laughing stock: merr's addiction
written by Tamara Styer photographed by Matt Loveland
Stand up comedy became a huge part of popular entertainment in the United States, even dating back to the 19th century. In the late 80s and early 90s, the Midwest saw comedy clubs popping up everywhere, and comedians were everywhere as common as independent musicians are today.
“Everyone just got burned out on it, so comedy clubs started shutting down,” says Archambeault.
The same thing happened in Springfield with comedy clubs such as The Funny Bone, Sir Gregory’s, Sir Laugh-A-Lot, and Harpo’s.
“Whatever the reason was – TV or Internet – people weren’t going out to see comedy.”
Archambeault, better known in Springfield as Merr, started stand up years ago and landed a spot hosting a comedy show, but it was a short-lived gig that ended soon after.
“It sucked because I felt like I got teased with actually being able to do this professionally to an extent, then it was just gone, and there was no comedy in Springfield anywhere.”
So Merr took it in his own hands and started going to open mic nights and practicing, so that he could get to the point where he could open his own show and promote it and perform. Merr then put on a show at the Blue Room with a couple of his comic friends, and they packed the room. Before the show was even started, it was standing room only.
“My turning point in making this an actual career, something I think I’m going to do until I die, was when we did that show. It was awesome. Everyone did an amazing job, everybody laughed at every joke. Being on stage was this crazy meth-infused with cocaine, high-ball, pour some whiskey on that and inject it into your eye kind of high. It was insane. I never felt anything like it.”
At that point, Merr was addicted, putting on comedy shows at various venues around town. The comedy scene was beginning to gain excitement, and more and more comics were starting to show up at open mic nights.
The Outland Bar in downtown Springfield eventually approached Merr with the idea of hosting a comedy night. Merr dubbed it Laughing Stock, and made the decision to make it open mic in the style of New York and Chicago: first come, first serve, put your name on the list, and you get five minutes.
|Merr (right) with Mark Auvil on stage at Laughing Stock's five year anniversary show.|
Held every first Tuesday of the month, Laughing Stock helped spawn other shows and comedians all over Springfield.
“It seems like it’s growing, like once a month there’s another show going on. That’s exciting to see. And it’s going to grow more from there. We’re coming to the point now that it’s grown a talent pool from Laughing Stock because a lot of people go and see that and think, ‘I could do that.’ And they wouldn’t normally have the balls to do that, but they see these other guys up there. Because of that we’ve grown the talent pool enough that we can actually have shows and each new talent we have helps bring in more people. They bring their friends and they become comedy supporters, or we reach comedy supporters who had no idea this was going on in Springfield. The more it grows, the more it becomes obvious the talent that we have here.”
As the comedy scene keeps building, it has become apparent to Merr that these talents need something more than open mic. Starting in September, Laughing Stock is expanding to a second show called Laughing Stock Presents, a combination of some of the best comedians in Springfield all in one night. Where Laughing Stock is the training ground for the fresh voices of local comedy, Laughing Stock Presents will be a comedy show, presenting the more seasoned talents in the scene. The first Laughing Stock Presents will be held at Schultz and Dooley’s Too on September 15.
“I think eventually I would like to get to the point where we see a comedy venue open up, that’s just a comedy club with national touring acts and local comedians all getting up on stage. It can work. It really can. It’s just a matter of getting people interested again and to come out to the comedy show.
|Christopher Michael Ray joining in on the stand-up fun.|
“I’ve talked to a lot of comedians when I was hosting, and a lot of the touring comedians say it’s never going to be the same because with the Internet and TV and DVDs of famous comedians, people don’t want to go to a show. They just want to hear the people that they know and are famous. I think that is true to an extent, but I think if people have the opportunity to go to a show and they actually experience a live show, they’ll realize what they’re missing out on. It’s just like seeing a band live and hearing the album. It’s a hundred times better being there. Even if it’s someone you don’t know, if it’s not someone famous or it’s just a name to you, they could become your favorite comedian after that night. It’s the same thing as local music, or going to an art show. Part of the allure should be the fact that you don’t know what you’re going to see. And I think if we could just get people into that mindset, if we get enough people to come out and try it, it’ll grow quickly. I think it’s not far off at all to say that we could have a comedy club in Springfield in the next year or two.
"Springfield's my home, so I want it to be successful in comedy. I feel like I take a lot of my time that I should be devoting toward my personal growth as a comedian, and I devote it towards actually building the show here in town. It's really rewarding because when you meet all these guys that are all going through the same thing and the same stages, and just see how they do it differently, it's almost like a brotherhood. It's a kind of community. You all have a respect for each other. To be able to be a part of that and also to be able to see these guys and get to know them over time, personally and also professionally, and see them grow, it's such a cool experience."
Check out upcoming Laughing Stock shows by heading over to facebook.com/laughingstock.withmerr, and be sure to give them a “like” while you’re there! DM
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