Drew Harrison just returned from New York doing standup. It’s one of his recent revered passions, as proven from his 2016 Port City’s Top Comic win. Though he’s making headway on the circuit, he’s learned that breaking into the comedy scene and paying dues isn’t always easy.
“I’m five years in and just scratching the surface,” Harrison says. “I just got back from New York and realize I’ve got a lot more to pay.”
This weekend Harrison will be keeping the humorous anecdotes about his life and experiences growing up in a small town in NC to a minimum. He will be emceeing a comedy show at Hell’s Kitchen and opening with a 15-minute set before turning it over to fellow standup comics Jamey Stone and John Felts. With free admission, it will be the first time Hell’s Kitchen owner Eric Laut has hosted comedy in his venue.
“Eric has a tremendous sense of humor and is wonderfully enthusiastic about bringing fun and exciting entertainment to Hell’s Kitchen,” says Stone, who arranged the show. “We wanted the show at Hell’s Kitchen to cost you less than going to actual hell.”
A local theatre actor (“The Real Inspector Hound,” “1776) and tour guide for the Ghost Walk, Stone will headline the show. His 45-minute slot will include stories from his everyday life.
“It will be a mix of audience-tested material with a few newer things thrown into the mix,” he says. “As comedians, a lot of new ideas are introduced at open-mics, tinkered with over time, and by the time they reach a paid professional show, they are more or less polished bits.”
Stone has had a chance to hone his work thanks to 13 years in standup. He started doing competitions and open-mics when he lived in Phoenix, AZ, in 2004. It wasn’t until 2006 he pursued comedy full-time and began booking out-of-state gigs on a regular basis.
“After 13 years, eight of them on the road, I’ve done a lot [of comedy shows,]” Stone says. “My tag line on my business cards reads: ‘Questioning Society’s Mental Health.’ We search for sanity in a crazy world and then in spite of ourselves, we go ahead and make the same mistakes over and over. And we don’t realize how silly it all is.”
The Hell’s Kitchen show will time out around 90 minutes and will continue after Harrison with John Felts doing 30 minutes of content. During his clean sets, Felts talks marriage, parenting, and struggling to do the right thing in American culture.
Though unsure if they’ll make it an ongoing part of Hell’s Kitchen lineup, Stone says they’re testing the waters for more shows. First they want to gauge the audience feedback, as attendance mandates the success of more live comedy to come.
“As an art form, the biggest challenge to standup is the Internet,” Stone says. “Comedy is available for free, 24 hours a day, at the click of a button. And people forget the best thing about going to see live comedy is the connection with the performer and the spontaneity that can occur on a nightly basis. The biggest challenges are staying connected to the audience, staying current, and being able to think fast on your feet. Anything can happen in the room—and in the blink of an eye, and you have to be able to change direction and adapt.”