The Basement Comedy Show with Mary Jane French (That’s me!) is a monthly stand-up comedy showcase that takes place at The Basement, as the title very clearly asserts. The show is the very first project that I decided to pursue as a CompanyArtist with TheatreLAB. It is the culmination of several things that I wanted to create but have only now received the opportunity to execute.
For years I've had ideas of shows that I would love to bring into being, but couldn't figure out how to find a space that would just allow me to hold them. Joining TheatreLAB as a CompanyArtist solved that problem and it was off the races to see what ideas I could produce in this space! The idea of a regular stand-up showcase prevailed as the idea I wanted to execute first because rather than having to write out a full shows-worth of content myself, the show is capable of being maintained regularly by consistently booking talented comedians to bring their best 15 minutes to The Basement.
With the core structure of a stand-up showcase in place, I set off to build around that the makings of a show where people didn’t know what they were in for whenever they bought a ticket. In order to achieve this goal and set a precedent, for the first show I asked certain performers to do very specific pieces. One performer did their entire set as Ben Franklin, while another told a fifteen minute version of a cringe worthy story from their childhood. This helped to create a well-rounded show with varying types of performance within the stand-up medium.
Check out this highlight reel from the first show!
The whole mission statement of the show, and the reason I wanted the opportunity to put on my own events, was to push boundaries. I love comedy and I want there to be more diversity to the form. I love stand-up, but I don’t want every show to just be a host saying “Hi, I’m going to talk for a little bit, and then a bunch of other comedians are going to talk, and then the show’s over goodnight!” I want to curate shows that give audiences full experiences, and allow comedians to expand their performances by doing things that can’t do at an open mic in the back of a bar. This could mean giving someone the full fifteen minutes they need to tell a full version of their story, bring a projector into the space and allow them to do a John Oliver style monologue, or even incorporate video clips into their larger act (which may or may not be something to come... you’ll just have to show up and find out!).
Real quick, lets talk naming! Believe it or not, a lot of thought went into the name, even though it seems pretty obvious. Comedy naming is actually one of my biggest pet peeves. I can't stand comedy groups or shows with campy names that illicit the thought of a rubber chicken or a whoopee cushion, but I also know it’s ineffective to try to be too cool or alternative with it and have your show sound like an emo band from 2006. For this reason, straight forward felt like the best way to go. Fun fact! In the planning stages of this project, Deejay Gray (TheatreLAB's Artistic Director) recommended a very good name for the show: Mary Jane French and Friends. I love the idea of that name (and may steal it in the future!), but for this show, I felt it was important to emphasize the show over myself in the title. With the current title, if I were to stop being able to host for some reason, a new host could conceivably take over and just tack their name on the end of the same title.
The first show was an incredible to start and I hope we only build up from there! The Basement is the perfect intimate setting for stand-up comedy. If we have a smaller audience, the performers' ability to play to crowd isn't affected, because they still fill the space. But just by being in a theater space where everyone is there to see the show, as opposed to being ambushed with comedy at a bar, when they really just came to get a beer. Just the ability for a comic to perform for an attentive audience made the whole show so much more electric! Each comic played so well to the crowd, who were confronted with several different types of comedy and seemed to love it all!
To wrap up, I'll reiterate what I already said: the first show was amazing, and I can only hope to keep building our audience. Your next chance is November 15th at 8pm and pre-sale tickets are only $5! Click here to get yours today!
TheatreLAB CompanyArtist 2015-16