Ask any standup on the local scene, "What's the worst room in the Twin Cities?" Chances are, they'll all agree: the downtown Grumpy's.
The club's weekly Death Comedy Jam has wrecked many young, aspiring comics over the years while also hosting some of comedy's biggest names. Chris Maddock has been there since the beginning. Along with Stand Up! Records founder Dan Schlissel, Maddock helped to start the now-infamous open-mic night at Grumpy's eight years ago, and he's been managing the event ever since.
"Grumpy's is seriously the worst room in the country. Seriously," Maddock says. "But for whatever reason we still get tons of comics coming out. I think it's why I still have a job. A lot of times it just feels like a bunch of my alcoholic friends came to hang out, and then we take turns telling jokes to each other and no one else. Or maybe there might be one hip dude there on a date that's too cool to laugh at anything. At this point, I'm actually trying to convince some guys to start their own open mics on the same night, just to help take some of the pressure off of me."
While the idea of encouraging competition against your own business may seem unusual, it makes sense coming from a guy who admits, "I'm really a bad businessman. I feel like my comedy is ahead of where I'm at in my career, and I think it's because I really don't get the business stuff." While business may not be his calling, no one can deny that Maddock is a fast-rising star on the local standup scene and a man poised to possibly be a breakout star in the not-so-distant future.
[jump] Who the F is Chris Maddock?
When it came to discovering his inner-comedian, Maddock found inspiration locally. "I was working at Grumpy's as a waiter, and we used to have a bunch of Vikings fans come in after the games. I would just make fun them to the other tables I had, and they thought it was really funny."
But while mocking the purple-and-gold army may have proved easy, his entry into the world of standup was less than stellar. "I ate shit," he admits. "I decided to go give it a shot at the Acme one night and I brought a bunch of people I worked with at Grumpy's with me to watch me eat shit. It was horrible."
Still, that didn't stop his boss at the time from deciding his experience was enough to head up a new open-mic night at the bar.
"He looked at me one night and was like, 'You've done comedy like three times; you're going to run our open mic night.' That was when Dan [Schlissel] and I started Death Comedy Jam."
Who the F cares about Chris Maddock?
During his time running the show at Grumpy's he's had the opportunity to meet some of comedy's biggest names, including Doug Stanhope, Paul F. Tompkins, and Maria Bamford. But when it comes to pursuing his own comedy, the biggest boost came from his wife.
"About four years ago, my wife and I were doing mushrooms and I was like, 'I want to quit my job and do comedy full-time.' She told me, 'You should do it!' I was like 'Holy shit! Really?' She's been so awesome and supportive."
Since that time, Maddock has hit the road hard, traveling the country and paying his dues. And paid he has.
"There are two types of being 'on the road'," he explains. "There's the kind where you play the cities like Denver and Seattle, and there's the kind where you show up in a town where if every single person who lives there comes, you might have 100 people in the audience. That's the kind I've been doing." He laughs, "Trust me; I've paid my dues."
Good or bad, the experience has helped him to grow into a more seasoned stage veteran. "The road has paid off in spades for me as far as my act goes," he says. "Sometimes you'll have three months worth of okay shows before you get one really good one, so by the time I get to a place like the Acme where everyone is excited to see comedy I'm like, 'This is great!'"
Where the F is Chris Maddock going?
Throughout his career Maddock has stared down the ugliest crowds and held entire rooms in the palm of his hand. But now he's preparing for a new audience that he's never played for before: his baby.
"My wife and I are having a kid in less than two months, so I'll probably take a little break from the road," he says. "Now that I'm going to have to be a responsible adult, I think I may take some classes in that whole business-thing. More than anything, I'm going to try and get away from the smaller, crappy road shows where you're just trying to break even."
Instead, he plans to hit the major festival circuit in hopes of catching the attention of some major industry players. "I'm doing the World Series of comedy in Iowa at the end of June, which is all industry people. The top people at that event go to Vegas to compete in a bigger festival, and the winners get guaranteed work. I'm planning on doing a couple of those each year, and hopefully eventually go somewhere that I can do comedy full-time."
"I mean, I'm at the point in my life now where I'm not in some big hurry to make it. Okay, I'm in a little bit of a hurry."
When the F can you see Chris Maddock next?
Maddock is recording his first CD on June 1 with his old Grumpy's partner for Stand Up! Records at a very unusual location.
"I'm recording it at 7th St. Entry," he says, "Which I think gets me cool points times a million. At one point I was so excited that I told Dan I wanted to call the CD, 'Live at 7th Street' but then he looked at me like I was a huge dork so I think we'll come up with a new name."