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Comedy variety takes Waco stages for weekend

Comedy variety takes Waco stages for weekend

Chingo Bling 2020 (copy)

Houston comic Chingo Bling, who brought his “Going Viral” show to Waco last summer, returns with a Friday night show at The Backyard.

Comedy performance in Waco has tended to ebb and flow over the years, depending on venue availability and audience support, but this weekend suggests the tide is rising and may stay at a higher level.

Fans will have plenty to laugh at in the next few days: a regional stand-up performer in Chingo Bling; comics from established scenes in Austin and the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex; local comics; and improv comedy.

The busy weekend implies a growing local support for comedy performance and interest in a variety of styles.

Waco comic and creator Terry Bluez, the performing name for Terry Raper, said he’s seen Waco move from a community with little to offer comedy audiences outside of a monthly show at Truelove Bar and the occasional visiting stand-up to one where comedy is available on a weekly basis and at multiple venues.

In the two years since he returned to Waco, the local comedy environment has shifted from “pretty non-existent” to a legitimate comedy scene, Bluez said. He’s been part of that movement, performing stand-up himself, hosting comedy events and creating online comedy content and podcasts.

Bluez hosts a weekly open mic comedy night at Freight Bar near Baylor University, will lead a Ladies Night comedy show Saturday at Rogue Media Studios and is one of the stand-ups featured in Friday’s Comedy Showcase led by Adam Wolf at Brazos Theatre.

He’s done comedy at venues including Klassy Glass Wine Bar and Bistro, Brotherwell Brewing, Rogue Media Studios, the new SlapStix Comedy Club, Brazos Theatre, Freight Bar and more.

Like other Waco comics, Bluez is finding he no longer has to go to Austin, Dallas or Houston for gigs.

“I always felt that there was a lane for comedy (in Waco) and people wanting to see it,” he said. “The great thing about it is there’s more than one opportunity to see comedy in Waco.”

COVID-19 shutdowns and capacity caps at performance venues last year crimped live comedy in Waco, but Bluez finds it’s rebounding to previous audience levels. Given Waco’s growing tourism market, an increase in housing and active entertainment promotion from such groups as Keep Waco Loud, he’s optimistic the Waco comedy scene is finding a new stability.

That perception led Waco comic Michael McBrine, who’s been a performing comic for some 18 years, to join partners Kevin and Lorraine Gritten and launch a SlapStix Comedy Club with live comedy on Fridays and Saturdays. The club’s public debut last weekend found support, with a packed house at all four shows, McBrine said.

Multiple venues for comedy allow a greater range for comics’ material from that aimed at mainstream audiences to racier, sometimes raunchier stuff for adult-only fans. At SlapStix Comedy Club, the material is intended for adults 18 and older and the tone tracks that often found at Dallas and Austin comedy clubs, McBrine said.

The comedy improv at Brazos Theatre, for instance, aims at material that approximates a film rating of PG-13, a level that includes teens to senior adults.

“Our goal is not to shock people or make fun of any people,” Brazos Theatre director Beth Richards said.

She’s watched the growth of audiences for improv at her theater, which has hosted a monthly Comedy Improv night for several years. She remembers those comedy nights expanding from shows at downtown restaurant The Olive Branch to downtown artspace Creative Art Studio and Theater, then to Brazos Theatre and its current location off State Highway 6 and Bosque Boulevard.

The niche her theater’s improv fits is comedy aimed at mainstream audiences, shaped by a theatrical sensibility.

“Our goal is to tell a really good story and make it original. It’s going to naturally be funny — and there have been some crazy stories told on that stage,” Richards said.

The Comedy Showcase that Waco comic Adam Wolf is hosting Friday, on the other hand, crosses more into R rating territory, although “not too raunchy.” That’s more the flavor of the material found in Dallas and Austin comedy clubs, where several of Wolf’s Showcase performers are regulars. Like Bluez, Wolf is finding more local venues willing to host comedy. Even better, many of the Waco venues don’t have the distractions found at bars where stand-ups often perform: bar traffic close to the stage, loud background chatter, televisions and videogame arcades in the same space.

“(Here) everybody’s focused on the stage,” he said.

Bluez said there’s room for the performance comedy spectrum in Waco.

“Whatever show you come out for, whatever the choice you make, there are no wrong choices,” he said.

Here’s what’s intended to make Waco audiences laugh this weekend:

Chingo Bling, 8:30 p.m. Friday, The Backyard, 511 S. Eighth St.; $25 and $30. Texas comic Chingo Bling returns to Waco where he brought his “Going Viral” tour this summer to the Waco Hippodrome. Bling’s current tour is “Freedom of Speech,” which, judging from his recent social media posts, may target such topics as COVID-19 vaccinations and critical race theory.

“Comedy at the Brazos”, hosted by Adam Wolf, 8 p.m. Friday, Brazos Theatre, 7524 Bosque Blvd.; $15.50. Friday’s Comedy Showcase will feature Dallas comics Casey Coleman and Paul Smith; Eric Patno, a regular of the Killeen comedy scene; and Terry Bluez.

Open mic comedy with Terry Bluez, 8-10 p.m. Thursday, Freight Bar, 1613 James Ave.

Ladies Night comedy show, 7-10 p.m. Saturday, Rogue Media Studios, 715 Washington Ave.

Wes Corwin, 7 and 9:15 p.m. Friday and 9:15 p.m. Saturday, Slapstix Comedy Club, 6708 Woodway Drive; $20. Dallas comic Wes Corwin, named by The Improv as 2018 Funniest Comedian in Texas, has opened for nationally touring comics and written material for Funny or Die, and for Conan O’Brien on TBS.

Improv Comedy Show, 7 p.m. Saturday, Slapstix Comedy Club, 6708 Woodway Drive; $20.

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