This past weekend, Houston lost the Comedy Showcase, the longtime comedy club down I-45 that helped break local and touring comics for the past three decades. The closure left Houston with just one dedicated comedy club, the Improv, near IKEA off the Katy Freeway.
Comics in town are obviously distressed. With one comedy club and some stray open mikes to hone their craft, it's a precarious time to be a comic in the Bayou City.
One comic, John Wessling, thinks the onus is on local bar owners to take a chance on the scene.
"People in the bar and restaurant business need to be bold enough to open an independent comedy club inside the Inner Loop," he says. "All the economic indicators are solid; there's no overwhelming reason not to do it, it just takes a group with some vision to decide to do it."
Another comic, Owen Dunn, says that Houston has plenty of raw comedy talent waiting to be discovered, but the issue seems to be Houstonians themselves.
"People in Houston are busy. It isn't much of a tourist town like San Antonio or artsy town like Austin," Dunn says. Austin's stand-up scene is thriving -- as is New Orleans's -- with most Houston acts heading there every few weeks to get in front of a new audience.
"The Improv tends to be pretty busy every weekend, so it isn't that people in Houston don't like stand-up; I think they just like to see a headliner they recognize and tend to ignore local acts," he adds.
Wessling thinks that Houstonians have forgotten about stand-up comedy as a viable option for a night out.
"We have either A-listers or open mikes, with no 'middle-class' acts or creative venues pushing and promoting the next wave," Wessling says.
Dunn notes, though, that comics in Houston don't stay in Houston for long. The most recent one to leave was Barrett Goldsmith, who took second in the 2012 edition of Houston's Funniest Person Contest. He's now in Austin honing his act.
"If you want to get discovered, you have to at minimum go to Austin," Dunn says.
Local musicians have heard that before. too, but some indie acts have leaped over Austin entirely on the way to getting national recognition, so there are always exceptions.
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Both Dunn and Wessling agree that, besides someone opening up a club himself, the open-mike scene is the best way for local comics to learn the ropes, and they implore more people to seek out these nights.
"There are plenty of open mikes, like Rudyard's on Monday nights, Eighteenth Lounge and Fitzgerald's on Wednesdays, plus St. Dane's on Thursdays," he notes.
At this point in Houston, stand-up and improvisational comedy are nearly one and the same package, too, so your nightly options are even more varied.
Mango's and AvantGarden next door also have open mikes during the week you can hit up, and even perform at if you have the guts.