WANT TO GO?
Comedy Open Mic
WHERE: Mojo's, 312 7th Avenue, South Charleston
WHEN: 9 p.m. Thursdays
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- There's a lot of comedy happening in the Charleston area.
Aside from regular weekend shows at the Comedy Zone inside the Holiday Inn and Suites in South Charleston and scattered standup comedy shows here and there around the area, Mojo's in South Charleston has been holding a comedy open mic every Thursday night for nearly a year now.
Host Patrick Felton said, "People are hungry for something different."
Felton took over the show, originally started by Tim Hoover in February 2013, after Hoover departed and really not long after Felton himself first started doing standup.
"This was never supposed to be my career path," he said. "I went to an open mic show in Huntington with a friend, and I was thinking he'd be the great standup comedian and I'd just be the guy who got him into it."
His friend didn't take to comedy, but Felton kept going to shows.
"I've made it into a small business for me," he said. "I do showcases and corporate gigs. The joke is I'm almost the only one in town getting paid to do standup comedy, and I've only been doing it for a year."
Mojo's bartender Jason Pell said the comedy showcase owes a bit to Felton's drive. He encouraged people to give comedy a try.
"He's just so tenacious," Pell said.
Felton, in turn, said the show owes quite a bit to Pell for championing it with the bar.
"The owners of the bar were great to take a chance on comedy," he said. "Jason talked to them for us, back when we were struggling a lot more."
Sheila Kerr and Thomas Maximus, two of the regulars who started with the event a year ago, said Mojo's has been a good place to try comedy.
"Everybody is very supportive. It's one of those places you can go and try anything, and it will be supported and respected," he said.
Kerr, who opened for nationally-known comedian Doug Stanhope at The Empty Glass in September and competed in the West Virginia's Funniest Person competition in 2009, said doing comedy is therapeutic.
"I have issues with anxiety," she said, laughing. "And I hate people, but getting up on stage lets me be a different person."
Felton said Mojo's gets a fairly diverse group of performers. It's not just a boys' club.
"We've had some really talented women come through the door," he said. "One of my favorites is Lynn Browder. She's a single mother and, legitimately, the funniest person I think I've ever met."
The regulars, Felton added, are a tight knit group. He'd go so far as call them a kind of family, but said they were too small to be a community.
"We're like any other 'scene' in Charleston. It's four or five people doing everything."
Still, they've grown. During the last year, more than 40 people have come out for the open mic.
"It's been really gratifying to see everyone kind of evolve and take this thing that started small and just run with it," Felton said. "Some of us are doing other shows now. Andy Frampton, who started with us, had a show at Easy Streets in St. Albans. Jacob Hall hosted a show in Ripley. Tommy Mac has his monthly show at the Blue Parrot."
Pell added, "It's gotten funnier, and it really changes from week to week. It's been interesting to watch these comedians push themselves to be different, to be original, and they do all kinds of material."
"Except sports," Felton joked. "Mojo's is the only sports bar I can't tell a sports joke in. I don't think anybody who comes to the show knows much about sports."
Getting in on the act isn't that hard. There's not even a cover to get in the door. Felton said people usually call him or contact him through Facebook about getting on the lineup for a particular show.
"But usually, if you show up and it's not too busy, I can fit you in on the end, even if you haven't contacted me," he said.
Just show up a little early.
Kerr said it's important to bring your own material.
"Even if you think it will bomb," she said. "And use notes. It's OK."
"If you're not funny, you'll realize it right off and can move on. Maybe you'll hit the next one out of the park," Felton said.
"Just be yourself," Maximus added. "And have fun with it."
Reach Bill Lynch at email@example.com or 304-348-5195.