For over 15 years now I've been going to our local comedy club in Peoria, Illinois - The Jukebox Comedy Club. For the past couple of years, I've been incredibly involved behind the scenes and can often be found welcoming customers behind the counter as tickets are picked up for the night. It really is my home away from home, a place that's embraced the kids and I and watched us (all) grow up.
I've seen the club go through a lot in all of these years but what I've seen most truly concerns me - and amazes/disappoints me at the same time. I hear a lot of people complain that their kids are spoiled by technology. That their kids have "lost the ability to be social". And that they "don't appreciate live events" because they simply stay home and stream it on a device instead. I'd like to point out, it's not just our children.
This trend of downloading and watching from the comforts of our home is not just the generations below us, it's ours. Our expectations are high and our patience is low. So we download an "event" and watch from home thinking we are having the time of our life. When in reality, we are missing out on real experiences. And worse yet, hurting the live entertainment industry to the point that businesses are closing their doors which means this is an opportunity our children won't ever know.
It's not just comedy, that's simply the closest to my heart. It's all live entertainment. Venues are taking a huge hit. People complain "I've never heard of them" before or the "inconvenience" of leaving their home. I'm not sure if everyone realizes it or not but your top name performers were not always selling out venues to hundreds of thousands. They are because they got their start in small, hometown venues who gave them a chance - with audiences who wanted a good time and discovered greatness. That's how they became who they are. Sometimes I can't help but think they have forgotten this too.
For our club, we continue to bring in the best, just as I see other venues do. Maybe it's not the most commonly known name *yet* but that doesn't mean it won't be a great night out or that you'll find a diamond on their way to shine. Every single weekend I'm there (which is very close to every) I get the opportunity to meet the most amazing people, to hear about and support their journey. I've met people with names everyone knows like Louie Anderson, Steve-O, Tom Green, Pauly Shore, Mary Lynn Rajskub, Greg Hahn, Loni Love, Heywood Banks, Caroline Rhea, Bobcat Goldthwait, Gilbert Gottfried, Josh Blue, Mark Curry, Tim Meadows, Charlie Murphy, The Broken Lizzard Guys, Tom Wilson, Donnie Baker, Dave Coulier and Kevin Pollock. And names you SHOULD know like Greg Warren, Costaki Economopolous, Kevin Meany, Henry Phillips, April Macie, Tom Rhodes, Brett Erickson, Brad Williams, Lisa Landry, John Roy, Roy Wood Jr., Jeff Caldwell, Chris Schlichting, Sarah Tiana, Ben Moore, Ryan Singer, Dale Jones, Michael Palasack, Larry Reeb, Mike Armstrong, Mitch Fatel, Andy Woodhull, Mike Winfield, Shane Maus, Eddie Pepitone, Tommy Johnagin, Matt Braunger, Fortune Feimster, Joe Roderick, Jamie Lissow, Chris Porter, Johnny Beehner, Leonard Ouzts and so, so, so, so many more amazing, talented, hilarious people.
What's best about small venues is that it's personal. It's a chance to meet the talent after the show, to hang out with them to know the people who are working hard week after week to provide you with quality entertainment. There is something you get from live entertainment that you'll never get from a download or even from a huge auditorium performance - there is that intimate and personal side that makes venues like the Jukebox special and hopefully something we can hold onto and pass along to our children.
The experience of live entertainment at it's best with a loved one or friends by your side, letting go of the struggles of being an adult and just enjoying the laughter and break from the reality of life to just stop and enjoy that moment.
Over the past couple of years I've watched many comedy clubs and venues who provide live entertainment as their focus close their doors. Not because of a lack of quality. Not because of a lack of effort. Simply because people have stopped going out and appreciating the importance of a live event. If this trend continues we will be in a position to say "Back in my day we could go see a comedian/band/entertainer LIVE at a club for a great price, have drinks in our hand and enjoy a night out with our friends. I miss those days." as the only remaining options will be the isolation that is downloading what is available to "enjoy" from the privacy of our homes.
I truly hope this doesn't happen but it will take our generation going out and keeping these options alive for it to continue... our kids are watching.
If you've never been to the comedy club, I highly recommend going. Every weekend there is world-class comedy. Comedians who are making their way to the very top - or who have been and are on the very top. Maybe you haven't heard of them, don't let that stop you! Go check them out, enjoy a cold drink and a good laugh. Enjoy time out with your friends. Keep these treasured places an option for the next generation and the one after... by being there while we still can and supporting live events.
Start tonight, at the Jukebox you'll find Auggie Smith. If you haven't heard of him he's hilarious - a favorite of the Bob and Tom Show (and our club!) he's been on Last Comic Standing and has a couple comedy CD's out too!
Next weekend is super special because for the 15th straight year the Jukebox has held it's annual amateur comedy contest - the semi-finals are next Friday and the finals are Saturday. Amateur comedians come from all over to participate, you'll be impressed with who's made it to the semi-finals and finals with the dreams of being a stand-up comedian.
September continues with the hilarious Rick Gutierrez and Earthquake - top notch comics with a long list of credits and accomplishments to their name. If you haven't heard of them (excuse me while I get up off the floor from shock) simply go to the website and learn more about them.
I hope you'll head out tonight. There are 2 shows with Auggie 7:15 and 945. While I strongly encourage making reservations, if you pop on in tonight I promise Dan will find you a great seat for an outstanding show :-) Dan's pretty awesome like that... just ask my kids (or me)!.
Make it a point to go, while there is still the opportunity in an every shrinking field of live event options - comedy clubs are a very rare business anymore. Let's not lose the treasure we have because technology took over.