Laugh out loud at the Green Room
by R.L. Stollar
“Eugene is where comedians go to die,” a comedian remarked on Friday night at the Green Room. Adjacent to the newly re-opened Doc’s Pad on Willamette, the Green Room is Eugene’s first professional comedy club. As if existing in defiance of and struggling fiercely against the idea that Eugene is anti-comedy, the club is doing its very best to get Eugene to laugh. With national comedy tours coming through and a full bar and menu supplied by Doc’s, the Green Room stands ready to make this city a place of comedians not only alive but thriving.
Founded by Chris Warren two months ago, the Green Room is “a multi- functional room on the other side of Doc’s great for business meetings, private parties, community events, school functions, etc.,” Doc’s website says. But it’s mainly for the Brickwall, the professional comedy club that focuses on stand-up acts. “The comedy has had a slow start,” says Sarah, a Doc’s bartender. “But we are steadily growing. It helps that the comics are pretty damn good — they’re actually funny.”
Sarah has worked for the Green Room via Doc’s since the comedy club opened. She works with fellow bartender and friend Fairin on Friday night. They busily mix up the specials—$4 Long Islands, AMFs, and Black Opals. “It’s fun,” Sarah remarks. “We have a laid back atmosphere and awesome clientele.”
A typical week at the Green Room is as follows: Wednesday is open mic night; Thursday is an ongoing comedy competition for amateurs with $500 as the prize; Friday and Saturday are professional nights. “The weekend is all about acts that tour nationally, not amateurs,” Sarah emphasized.
The room itself is perfectly named. Candles glow softly in green glass. Green curtains adorn the windows. The lights cast an emerald hue over the audience.
The host and main person at the Green Room is Tom Howard. Tom came to Eugene from San Francisco originally to work at Lane County Animal Services. But he found his life passion in comedy. He has a DVD out and has performed nationally for 16 years, headlining tours from Three Feathers Casino in Oregon to the Black Oak Casino in California. “I love to make people laugh,” Tom exclaims. “I most love to see people smile. For a few minutes we let people forget their troubles and be happy. That’s such a great gift to give.”
Tom hosts the shows but also does some stand-up himself. He exudes a youthful charm and balances jokes about racism in Springfield with meth in Eugene and adds a good deal of self-deprecation. He knows how to work an audience—even if its small. Only about half the tables were occupied on Friday. “People need to come out and support this place more,” Tom says. “This is the only place where you get hours of professional stand-up entertainment in this city. And with TV comedy you can’t interact with each other.” Despite the sparse showing, Tom is a great MC and works the crowd well.
Friday night began with Tom welcoming everyone and doing a few jokes. Then newbie Stephanie Purtle took the stage. Stephanie’s set was a bit awkward, starting with a misfired joke about domestic abuse. It was the sort of joke Sarah Silverman might pull off well, but Stephanie’s timing wasn’t quite up to par. She managed to bring the crowd around later with a few bits about a doctor’s visit. But she’s just beginning, having started her craft in highschool performing at public speech competitions.
Headlining the show was Benjy Wright. Benjy hails from Birmingham, Alabama and has done stand-up for six years. He just moved to Eugene in January. As he says, “There’s a little more culture here than in Birmingham, but just as many rednecks—I feel right at home!” Benjy prides himself in his southern culture, and he uses it to paint his “redneck” interpretation of Eugene happenings. He gets it right—the crowd loves his poking fun at them and their lifestyles and beliefs. It’s true, brash, and yet tongue-in-cheek at the same time. “We don’t have homeless people like Eugene does in Alabama,” he says, for example. “In Alabama we all dress that way!”
While everyone seemed enthused and had its laughs, the question everyone at the Brickwall has is this: can Eugene support a stand-up comedy club? With its reputation as a politically correct city, it puts comedians in a difficult spot. “Comedy is not inherently PC,” Tom explains. Benjy pushed it further during a joke: “We work on being politically correct, but I keep forgetting that child molesters prefer to be called priests.” And Benjy — the most proud of his unconventional jabs — embraces this role and thinks we should, too. “Eugene is the biggest little city in the world. We need to embrace insanity. Go on, go out on a street corner and scream obscenities. It’s Eugene, no one will say anything. Hell, you might even make a few dollars.”
And he’s probably right. But can you make a lot of dollars taking jabs at Eugene? So far the Green Room seems more than able. The crowd was small, yes, but its growing. And they ate it all up and seemed eager for more. It’s Eugene, after all. For all our idiosyncrasies that we take so seriously, we of all people enjoy having a good laugh at ourselves at the same time. And when you add $4 Long Islands, expert comics, and a beautifully decorated room, that good laugh is just that much better.
So raise a toast to the Green Room—here’s to Eugene, comedy, and hopefully a long and lively relationship.
The Green Room is located at 710 Willamette St. next to Doc’s Pad. You can view both of their websites at http://www.docspadgreenroom.com/.