is having more independently produced shows. The closing of The Comedy Parlor left us locals with lots of weekends free. This has some of us traveling more and some producing new shows in town. There’s already been new monthly showcases pop up at The Starlite Bar, Bamboo Lounge, and The Beehive Lounge, and I think we’re gonna see lots more well-curated, locally produced shows all over town.
I think the future of Tulsa comedy looks diverse. Not just in gender, race, and age, but in styles of comedy and types of shows. Some of the free-form and playful things you hear in comedy podcasts will bleed over to live shows. It’s already happening in other cities, and I can see shows like that doing really well here.
To get there, we need a few things. Clubs and bars willing to host different types of shows. Comedians need to get better at promoting, too. It’s difficult to hype yourself when self-deprecation is your jam. I think someone busting out of Tulsa on a national level would do a lot to get local audiences to come out. That’s the dream, of course, and I think we have many in town now that are on that trajectory.