by Billi Casey
I've heard people use the term "home away from home" as long as I can remember but had never had a place like that of my own until November of 2008. I was invited by some friends to see Norm Macdonald at the Jukebox Comedy Club on Farmington Road. I've always loved stand-up and had been to the club a couple times before so I didn't think twice before accepting their invitation. While we waited for the show to start the conversation turned to the Open Mic night's for amateur comedians at which one the people in our group was a regular participant. At that point they tried to talk me into getting up on stage the next week. I agreed to go watch and then possibly (read "no way") at a later date try my hand at stand-up. Well, when I got there they had put me on the list to go up. My choices were to risk looking like a fool or a sissy, and no one wants to be a sissy. I wrote a few things that had made my friends or people in the line at the DMV laugh and waited for my turn. All I can say is that I will be eternally grateful to the people who tricked me into getting on stage. I spoke, people laughed and I was hooked. I not only have been doing comedy ever since that night but I've acquired a second family and a second home at the Jukebox.
The owner, Dan Conlin, has a commitment to comedy that serves his patrons well. He has always been determined to run a comedy club that serves drinks and not a bar that does comedy. A trifecta of circumstances, a desire to be his own boss, a love for comedy and an inability to see eye to eye with the manager of the radio station at which he was a morning dj for years, resulted in his becoming the proprietor of Peoria's only venue dedicated to stand-up comedy. When he took over, the norm was for comics from the Midwest to do shows two or three times a year. Dan has brought in nationally know headliners and up and coming feature performers from across the country so that you will not see the same comics return for two or more years at a time. The night we went to get pictures for this piece the headliner was Adam Newman and the feature performer was Marty DeRosa. The night before, Adam Newman had appeared on David Letterman and judging from his performance Marty DeRosa will not be far behind. Early in the month I saw Tom Wilson (Biff from Back to the Future) on a Saturday night and then on Sunday went to the movies and saw him in The Heat. I could go on and on about the celebs I've met at the Jukebox. My favorites include Bobcat Goldthwait (Police Academy & God Bless America), Caroline Rhea (Sabrina the Teenage Witch), Ben Bailey (Cash Cab) and Greg Behrendt (He's Just Not That Into You). There is nothing like being in an intimate venue for a show and then being able to chat and take pictures with the performers afterward.
Along with having fabulous comics coming in from all over the club has one of the country's best house emcees, Brett Erickson. As talented as any nationally touring comedian out there he brings a smart blend of dark and silly to the stage, never disappointing an audience. Brett has toured with Howie Mandel and Doug Stanhope, appeared on The Man Show and starred in the documentary The Unbookables and we, Peoria, are lucky to have him. Brett, Dan, Rob the bartender along with the most fabulous wait staff in Peoria give the club a very "Cheers" feel even after you've been there just a few times.
The Thursday, Friday and Saturday shows are not all that goes on at the Jukebox. On the first Wednesday of every month Howard Butler hosts a quirky night of debate called Comedious Beef. Each debate consists of three rounds during which people will argue the pros and cons of such topics as Aaron Hernandez VS Snapping Turtles, Kinney Shoes VS The Dollar Tree and Opiates VS Whiskey as well as many others, all equally as crazy. At the end of each debate a winner is determined by applause, but really there are no losers. The debaters as well as the audience members had a fantastic time. Does this sound like something you might enjoy watching? Or better yet doing? If so, contact Howard Butler on Facebook and he'll get you a topic and a debate partner. What more could you need????
On the last Wednesday of the month Joe Roderick puts together a showcase called Double Feature Wednesday. At this show you'll see several local comedians do short sets and then two comics that Joe brings in from places like Chicago, St. Louis, Indy etc. This past month the two comedians he brought in were Nick Martin and Erik Anker, two names you'll be hearing more from without a doubt. Both Howard and Joe's show's are a fantastic time and a bargain as admission for each is only $5.
A great way to see what comedians have been at the Jukebox in the past as well as to find out more about them is to listen to Adam Harris's pod cast The Stand Up Chronicles http://www.podbean.com/podcast-detail?pid=39940. For the past four and a half years Adam, a comedian himself, has interviewed the headliners as well as some of the feature acts that have done shows at the club. Just looking at the list gives you an idea of the many, many talented people who have been at the club.
Now for the nights that brought me into this crazy family. Open mic nights. The Wednesday's in between Comedious Beef and Double Feature Wednesday's are for anyone who wants to give stand up a try. On these nights you'll see a range of talent from seasoned comedians working on new material to people getting up on stage for their first time. Once a year Dan puts together an amateur competition that draws comic hopefuls from all over the Midwest. The preliminary rounds start in July and run through August (yes right now) and the semi-final rounds and the finals are the Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights of Labor Day Weekend. Past winners of this competition, now in it's twelfth year, have gone on to do such great things as hosting Comedious Beef, putting together Double Feature Wednesday and, well, writing this article.
This month is a great time to check out the Jukebox if you've never been or come back if you have. As well as the weekly rounds of the competition, the headliners this month are, as usual, fabulous. On August 1,2 & 3 Chris Kattan of Saturday Night Live and A Night at the Roxbury will be here. For one night only, August 7, you can come see WWE legend Mick Foley. A Jukebox favorite, Greg Hahn, probably the most energetic comic on the planet will be the headliner August 8, 9 & 10. Sean Kent, winner of the prestigious Seattle Comedy Competition and the star of this fall's new A&E show Dad Club can be seen August 15, 16 & 17.
For more information about the club and upcoming shows you can Like them on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/pages/Jukebox-Comedy-Club/141697977305 and check out their website http://jukeboxcomedy.com/shows.htm. Come check out a show or try your hand at stand up and I promise that, in the best way ever, the joke will be on you!