Comedians form communities in every town, big and small, and yap their salacious musings on stage in front of any audience who will have them. Clubs are most common, but unlike many cities, Albuquerque doesn’t have a comedy club. This unfortunate lack hasn’t stopped local comics but has instead served as a catalyst for a DIY comedy scene that offers open mics four nights a week, creative alternative shows and touring headliners.
After the closure of Laffs in 2009, comedians around town banded together, and shows started popping up in unlikely places. Bars, theaters, breweries and even an indoor miniature golf course have all housed comedy shows in the past few years. With very few resources, Albuquerque comedians have found ways to keep the scene alive and get paid to do what they love. In this little town with no club, the formation of production teams like Broad Humor allow a collaborative comedy scene to flourish.
For the past year and a half, the bread and butter of many local and touring comics were the two weekly showcases: Fridays at The Damn Bar (300 Unser SE), run by Matt Peterson, and Saturdays at The Box (114 Gold SW), run by the Broad Humor team. The Damn Bar show is still running weekly, and although Broad Humor decided this past June to produce shows separately, their innovative efforts are largely responsible for creating the comedy community that now thrives in Albuquerque. The team consisted of Sarah Kennedy, the two-time winner of Alibi’s Best Local Comedian, and her partner Sarah Mowrey, a co-founder of the improv troupe Comedy?. They began their careers very differently.
Kennedy started stand-up after her friend and fellow comic, Matt Peterson, nudged her to have a go at it in 2009. It didn’t take her long to become a major force in creating and sustaining the ABQ comedy scene. She describes her style as “socially responsible observational comedy” with occasional drawings of vaginas and bouts of screaming. Don’t worry, Kennedy says; it’s all in “a gentle clean way.”
Mowrey, the self-proclaimed Slut Monster—she even wrote a blog about it—began improv in high school. She cofounded Comedy? in 2010, started producing improv shows at The Box in 2011 and started doing stand-up shortly after. Her comedy is personal. It consists of “pushing against the boundaries of topics like sex and dating through the eyes of a queer person,” says Mowrey.
Early in 2012, Mowrey and Kennedy convinced The Box, an improv theater, to host their weekly showcase and, without any money, promised to pay rent and pay the comics. Kennedy reflects, “We just had to get 30 people in the door. If we could get 30 people a week, we knew we could do it. That was our business plan.” Kennedy read every book there was on advertising and began a guerilla ad campaign around town. They didn’t have a budget for ad space in the papers, so instead, every Friday Broad Humor would make Post-its with their show info and place them in local newspapers. They flyered every car downtown and used social media to bring in paying customers.
The tension between their two styles—Kennedy’s intellectualism and Mowrey’s visceral humor— birthed spectacular shows rich with provocative banter. Their dynamic energy and alternative comedy formats drew a young, urbanite crowd. “We like to produce weird shows that stray from the traditional opener, feature, headliner format. We like the challenge of presenting comedy in different contexts,” says Kennedy. For the monthly Word Vomit!, comedians were given random topics and had to create a five-minute set on the spot, a herculean task for even the most experienced and skilled comic. Another show, called Counterpoint, had the performers debate topics such as Bros v. Hos.
Kennedy and Mowrey are still producing shows and still paying broke comics. In order to explore new creative avenues, though, Broad Humor disbanded in late June. They still run a weekly open mic together at Broken Bottle Brewery (9421 Coors NW) on Wednesdays. Kennedy has formed a new production company called Something to Do, runs an open mic at Blackbird Buvette (509 Central NW) every other Tuesday and will have shows at The Box August 3 and 17 in a similar format to Broad Humor shows, but reimagined and revamped. Mowrey is still performing with Comedy? and working on producing new stand-up shows. Comedy?’s three-year anniversary show is July 27 at The Box.