Local Comedy Scene is No Joke

{Seth Dees is a stand-up comedian that is passionate about comedy. His talents have landed him gigs all over the tri-state area. He stops by TTDIFS to give us a little insight on the local comedy scene…no joke.} 

Before I get into the details about the awesome opportunity for aspiring comedians in Arkansas’ River Valley, I have to explain why a NEW open mic scene is important. I’ve had dozens of folks contacting me about doing stand-up comedy. It is the hardest “easy thing” you’ll ever do. Like any “occupation” (if you want to consider stand-up comedy an occupation) when it is done well, it looks easy. It looks too easy, maybe.

My story so far…
I started doing comedy in the spring of 2009. I made up my mind and went out to the Loony Bin Comedy Club in Little Rock, Arkansas. I don’t know if it was a lack of attention as a child or the push of friends and family who always suggested getting on-stage as a comedian. When I worked at the Game Stop in Fort Smith (age 16-20) I told my boss, a retired Marine, that I wanted to get into acting. He laughed and said, “I hope you’re good at starving…” So, that threw me off of performing for awhile. I left that job and still regret it to this day! FREE GAMES!

Finally, when I was 20 and still single without a child, I figured I’d give it a shot. Luckily, my first time on stage wasn’t

seth-deescompletely horrible. I joked about driving a scooter and read a poem about Cracker Barrel (where I worked at the time)

I had a girlfriend who laughed at everything and a friend who encouraged me if only to see what I did next.

This created the perfect storm of addiction to stand-up. 

The next 10-12 times I hit the stage were utter disasters. If not for that first time on stage doing semi-well with my friends there to witness it, I would have probably given up.

I continued to do open mic over and over again. Let’s not forget that I lived in Russellville, Arkansas and the only place to do open-mic was at the Loony Bin in Little Rock (over an hour away driving)

So I would hit the road every Wednesday. One hour on the road, five minutes on stage, one hour back. I can’t sing the Loony Bin’s praises enough, though. Not only was it a cinch to get onstage, but after the open-mic portion of the Wednesday-night show was over, there were three more PROFESSIONAL comedians to watch. I was a starry eyed student to every headliner that came through. They were all [usually brutally] honest but very encouraging. (if there’s anything a real comic respects, its an aspiring comic willing to listen)

I attempted numerous comedy competitions (all put a horrible taste in my mouth for the local comics) and got tired of the back-stabbing and jealousy. Little Rock was good, but I needed more. I created a local show in Russellville at a bar. I managed to talk 5-6 comics into coming to town once a month.

More and more comedy started popping up all over Arkansas. Fayetteville was now offering an open mic night. I happened to meet a couple comedians from Fayetteville at an comedy competition in Little Rock (the only thing those are good for is networking, trust me)
I also met comic Doug Shadell who thought I was gay, so he felt compelled to help me get stage-time. I was adopted into a group of comics called the “Expendables of Comedy” with Marcus Lane, Doug Shadell, Anthony Waits and myself. We had a lot of fun and did a lot of shows.
We lost traction when trying to get local guys more shows. The sad thing about Arkansas comedy is that unless you are friends or family with the comic, or unless you’ve seen them on TV, most patrons in Arkansas don’t care to come see a comedy show. Bands get audience members just for being in the same bar on the night they are performing. Unless your crowd CAME TO THE SHOW to see comedy… they’ll be out on the smoking patio the entire show. Amateur comedy shows aren’t usually a “pleasant surprise” and are hard to watch. I was able to utilize the experience gained through working with the Expendables and putting together my own shows to contact comedy agencies and comedy clubs to finally get paid work.

After a few years of stand up comedy, a friend of mine named Luke Perkinson approached me about creating an improv group. After about a year of foot work, Naturally Improv-able was created and was an avenue for all kinds of talent to collaborate for improv-style shows. These shows created an audience demanding more comedy. We were able to oblige by creating Home Grown Comedy, a monthly show in Fort Smith at Lost Beach where we are able to showcase local comics from the surrounding area. This show continues every month and is at its fourth installment featuring comics from Little Rock on July 12th at 8pm. Adam Hogg, Ben Malone, and Keef Glason will be sharing the stage!

The Loony Bin continues to work toward building their open-mic audience. In fact, they are holding a competition June 26th (this wednesday) for local comics. The winner gets a PAID WEEK as host.

www.loonybincomedy.com for more details.

The UARK Bowl in Fayetteville is steamrolling big names through the NW Arkansas area. They’ve had greats like Bobcat Goldthwait, Tom Green, Ralphie May, Doug Stanhope, and Carl LeBove grace their stage all offering local guys the opportunity to host or open the show for them. I’ve been blessed enough to share the stage with the likes of Tom Green and Ralphie May (Ralphie May will be a blog post in itself)

Their open-mic night may be the best in the country. Free admission with $1 PBR drafts all steps away from the University of Arkansas campus on Dickson Street.

www.uarkbowl.com will provide more information

Movie Lounge in Fort Smith now offers a once-a-month comedy show offering professional comics from all across the country. The manager frequents the local comedy shows and has brought in more LOCAL talent to open and host these shows. July 3rd, Brenden Dahle from Fort Smith will host the show for Luke Francis and AJ Finney (both hilarious professional comics)

www.movieloungefsm.com for tickets!

Saying all of that to say this:

A dozen or so folks have contacted me about doing stand-up comedy and showcasing for a chance to perform at Home Grown Comedy in the future. Your best bet is to see any of the above open mic opportunities, or come to Lost Beach this Friday, June 28th for Broken Mic Night. A non-competitive stand-up showcase. Performers will get to perform 5-10 minutes and have the opportunity to be offered spots hosting or doing guest-spots for Home Grown Comedy as a paid performer! You don’t have to go across the state for chances to get paid doing comedy if you’re from NWA (but it doesn’t hurt)

Comedy is all over, even in Arkansas. There are those that have made successful careers from it (Ralphie May of Clarksville) and those that continue to rise and gain notoriety (Michael Brown of Little Rock). You can’t always do what you love, but when you get the opportunity, DO IT. Why not?

Carpe Diem, or whatever.

Here’s the info! Get to signing up!



-Seth Dees/Stand-Up Comedian/Blog Submitter to TTDIFS