Dropping in at a local watering hole on a comedy open mic night can be a dicey proposition. If you're just trying to catch up with friends over a few rounds of cheap drinks and appetizers, encountering hordes of spotlight-thirsty comedians can seem like an unwelcome ambush. If you like a shot of schadenfreude along with your domestic draft, though, open mics can offer some of the wackiest free entertainment in town. From the intoxicating whiff of inspiration that comes from a smart new joke taking shape to the drunken chaos often on display in the crowd, these nights can offer an ideal escape for the irony-addled weekday drinker.
Still, all open mics are not created equal, which is why we do our sporadic Open Mic Check. This edition looks at Ripen Comedy Night, which takes place at 9:30 p.m. every Thursday at Stoney's Bar and Grill, 1111 Lincoln Street.
Stoney's occupies a massive space at the corner of Lincoln Street and East 11th Avenue The open mic is smartly contained to a single room so that the bar's other customers have plenty of areas where they can drink, nosh and chat without disrupting the performance. The open-mic room itself has an invitingly woodsy vibe, almost like the mess hall at a summer camp, and the stage is well lit and centrally located. Seating is plentiful; so are tables. (Strangers are almost always more likely to take a chance on sitting in the front row of an amateur comedy show if they have somewhere to set their drinks.) Service from the bar at the back of the room is usually prompt and always unobtrusive, making Stoney's an uncommonly ideal setting for Ripen Comedy Night.
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Running an open mic can often feel like providing hospice care to people's dying dreams, so reliable backup is key. Ripen Comedy Night is co-hosted by fellow gingers Meghan DePonceau and Jeremy Pysher, stalwarts of the local scene. Rather than sharing their hosting duties concurrently, Pysher and DePonceau hand off the mic like a baton in a relay race, with DePonceau opening the show and Pysher taking over during the second half. It's a fine strategy that helps to stave off the flagging energy that tends to plague the final minutes of a long show. Both hosts manage to keep the comedy cavalcade running smoothly, leading off their respective segments of the show with gusto while keeping their intros mercifully brief.
Thanks largely to holdovers from a trivia game that precedes the open mic, laughter, applause and more than a few groans flow freely throughout the evening. The presence of a humble but hearty audience of regular people spares everyone on the list from the sense of futility that comes from performing for a room full of fellow comedians: An all-comic crowd is a death knell for any comedy show; few people are stingier with their laughs than those who've heard all of your material before and are anxiously awaiting their own time in the spotlight.
Overall, this evening provides a fertile environment where new jokes can grow. Thanks to Stoney's kindly, indulgent customers along with capable hosting and list-curating by Pysher and DePonceau, Ripen presents the rare open mic that sends everyone involved home with smiles on their faces. On the night I attended, nearly every comic on stage acquitted themselves admirably, but the reliably hilarious and stylistically singular Hannah Jones had one of the funniest and most original sets of the night.
Ripen Comedy Night happens each Thursday night at Stoney's Bar and Grill. Comedian sign-ups begin at 9 p.m., and the show starts at 9:30.