Monica Vida moves on up, rather, over, to the Denver comedy scene.
Published on Feb 6th, 2017 | by Free Standup NYC
Article by: Monica Vida
Follow her on Twitter: @comedycougar
I had been performing standup comedy in NYC since 2009 until life threw me a curve ball; my mom required help and needed me to move back to Denver, CO. I love Denver. It's my hometown. My childhood friends are there and still dear to me. But Comedy? I was convinced I would need to hang up my mic and limit myself to funny tweets and clever Facebook posts. I got lucky. Denver has a great comedy scene but it feels a bit like comparing Big Apples to Bronco Oranges.
I moved to Denver in July of 2016. Comic friends assured me it was a good scene with quite a bit going on. I checked BadSlava.com— the New York comic's show and open mic listing bible—barely anything. Crap! Fortunately, someone clued me in on 5280Comedy.com (phew!) many more shows and mics. The great thing compared to New York, is open mics in Denver are free and more often than not have non-comic (muggles) in the audience. That means you get a much better gauge if your material will work at a show. Also, having friends reach out to contacts and others vouching for me was really helpful.
It quickly became apparent, however, there are only two major clubs and some pretty defined comedy cliques. That's cool. I went to High School. I was in a Sorority; I can navigate this. What I have learned over the last several months has been valuable if not always palatable. Smaller markets feel much more political. Clubs may often cultivate their own talent which makes them a bit more territorial. It’s understandable because they will invest in creating and promoting shows for their choice comics.
I certainly did not want to be the big swinging dbag in from New York who thought they should jump ahead of everyone who has been grinding it out on the scene locally. That said, having spent the last 7+ years going to mics, running mics, producing shows, hosting shows, writing and producing sketches and networking my butt off, it also didn’t seem fair that I should fall immediately to the back of the line. Fortunately, there are great venues outside of the clubs, ranging from backrooms of bars to theaters which usually have pretty decent audience turn out.
Comedy in NYC has a low bar of entrance. Many a time I've had random people off the street come to a mic because they were either lonely, arrogant, or just plain nuts. What struck me in Denver is most comics at open mics are committed and prepared. In fact, the talent overall is super solid. Of course, as talent further develops comics move to bigger markets. They do, however, stay true to the Denver scene and help foster a great place for comedy.
My favorite thing in Denver? Comedy pays! Yes people...you can make money. I'm not paying my rent (yet) but gosh it's nice to not be operating at a loss. I've decided to create a comedy piggy bank to keep me motivated. Large markets have so many comics, venues and general competition it's easy to just offer stage time without any further compensation. Sad but true.
I found the key, at least for me, is exposure. So it does mean going to mics and networking at shows. The good news is, however, talent is recognized. At first, I was just running my set at open mics. I didn’t want to bomb on new stuff, even though that’s what open mics are for— working out new material—because first impressions matter. It was frustrating to not be able to try new jokes. Also, inevitably, the comics are kinder and gentler to people they know. I will admit it felt intimidating and scary. Eventually though I did get booked on local shows based on those mics.
As I acclimate and get more bookings under my belt things are turning around. I still go to New York to keep my comedic edge but recently I was booked to feature for a weekend at one of the larger clubs in Denver. I thought street cred was only a thing in the Big City but I guess I need it in the Mile High City too.
"My favorite thing in Denver? Comedy pays!"