Gibbie’s comedy open mic night delivers
Published: Friday, September 14, 2012
Updated: Friday, September 14, 2012 07:09
Noah Basden scribbles in his notebook.
Pages are filled with single words and short phrases that are, at a glance, meaningless.
A glass of Pabst Blue Ribbon and a basket of cheese fries between them, Allen Beaver shares a booth with Basden in the back corner of Gibbie’s Pub. In front of him sits a smaller notebook of his own, packed with slightly longer notes.
"This is basically the book of a crazy person," Basden said. "If anyone else read this, they’d have me institutionalized."
It may be a school night, but these notes aren’t for class – they’re helping comedy solidify its place in mid-week Morgantown entertainment.
LOL: Open Mic Night, hosted by Basden, Sally Brooks and Brian Ornduff – the club’s open mic coordinator – is held at Gibbie’s Pub and Eatery on the second and fourth Wednesday of each month.
The bimonthly event gives local stand-up comedians the opportunity to showcase witty talent and perform hilarious, creative trials of their latest and greatest material.
Brooks, an Ohio native, started out casually performing at comedy clubs about four years ago, and has since decided to pursue her passion full-time. She is eagerly touring and performing her acts around the country and will be competing in an upcoming contest in Boston for a chance to win $10,000.
Despite Brooks’ sporadic traveling schedule, Ornduff, Basden and other comedic regulars have dedicated their time and talents to keeping the show afloat.
"Originally we wanted people to email ahead of time to go on stage, but Sally and I just try to use our discretion," Ornduff said. "If someone seems really intoxicated or inappropriate, we try to filter that out."
Ornduff said he and Brooks attempt to create the atmosphere of a legitimate comedy club and attract the college crowd and residents alike.
About 15 minutes before show time, many of the comics fall quiet. It’s a silence that’s neither awkward nor uncomfortable, and while some read over their pocket-sized notes, others simply sip their beer in solitude.
Whatever the individual approach, the sudden stillness from the otherwise talkative group presents a rather unique moment of preparation that seems incomparable to any other experience.
Before taking the stage, each performer becomes vulnerable and exposed, and what comes next requires confidence and a layer of tough skin.
Once the mic goes on, nothing is off-limits.
Eleven comedians took the stage Wednesday night, each receiving a five-minute bit to present a variety of unrestricted and diverse material. Immediately, an unspoken communication ties the performer to the audience, and ideas begin to flow effortlessly.
"It’s a show that you produce, and you’re in charge of the lines and the acting; basically if this were theater it would be the most post-modern thing on stage," Basden said. "Any random way you interact with the audience, wherever you turn – there’s just so much to think about."
Not every comedy night is a success, and Basden admits that bombing a set can be pretty painful.
"But once you really commit, you make these friends, and I feel like we all think close to the same way," Basden said. "We can point out flaws and try to make them funny."
There are no prerequisites for taking the stage, but the tight-knit community between these comedians creates a more respectable environment that sets it apart from your typical bar nights around town.
"If you have talent, we’ll suck you in," Basden said. "True comedians won’t talk to you unless you earn their respect, but you earn it by showing up every time there’s an open mic and constantly putting things together."
The 21-year-old Basden, who has been living in Morgantown for 10 years, developed a passion for comedy during middle school after reading "The Comedy Bible" and performing at his school’s talent show.
"The home-ec teacher didn’t think I was funny," Basden said. "Regardless, I’ve been writing and keeping journals ever since of things I observe that I find funny and interesting."
Basden decided he wanted to extend the opportunity to an 18-and-up crowd by alternating with Exhale Hookah Lounge on the first and third Wednesdays of every month.
Additionally, the recently formed Morgantown Comedy Club will mark its inception next week and is expected to build an even larger community.
"At first I was a little scared to start one (comedy club) in Morgantown, because it would be full of dirty jokes and have this bureaucracy of being associated with WVU," Basden said.
In the end, he feels more confident than ever that the comedy club will bring together the town’s best talents to form this progressive group that is certain to live up to its title and keep Morgantown laughing out loud.