Victor Foxtrot Whiskey
Veteran and newbie comedians join in VFW open mic
Comedian Ross Clettenberg
The steps chronicle the sequential names of American foreign wars and the bar permanently reserves a seat for a fallen solider. The Centennial Lounge, located on the second floor of VFW Post 577 (1109 E. 6th St.), is one of Tulsa’s hidden gems, replete with shuffleboard, the occasional buffet, and “Hanoi Jane” Fonda urinal targets.
On Wednesday nights, one of Tulsa’s best comedy open mics happens there.
“This is a comedy show,” opened host Ryan Green on the night I attended. “And the first rule of a comedy show is ‘Shut the fuck up.’”
Laughter and light-hearted jeers were fired back at Green from the fresh faces and top Tulsa comics in the packed room. Evan Hughes dropped the house lights, Nicholas Osborne grimaced after slamming a shot, and C.R. Parsons stroked his beard in quiet contemplation. Andrew Deacon and Michael Zampino giggled over something by an unplugged jukebox.
A bombed set at other mics can be painful for both performer and audience. But bombing in a room packed with seasoned comics can be just as funny, or even funnier than killing it.
The first comic confused the video game “Gods Among Us” with the show “American Gods” in a joke, and endured a good minute of howling from the crowd. He banged out his set before sighing and exiting, only to have Green take the stage and proclaim: “I’m stealing his dismount... From now on I’ll say, ‘I hate this,
Memphis comedian Lila Bear was passing through Tulsa and popped by to try out new material, including 30 new jokes about her time as a baby. “When I was a baby, I was the fastest roller blading baby, and I was going for the gold in my country,” she said. “Then I lost my sponsorship because they found out I have wheels for feet.”
The VFW open mic is presented by the comedy collective Channel Four and a Half, and hosts are selected by Green, who is a CFH member. The mic was created by Chris Ashton Lightell-West, and according to Green, was already an institution when he hit the scene three years ago. When longtime host Vanessa Dawn skipped town this year, CFH took over.
“Since of all the Four and a Half folks, I’m the drunkest, and most likely to be at every open mic, [Channel Four and a Half] decided I would be the one to do the booking and monitoring,” Green said. “Hosting VFW is a sort of trial by fire for hosts as it can get rowdy… The host has to be willing to be the mean parent sometimes.”
The rowdiness usually comes from the comics in attendance, who might not exactly commit the comedy sin of heckling, but rip into each other in the name of brotherhood.
For more from Mitch, read his article on every Lot-A-Burger in town.