Michigan Comedy Spotlight Part 2


Last night I was part of the Comedy Rumble judging team at Cellarmans. 30 Comedians enter, 1 leaves with the belt…or…half the door actually.

The last time I judged, I knew two of the comedians before the event started. This time I knew about a third of them. Each performer was given two minutes to crush it. A handful of them bailed with thirty or more seconds to spare. The rest, crushed it, with five advancing to the finals. The championship could have gone to any of the five strong contenders.

Tanner Oliver brought home the prize. This guy is pretty stellar. He’s a confident storyteller who masterfully captures the essence of the characters in his tales quickly and effortlessly. He told a story about bringing his dad to a metal show that made me wish we were back in the day when comedians got sitcoms based off a bit or. I’m looking forward to watching longer sets from Tanner and I would happily watch a season of the Tanner Oliver Show on Fox. For as confident as he is on stage, I saw him being completely humble afterwards, which is a rarity for other comedians who are that good when they’re that new. He kept telling everyone how he was going to use his winnings to take care of the comedians at a show he’s producing later this week.

Aside from his skill and humbleness, here’s the thing I liked most about Tanner. I come from the era of comedian where the only black comic in a predominately white room would acknowledge that in some sort of hacky variation of, “I guess I’m the only chip in the cookie.” I know it’s important to address the elephant in the room. I’m guilty of it when I’ve been the only white comedian in a black room. When Morty’s in Indianapolis was an “urban” room, I opened with my parody/homage to black comedians with my “I’m left handed living in the right man’s world” not particularly groundbreaking bit of quasi pandering. Tanner didn’t do that. Tanner didn’t even really address the fact that, by looking at him, you wouldn’t think he’d be going to a metal show. Tanner is who he is without explanation or apology.

Another performer from last night is Kai Quix. When I was in LA, I became friends with a lot of trans comedians. I feel fortunate that I was born having my outside match who I am inside. I think it’s takes an unknowable amount of courage to make your outside match your inside. I don’t want my following words take anything away from them. I know three people who have made that change in Michigan. I imagine it must have been significantly more difficult to take that step, not in Los Angeles surrounded by allies, peers and pioneers, but in Michigan surrounded by people who may not quite understand.

That’s what I think makes Kai a brave person but let’s breakdown now why I think he’s a great comedian. I’ve known her for three or four months. In that time, I think I’ve seen her perform a half dozen times. Last night’s show was different though. She took the stage with a fire that I hadn’t seen before.

Last time I wrote about Michigan comedians, I referenced my LA buddy Kyle Shire, but I have to do that again. I remember seeing Kyle take the stage one night where he found the emotion that matched the words. The words were always good, but the emotion was absent. Kyle is one of my best friends and I know him well enough that if I had to describe him in five words “emotional” would be one of those five words*.

I don’t know Kai that well, but I know her words. And I know that the emotion she found last night matched her words. It felt like that last puzzle piece was finally in place. It’s always fun for me when I witness one of my peers growing. I’ve found with comedy that it doesn’t happen gradually. It happens magically and suddenly.

I think it’s significant that Kai posted on Facebook about a week prior that she was ready to start addressing other aspects of her personal life in her act. For some, that could be a lateral move getting comfortable baring that part of yourself to strangers. For her, it just seemed like a no holds barred giant leap forward.

I love being part of this scene. I love being part of this NEW scene. The scene I left was polo shirts and khakis. This new scene is as raw, artistic and comfortable in appearance as it is in voice. It’s fucking cool!

Bret Hayden produces a lot of great comedy shows at Cellarmen’s in Hazel Park on Thursdays. Do yourself a favor and check it out sometime. The shows are fun and the venue has delicious drinks you won’t find anywhere else. It’s a fun and inexpensive night out.


*The other four words I’d use to describe Kyle are “funny”, “kind”, “handsome”, and “nerdy”.


About Mike Bobbitt

Sometimes professional storyteller.

Posted on March 30, 2018, in Contests, More Misadventures! and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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