UPDATE: On Saturday, February 25 the Drafthouse will be having their last Saturday night showcase in the Green Room. I’ll be on it along with some other very funny friends of mine. If you’re in the area, come on out!
The Green Room at the Arlington Drafthouse is closing at the end of this month. It’s too bad. Of all the places I’ve performed, that’s the one that felt the most like comedy home.
They had an open mic there every Saturday night at 10:30 run by Randolph Terrance and Andy Kline, plus a Thursday show run by Rahmein Mostafavi. When I first started going I was relatively new to the northern Virginia area and relatively new to comedy. This room allowed me to see, every week, how I was progressing as a comic. At first, I would either do okay or bomb and usually went near the end of the show. As I got better, I moved up to the middle of the show (or “the block” as Andy and Randolph called it). Got a little better. Then I got booked to host in the main room. Got a little better. Eventually I got booked to feature in the main room. Then I got so good I was booked to headline every weekend and proclaimed the President of Comedy.
I made up that last one, but you get my point.
Performing here taught me how ruthless this business could be. There was tremendous pressure to be funny every time you came because your place in the lineup was based on past results. My buddy Graham Hall said it best: “Every set there felt really important. Bombing there was a wake up call, and getting laughs there was a real high.” Can’t put it better than that. The Saturday mic was run by two good friends of mine who would gladly turn around and tell me if I didn’t do good. It helped me learn how invaluable it is to have someone willing to tell you, “Hey, you sucked, and here’s why.”
I understand that there’s a lot more to comedy than being funny, but performing there every week helped me realize that the results part better damn well be there or the rest of it didn’t much matter. The calculation was clear: get more (or bigger) laughs, get a better spot. Everything else was secondary. And the commitment to quality showed: the shows there got bigger crowds as time went on. That wasn’t by accident.
Above all else, it was a great place to hang out. I can’t tell you how many friends I made in and around that place. Within comedy circles, I tend to think talk about “scenes” or “communities” is a bit overblown. It’s a nice idea and not all together false, but we’re all more alone in this enterprise than many comedians realize. That said, Randolph, Andy and Rahmein did a hell of a service to D.C. comedy by building up this space. You got the opportunity to work on new stuff or sharpen old stuff in an A-room atmosphere while hanging out with a solid representation of comics from the area. Every week was like a mini-comedy festival.
And it had the best post-show hang. We’d go to the Irish bar across the street Paul Brennan’s where we’d point out crappy audience members who’d migrated over. Or we’d fight drunk kids for a table at Bob and Edith’s diner. And who could forget LA Bar? The dive with karaoke where we got to witness the only art form less respected than stand up.
When I moved to New York, coming back to D.C and Virginia felt like the comedy version of visiting your family after you’ve moved out. It was different, but it was still home. When you go to New York or L.A., the business gets much tougher, and the familiarity of the Green Room always made me think back to the optimism and naïveté I had when I was just starting out. I’ll miss that for sure. Most of all though, I’ll miss it as a place to see and catch up with so many comedians and friends in one spot. I know there are other great rooms in D.C where that happens now, but this is the one I started with so I’m sad to see it go.
So to my friends Randolph, Andy, Rahmein, and the great staff at the Drafthouse: thanks for putting in so much work into building that place. Even if you take comedy out of the equation, it meant a lot to a lot of people. I know it meant a lot to me.