Two years ago I attended my 10-year high school reunion at Tyson’s Biergarten. In between reliving the glory days, awkward small talk, and complaints regarding no open bar, I was scoping out where I would be spending 2-3 nights a week for the next couple of years... In that time, and many hours behind the scenes, we transformed a cool basement bar into the Northern Virginia mecca of comedy, Tysons Comedy Cellar.
We built something great, and as a result, had a loyal fanbase, hosted hilarious comics, and had a small but steady stream of beef, drama, and bullshit. We gave local comics a platform and brought much-needed laughter for over 150 stand-up comedy shows. In my reflection, I’ve chosen to focus on the positives- my emotional state, gratitude, lessons learned, and musings on the future. (I’m saving the negatives for my mixtape).
I had no choice but to quickly process the venue closing down. Within 24 hours of being notified by the GM, I messaged 40+ comedians, emailed my distribution list, and shared the news on all the social media. Imagine you and your significant other broke up, and it was your job to tell everyone you knew about it right away. It really makes you embrace the truth.
The truth is, I’m feeling bittersweet. It was a great place, and I really loved what we built there, but I’ve also been burnt out for a while now. Taking time off to rest, recover and reflect sounds amazing. One weekly show is a ton of work when done right, and at one point I was running three! The work behind the scenes to manage TCC gave me a taste of what it’s like to run a comedy club, something I’d love to explore. I picked up skills in marketing and communication, audio and sound, booking strategy, talent evaluation, and how to run a show well. I learned a lot about my own preferences too- anything ranging from how to pair comics to what’s the best backpack pocket for each sound plug (yes it matters!). Regardless of what’s next for me, these skills are invaluable. As a comic, I gave myself a ton of stage time and continue to grow. In two years I went from an unsure comedic voice to headlining shows. I want to take a moment to thank myself for giving me these opportunities. ;)
Tysons Comedy Cellar was my baby, but it took a village to raise her. I want to give an extra special thanks to those folks who shared the burdens and successes:
What’s next for me? I’m looking into working with TBG owners’ new locations come springtime, but in the meantime, I want to focus on being a comic again. Instead of waking up and obsessing (or avoiding) marketing, booking, or thinking about shows I want to jump back into the deep end of my material. I want to wrap up this phase of my life (and the associated jokes) and throw a pretty bow on top so I can move onto the next phase. So keep an eye out for my album in 2020. If anyone’s got some stage time (especially some longer sets) in February 2020 and beyond, give me a shout!
I honestly don’t know how to wrap up this post, or even want to. There’s a million thoughts swirling through my head, and once I hit post the ride is over. But, I think I’m ready, I said my goodbyes and thank you's last week on three separate occasions! Twice while closing out two great final shows, and another trip while retrieving my equipment.
This trip turned out to be surprisingly nostalgic because it was during a private event, a high school reunion. My high school, two classes behind mine. With my backpack on, a mic stand in my hand, I grabbed one last drink while the reunion folks wondered who I was and why I was down there without a name tag. Then, I said goodbye and walked up those stairs one last time. And just like that, at a high school reunion in a basement bar carrying two wonderful years of memories, it was over.
P.S. - Three hyperbolic lessons as a room runner:
Comedian, Author, Improviser Producer, Sketch Writer and Teacher living in the Baltimore, MD. Likes sharing his thoughts on things.
Allan lives in Little Italy/Fells Point, Maryland with his wife and daughter.