Comedians are used to facing tough crowds, but there’s one show where they fear their fellow comedians even more.
This Thursday night, Comedy Corner Underground hosts the equivalent of a comedy fight club during the Thursday Night Joke Fight. The premise is simple: Two comics go head-to-head, slinging jokes at one another, hoping to make the other cry (while making the audience laugh at their pain). It’s one part rap-battle, one part comedy roast, and all parts hilarious.
Drew Janda, who moved to Minnesota last summer after working in Los Angeles for several years, said that got the idea from similar roast-themed competitions he saw during his time out west.
“The Comedy Store would do roast battles, and they were really funny,” he says. “So when I heard that Bob [Edwards, who runs Comedy Corner Underground] was looking for a Thursday night show, my friend Turner encouraged me to pitch my version of those battles and that became the Joke Fight.”
Since it’s inception back in February of this year, the show has quickly become a can’t-miss feature for the club, taking place on the fourth Thursday of the month. Each show includes four battles, along with two less confrontational standup sets, and a “nice-off” with Colin Klug in the middle to help ease the tension in the air.
Some of the area’s best comedians have gone to battle already, including Robert Baril, Mike Lester, Bryan Miller, Corey Adam, and Mike Brody, to name a few. This Thursday, the main event will be local standouts Tommy Ryman and Trevor Anderson going head-to-head.
“There are only three rules for our battles,” says Janda. “You have to write your own material, you can’t touch the other person, and each battle has to end in a hug.”
Although the punchlines can be brutal, Janda is quick to point out that this event is more of a good natured fight between friends than a verbal battle royale.
“We try and pick people who like each other,” he says. “This show goes against the Minnesota nature of being nice, so we try and make sure the insults stay surface-level and don’t get too personal.”
While the crowd is (usually) safe from catching a verbal tongue lashing during the show, they still play a major role in the evening. In addition to all battles being determined by audience reaction, Janda and his sidekick, Turner Barrowman, hold challenges that could have dire consequences.
“One time we told someone in the audience that he had to write down 18 U.S. presidents,” Janda recalls. “They almost did it, too, but he include Alexander Hamilton. Anyways, because they couldn’t do it, Turner got to go on my phone, access my Facebook page, and like a picture of my cousin in a bikini. Then he wrote the caption, ‘Wow cool,’ underneath.”
With a steadily growing crowd, and a who’s-who of comedy talent, Thursday Night Joke Fight has turned into one of the most sadistically funny shows in town. But as Janda reminds us, much like pro wrestling, or the movie 8 Mile, these battles really boil down to one thing.
“Ultimately, the show is about friendship.”
IF YOU GO:
Thursday Night Joke Fight
July 23, 8 p.m.
Comedy Corner Underground
$7 ($4 with student ID), 18+