Stand up and be noticed at Damon's comedy night

On nightlife

October 18, 2007|By Sam Sessa

What happens when you give a nerd a microphone?

I found out Sunday at an open-mike comedy night. Damon's Grill in Hunt Valley hosts a weekly event called Drink 'Til We're Funny.

The headliner, Lawrence Owens, was hilarious. But most of the dozen or so amateur comics before him dealt cringe-inducing duds and dirty but not funny jokes.

"This is what happens when people from Best Buy drink," one of them said. Too true.

People from Best Buy tell jokes about live action role playing (LARP) and the renaissance festival. And, yes, there were a few hilarious flashes Sunday. But there were just as many, if not more, horribly awkward moments when all you could do was laugh at the person, look at your watch and have another sip of beer. If you drank until some of these people were funny, you'd go cross-eyed.

Local comedian T. Brad Hudson founded Drink 'Til We're Funny about six months ago. I'm glad he did - Greater Baltimore's comedy scene is starved. Outside of the Baltimore Comedy Factory and Magooby's Joke House, there aren't many places nearby to see stand-up. Damon's, in the sprawling Hunt Valley Towne Centre, has a classic, plastic suburban chain feel. But as a warm, clean home to a night of comedy, it serves its purpose well.

Drink 'Til We're Funny is held in Damon's bar. It can get smoky, but that will change in a few months when the smoking ban goes into effect. There is no stage. Instead, comics run through their routines on the floor. Last week, the two speakers overpowered the bar area from time to time, but someone usually turned them down if the comic got too loud.

Damon's had a half-dozen or so beers on tap. I ordered a 22-ounce Sam Adams Oktoberfest draft, which came to $5.50. Because Damon's isn't a dedicated comedy venue, there's no two-drink minimum, which is nice. And the food is a few steps above the fried fare you'd find at the average comedy club.

Things got started about 9:30 p.m. A few folks were still eating in the adjacent dining room, which made for some interesting moments. One of the more memorable ones came about halfway through the night, when one of the comics was obliviously sharing a joke about mentally disabled people as a disabled diner looked on. D'oh!

I'd say there were about 50 people. From what I've heard, that's a pretty small crowd for the event. But even Sunday, I was surprised at the number of people who came just to see some comedy and not to support anybody in particular. Drink 'Til We're Funny has a following.

One comic had a digital tape recorder hooked on his belt as he went through his routine. I guess he wanted to hear the playback of his routine to take notes and make improvements. My shirt, which was emblazoned with "Department of Redundancy Department," was funnier than some of the comics' entire routines. Zing!

I'll give the comics some credit - it takes serious guts just to get up there. It's tough to make strangers laugh. And while a lot of the performers Sunday were nerdy, lewd and awkward at times, they had their moments.

Owens took the floor about 11:45 p.m. He had people rolling right off the bat. I would have paid to see him. His impression of a present-day Muhammad Ali was fantastic. I laughed so hard my sides hurt. But his routine went on for too long. I thought the show was supposed to run until 11:30 p.m. or midnight. But it just kept going and going.

I caught myself yawning at one point and almost walked out. But I was kind of afraid to. Owens dared anyone to leave during his set and called out the couple of people who did. I stayed put.

It was close to 1 a.m. when Drink 'Til We're Funny ended. Though some comics were painfully bad, others had real promise. If you're a fan of stand-up, definitely drop by.

sam.sessa@baltsun.com

Drink 'Til We're Funny is 9 p.m. Sundays at Damon's Grill, 111 Shawan Road in Hunt Valley. Free. Call 410-527-0086 or go to damons.com.

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