Comedy Showcase Durango turns 3 this year, and it has no plans of slowing down, said founder Wes Stein.
In fact, he said, the Showcase is only getting bigger. In addition to the weekly open mics the group holds in venues around town, a live album will be recorded; the Showcase will host its “Next best Comic of the Four Corners” in May; and the third annual Four Corners Comedy Festival will be held in August.
First up will be the live album recording at 8 p.m. April 27 at Henry Strater Theatre, where the Showcase holds frequent performances.
“We really are doing the album to get our comedy a little bit further out to the community,” Stein said. “We do the shows at the Strater, and we just feel like for folks who can’t come to the Strater or who haven’t discovered us yet, it’s a good way to sort of put ourselves out there in a way that really showcases the comedy itself.”
The album, titled “Durango Is Funny,” will feature performances in front of an audience by eight comedians: Jill Carlson, Joshua Fournier, Dallas Gwynn, David Oakley, Kate McLachlan, Stein, Elliot Weber and Allie Wolfe. It’s an effort to get the Showcase’s name out to a larger audience, Stein said.
“The idea is to really capture what we have going on in the scene right now,” he said. “It’s really just a culmination of what talent we have.”
He said the album will be distributed through iTunes and online through CD Baby and similar services.
Comedy Showcase Durango is also hoping for support from Durango.
“We’d really like to get local businesses involved. Or work with local nonprofits to raise money for them,” Stein said. “The whole idea for us is just to get it out to the community so that they can hear it and say, ‘Oh, we should go to a show some time.’”
‘We’ve grown a lot since then’Comedy Showcase Durango started in May 2016 at Derailed Pour House.
“We’ve grown a lot since then,” Stein said, adding that from playing that single room, the Showcase now performs at weekly open mics Thursday at El Rancho Tavern and downstairs at The Irish Embassy Pub and, most recently, Fridays at Down The Rabbit Hole. The comedians are also hitting the airwaves thanks to the support of DurangoTV and radio stations 99X Durango and 92.9 The Point.
The formation of the Showcase grew out of a need for the area’s funniest people to get together and work on their skill, he said.
“We didn’t even really think about it in the beginning as something Durango needed as much as, for the local comics, at the time, we had one place to do comedy, which was the Snowdown Jokedown, which was an annual thing,” he said. “So for those of us like me, and there were a couple of other guys who had always wanted to do comedy, but unless you live somewhere where there’s a comedy club and they have an open mic all the time.”
Stein said Durangoan Dan Corman first brought comedy open mics to the Irish Embassy shortly before the Showcase formed.
“Right after he started that, myself and three or four other local comedians said, ‘This is great. Now we have a monthly open mic, but now we need one every week.’ So we just kept it going,” he said. “The idea was to grow it so that we would always have more and more opportunities to hone our skills.”
Once local businesses saw the big crowds the comedians were drawing in, Stein said, the places the comedians could entertain grew, including shows at Eno Wine Bar and Cocktail Lounge and Durango Brewing.
“What’s great about the scene is comedians, they really want to start their own rooms, everybody kind of wants to get involved and help proliferate the scene,” he said. “It’s fun to see it growing; everybody’s doing their thing.”
And while the comedians were polishing their routines and working on finding rooms, Stein said he always thought the Showcase would grow. And for them, the slow progression has helped it successfully move forward.
“My friends that started this with me, we always kind of dreamed about the day we would have a comedy fest here; we could have all of the town knowing about it and involved in some way,” he said. “We’re slowly getting to that point. We never wanted to leapfrog or get ahead of ourselves; we kind of wanted the community to grow with us. And they have. I think everybody’s pretty supportive of us because we’ve been pretty humble through the process; we didn’t really have any expectations, but we had these big dreams. We were just asking people: ‘Hey, go along with it and see what happens.’”
And Durango audiences keep coming back for more.
“I think Durango really appreciates live comedy,” Stein said. “They see us getting better at it, for one thing, and they can say to their friends, ‘No, it’s actually really good. You should go to a show.’ And mean it, you know? Whereas maybe when we first started, they may not have said that. That’s one thing that the growth and time have given us.”
When it comes to looking ahead at the Showcase’s future, Stein and company hope to one day have their own standalone venue. It’s something he thinks the community could support.
“We’ve talked about it among ourselves, and I think the consensus within the comedy community in Durango, at least, is that we need a dedicated space for comedy. It’s great having all these rooms, and it’s great having the Strater, we’re so appreciative of that,” he said. “I think it’s time that Durango could probably support some kind of full-time dedicated space for live comedy. I’m sure we could figure something out; it’s Durango, you know, there are creative people here.”