Theoretically, you could do stand-up comedy almost anywhere. All you need is a mic, a speaker and a little space to stand. That's why you might find it happening at a comedy club, a bar or a restaurant.
But on the roof of a parking garage next to an apartment complex? Isn't that a little weird?
Yeah, it's a little weird. That's why Cigar City Comedy's annual rooftop show won a Best of the Bay award for Best Weird Place to See Comedy (we like weird).
Ahead of this year's fun, we talked to Cigar City Comedy's John J. Murray about what to expect from this year's rooftop show, and what it takes to put it together each year.
What is it about a rooftop that makes it conducive to a fun comedy show? How is it different from seeing comedians at a comedy club or a bar?
It's more of a relaxed environment. It's closer to a house party than it is to a club. The show is on the rooftop of an apartment complex, so imagine of a bunch of comedians just showed up at your house and said "Hey, we're having a party!"
This is the sixth year that Cigar City Comedy has put on this type of show. How did it get started? Who came up with the idea, and how did it come together originally?
It was (Cigar City Comedy member) David Weingarten's idea. He lived at Visconti years ago, and he saw the potential of having a great show up on the rooftop — as well as how cool the staff there is, and their willingness to sponsor a cool event for the community.
When people go each year, they see a stage, a mic and some funny people. But what kind of work goes into putting something like this together? Walk us through some of the details that happen behind the scenes well before the event date.
Unlike a normal comedy show, it's outdoors in a spot that doesn't have access to electricity. We have to get a generator every year to run the sound and lights, and we have put together our own portable lighting rig. Fortunately, with the help of Visconti and all of the comics, we have setup, sound and show promotion down to a science.
Sometimes the lighting can randomly draw too much power, and the generator can shut off. When this happens, someone (usually me) has to run down six flights of stairs and start it back up again. It's actually part of the fun. I'm always trying to beat my old time.
What kind of audience do you normally get for a show like this? What do people say after they see it for the first time?
The audience we get is a mixture of the residents that live there combined with some of the die-hard comedy fans in the area. When people see the show for the first time they love it. Some people are surprised about the level of talent we have here in the Tampa Bay area.
How do you pick the lineups each year? Do you look for a particular style or level of experience?
We always try to get the comedians that are working in (and doing well at) comedy clubs, but are still comfortable working in bars and other less-traditional venues.
Staying on that subject, tell us about this year's lineup. Who are these guys?
Matt Fernandez just came back from the Cape Fear Comedy Fest and has opened for Dave Chapelle. Law Smith is the founder of Cigar City Comedy and his Sweat Equity podcast is the funniest business podcast out there. Jander Grey is our emcee this year, and he's quickly making a name for himself all over the state of Florida. Jonas Presendieu is a favorite over at the Tampa Improv. He's done comedy all over the country and this is one of his last shows before making the jump to Los Angeles, so we wish him luck. John Jacobs is a former MTV reality star (Are You The One?) who now tours doing stand-up while making funny sketches and man-on-the-street type videos. He recently released an album with Stick Martin, who is doing music at the show before the comedy gets started. Stick has toured all over with his music and released several albums under his own name. He's also producing music for artists in every genre. Steve Miller is our headliner and we are glad to have him back in the line up after hosting our very first rooftop show. Steve is a nationally touring headliner who is known for his appearances on 102.5 FM The Bone, Sirius/XM satellite radio and Fox.
OK, you've sold us. Now, about the logistics: When should we get there, and what should we bring? What will the event include besides comedy?
The show will start as soon as the sun sets, so plan on getting there a little early to get a good seat. Stick Martin will be playing music starting at about 7:30. Bring your own chairs and drinks. Rock Brothers Brewing will be there with a few samples, as well as some promo items.