Comedy Review: Comedy Underdogs Become Comedy Heroes at L’Etage
Casual fans of standup pretty much know where they can find it in the city. There are professional acts that perform at Helium Comedy Club and at the new Punch Line Philly. Bigger comics will often sell out theaters like the Keswick or Tower. But if you take a little time to look deeper, you can find some great comedy at venues you might not expect.
I learned this lesson firsthand when I attended Comedy Underdogs, held at L’Etage, just off the corner of 6th and Bainbridge. I knew L’Etage as a place that hosted cabarets and story slams, and had never thought of it as a comedy venue. But twice a month, the stage is home to some of the area’s best young comedic minds.
The show I caught was hosted by Jared Keith, who was gracious and humble about the small crowd size that evening (an Oktoberfest on South Street may have dissuaded comedy fans from venturing to the neighborhood). Keith led his set with some affable setups about family life before twisting the premises with some more grown-up jokes. And though commenting on politics is a well-worn road in the comedy world, Keith offered some fresh takes on the news of the day. He set the table well for the featured comics ahead.
Megan Goetz was next on the microphone, offering some great takes on drunk people at diners, dating apps and quirky family members. Goetz is a gifted storyteller who can squeeze a lot of good material out of a single topic. She was followed by Ryan Shaner, the third-place finisher in the 2017 Philly’s Phunniest competition at Helium. Shaner front-loaded his set with some terrific dating humor. He built concepts well and went on a great run on food slogans before finishing a little dark. His impression of a drunk guy, though, was terrific.
Brandon Vincent Jackson, the second-place Philly’s Phunniest finisher, played off his clean-cut image well, telling stories that placed him as a fish out of water in interactions with people from his neighborhood who have a tougher edge. Jackson came off as very relatable, even if his life experiences aren’t the same as the audience. The next comic, Brian Six, gave new life to familiar tropes like dating and sibling rivalries. He made himself the butt of most of his jokes, which went over well with the crowd.
The five local comedians would surely have been a good enough show on their own, but Comedy Underdogs treats its audience with a headliner; in this case, it was New York-based comedian Evan Williams. Williams doesn’t look like the kind of guy who you’d expect great comedy from — he’s kind of a dude bro — but he uses it to his advantage. He tells some hilarious jokes about being in a committed relationship while being surrounded by friends who still live and date like they’re in college. The set was very well constructed and kept building laughs; it was a great end to the evening.
Overall, the organizers of Comedy Underdogs do some really important things well: they craft a lineup with good comedians who have different viewpoints, they structure the night so that the styles flow well into each other, and they recruit a great headliner to close out the night, all in an intimate venue that’s perfect for comedy. At $10, it’s one of the best entertainment values you can find in the city.
The next Comedy Underdogs show will be held Saturday, October 7. The show will be headlined by Luke Mones, a comedian with credits on FunnyOrDie, CollegeHumor and the Huffington Post. Featured comics include Dave Primiano, Chris Stenta and Brian Guay.