I don’t know exactly how it is that standup comedy came to fall under the domain of the music editor in the esteemed pages of Seven Days. But I’m glad it does. In the close to three years I’ve been in the employ of your friendly alt-weekly newspaper, becoming acquainted with the local standup comedy scene has been one of the more enjoyable parts of what I do.
At this point, you’re probably saying to yourself, “Huh? We have a standup comedy scene?” Or perhaps, “Huh? You’ve been at Seven Days for almost three years?” I know, I’m as shocked as you are … at least about the latter thing. Two more months and my girlfriend, Plus One, owes me $20. Moving on…
We do, in fact, have what could reasonably be called a standup scene. Yes, it’s relatively small, and fragmented. But it exists. And if Nathan Hartswick has anything to say about it, those two presently defining characteristics could be changing very soon.
Hartswick and two fellow comedian pals, John Lyons and Chad Smith, have recently launched a website called the Vermont Comedy Club that is intended to serve as a one-stop resource for all things funny in the Green Mountains. The site features videos of local standup acts, a calendar of standup events, a blog and, perhaps most impressive, a directory of standup comics working in the state, complete with bios, pictures and contact info.
In a recent email exchange, Hartswick writes that the site was born out of a desire to corral the disparate parts of the comedy community into one easily accessible location that could “serve as a clearinghouse for fans to find out about the comedy offerings in the area” and to “encourage the continued growth of the scene” by providing a place for comics to connect with each other.
In other words, the VCC is attempting to build the type of infrastructure that exists, and is often taken for granted, in the region’s various music scenes. That’s a tall order. But it’s an endeavor whose time has come. To wit: As of press time, the aforementioned VCC directory consists of more than 60 comics. Sixty. Raise your hand if you thought there were 60 standup comedians in Vermont … anyone?
Of course, Hartswick and co. aren’t acting completely out of the kindness of their hearts. They are aspiring comedians as well, and make no bones about the fact that they use the website to promote their own productions. Like, for example, the VCC showcase at the Higher Ground Showcase Lounge this Saturday, which — in addition to the three amigos, of course — features the stylings of local comedians Pat Lynch, Avi Waring and Martha Tormey.
I’ve Got the Power
Ask anyone who’s been around the Burlington rock scene for the last 10 years who their favorite local musician is and the answer is likely to be, overwhelmingly, Ryan Power. That’s doubly true if you’re asking musicians. Simply put, there is no one else like him — locally or otherwise — and few who are as universally respected by their peers. In the near-decade I’ve known the man and his music, I can’t even count the number of times I’ve had, or overheard, versions of this conversation.
“You know who’s, like, totally fucking amazing?”
“Yeah … how is he not famous?”
“He’s soooo good.”
“Yup. Soooo good.”
But the best thing about Ryan — aside from the crazy-talented thing — actually may be the reason he isn’t famous (yet): You’re unlikely to meet a sweeter or more humble person. Were I half as good at anything as Ryan is at making music, I would be an unbearable ass. Or, you know, more of one. But for Ryan Power, making incredible music, or helping others to make their own incredible music, seems to come as naturally to him as breathing. (Note: I’m quite sure it’s not that easy. He just makes it seem that way, which only adds to his mystique.)
On Wednesday, March 3 — this paper’s street date — Ryan Power will play a gig at The Monkey House in Winooski with Blowtorch and Lawrence Welks & Our Bear to Cross, in celebration of a brand-new album, I Don’t Want to Die. I’ve had the privilege of checking out an advance track — which you can hear on my blog, Solid State. Given the preceding hyperbolic fawning, you can imagine what I think of it. But this will be the last chance you have to hear Power for a while, as he and his band are embarking on a monthlong national tour, including a stop at South by Southwest in Austin. And if there’s any justice in the music world, he’ll be discovered and have legions of indie labels battling for his services. Looking at you, Hardly Art, Merge, Matador, Asthmatic Kitty…