Acme Comedy Co. is re-opening its stage for comics this Friday, even though patrons can’t take a seat. Managers are spending the week converting the nationally renowned club into a production studio, one that will beam live performances on Zoom available only to those who purchase $11 tickets.
Owner Louis Lee plans to offer live Acme shows over the internet even after the club is allowed to re-open for patrons.
“If people don’t want to come out, they can still watch at home,” Lee said.
The club doesn’t have to make a lot of adaptations for this new phase. Lee had already equipped his club with multiple cameras late last year so comedians would have recordings they could use to market themselves to TV shows and other clubs.
“It was blind luck,” Lee said.
For the past three weeks, the club had been offering Saturday-night shows starring Jackie Kashian. But the long-time Acme favorite had been beaming in from Los Angeles. Now all the scheduled acts will be appearing from the downtown Minneapolis stage, although unannounced guests may pop in from their homes. In fact, Lee said to expect more cameos than ever.
Many comics have been performing from their homes during the pandemic. But that experience just doesn’t compare to getting back on the Acme stage, even if the in-person audience will be limited to club managers and a few special invitees.
“Doing shows from home is strange because there’s no buildup,” said Bryan Miller who will be headlining at Acme on June 11 and 12. “Usually you start thinking about your set as you drive to the club. You park and walk through a crowd and start to feel that anticipatory buzz, you hear the other comics going on before you, and that’s all part of getting you in the right frame of mind.
“At home you’re just petting your cat and drinking tea in your office like it’s a regular day, and then all the sudden you’re on stage, virtually anyway,” Miller said. “Of course it’s not the same without a couple hundred people reacting live, but standing on the stage with the mike at the club makes it so much easier to slip into that mode.”
Lee will start this new approach with weekend shows, with plans to book seven shows a week, just like he did in the pre-pandemic days. He’ll start with local comics, but hopes to eventually fly in headliners from other cities.
Viewership will be limited to 290 people per show. To purchase tickets for this weekend’s show, featuring John DeBoer, visit acmecomedyco.com
“Hopefully, we’ll build something so people from all across the country can see what Acme looks like,” Lee said.
The Comedy Corner Underground is also making adjustments — by going above ground.
Starting June 5, the fast-rising venue will experiment with shows in their parking lot. Patrons will be required to stay in their vehicles, but servers will deliver food to your car window. Tickets for the first performances, featuring Miller and Emily Galati, are available at comedycornerunderground.com.