So I just got back from Denver, I was able to check out some of the comedy scene on Saturday and Sunday, and spent plenty of time hanging out with local comics and chatting about their scene. (To those I added on Facebook, sup, you were all wonderful)
Denver metro has half the population of Tampa metro, but 5x the comedy scene. (I will note that "Denver" has double the population of "Tampa" if we're talking about just the main city.)
I've been thinking about why that is, what makes it different. Here are some things I thought about through my very limited experience with Denver Comedy. I'd love to have some discussion on these, these are just unorganized thought-points.
First of all, Denver has an AMAZING local hub website for comedy http://5280comedy.com/ We NEED this. Somebody just steal this website wholesale, PLEASE.
SUPPORT. At every mic I went to, comics were buying drinks, supporting the venue. Comics were generally attentive to each other's sets, supporting each other. How can we expect respect from venues when we don't respect venues? They have six mics a night for a reason. The venues love the comics there. How many of our mics have been shut down because it's not making them any money? That's our own fault. I get it, I've been the water-drinker myself, but there's a point where if you appreciate having an event going on, maybe you should think about what you can do to make sure it stays there.
I went to two mics on the same night literally two blocks away from each other. And they were happy to be so close. If there were two mics or shows on the same night at the same time in the same neighborhood here in Tampa there would be blood.
SELF-RESPECT. Someone told me about how the whole scene agrees that an open mic or a showcase costs X amount to organize. Someone tried to host an open mic for less money and the scene boycotted his mic for devaluing standup in the city.
We're stage-thirsty suckers here in Tampa, myself included, but it's definitely something to think about. The comics doing the booked showcase got paid, and not just in free drinks. The shows were well advertised, high-quality posters all over the place.
ATTITUDE. I went to three mics and one showcase. Not once did I see a comic who I would describe their onstage act as "an asshole with a microphone." When a joke bombed, nobody got confrontational with the audience "screw you guys that was funny, I get paid for this, I don't need you, etc", they blamed themselves and their joke.
I don't think I saw one single comic leaning on material that would be considered "shock." No racist jokes, sexist jokes, not even gross jokes. There was plenty of cursing and dark material, this wasn't squeaky clean stuff, but it was *funny*. Also, side note, tons of female comedians and no host felt the need to be like "This next comedian is a LAAAAADYYYYYY!"
(Oh by the way, barely any weed jokes considering it's legal there. Weird, right?)
CITY CULTURE. Okay this isn't something we can fix but I felt it and I wonder what can be done. Personally, I feel like Tampa isn't as supportive of local arts as it could or should be, comedy and otherwise. I see great comedy lineups, I see fantastic bands and musicians, I see amazing locally written and produced plays, and I wonder why they aren't packing houses every single night. Does Tampa just not like to get out of the house unless it's to drink at a bar, or to see a national act? I dunno.
Is Tampa too sprawling? Is it just too inconvenient to get out of your neighborhood to go check out something cool? I dunno. Bums me out. We have a University with 40k students who IN THEORY should love Comedy and Music but they just don't want to get out for things even when they're free and right next door. Weird.
Anyway thanks for reading this if you made it this far, good job. It was a great weekend and I definitely learned some stuff. Would love to visit again sometime, Denver.