Comics find their own path at Hamtramck's Independent Comedy Club
The Hamtramck club has a full and diverse line up in January, including a farewell show for Detroit comic Josh Adams who is moving to Los Angeles
There's a format to most comedy shows. A happy host warms up the crowd, usually with safe jokes before introducing an opening act, followed by a polished headliner that has enough draw in the area to fill room for at least one, maybe two shows a night.
At the Independent Comedy Club inside Hamtramck's Ant Hall music and theater venue, things run a little differently.
First, there's an incredible amount of diversity. The Independent has more women comics headlining in the month of January than other clubs may have for six months. The club is run by local comedians who are booking their friends and people they are fans of that often have trouble getting hired regularly at more mainstream clubs.
"We're just comedians who got tired of the scene that we're in because it doesn't give us a ton ... it wants us to conform to a certain thing, and we're not that thing," said Independent producer Alex Bozinovic.
He produces and promotes live comedy here along with six other area comics: Jason Brent, Bart Dangus, EJ Watson, Brett Mercer, Connor Meade and Johanna Medranda. Most of them have hosted comedy showcases at other non-comedy clubs before gathering behind this venue.
Bozinovic said most of the out-of-town acts they booked this month at the 50-60 person club are comics that approached them about performing. Some are names that have come through Detroit before, like road dog Mike Cronin and boisterous family man Zach Martina.
"We are conscious about the line-up, we don’t want it to be just one point of view, we want to have multiple points of view, even if we don’t agree with them, so long as it’s not abusive or not-well-thought-out or anything like that," says Bozinovic.
Next weekend Chicago comedian Whitney Chitwood is booked for two nights. A regular at the Chicago Laugh Factory, Chitwood recently released her first comedy album "The Bakery Case," which debuted at No. 1 on the iTunes and Amazon comedy charts.
The month is book-ended with two Detroit-area comedians. Stand-up and podcaster Blain Hill headlines Friday. Later, on Jan. 30, crowd favorite Josh Adams performs a farewell show before moving to Los Angeles, a step that several others from this independent comedy scene have taken.
"Josh is the best comedian in Detroit and I think comedians in the scene will unanimously agree with that," said Bozinovic. "He's going to L.A. and I really do believe that he's going to get opportunities very quickly. He's very funny, he's charismatic."
The Independent Comedy Club is inside Ant Hall, which is part of Hamtramck's longstanding Planet Ant theater, a home base for the city's improv scene. This group's most notable alum may be actor Keegan-Michael Key, but several working comedic actors have been on the stage at Planet Ant, which dates back decades.
"I think it’s very meaningful. All of us involved in the Independent are very aware of the people that have come through Planet Ant,” he said. “The people at Planet Ant reached out to us because they wanted to be more involved in stand up. They reached out to Bart Dangus and then Bart kind of brought us all together.”
Planet Ant is a nonprofit that hosts a variety of stage, comedy, film and LGBTQ-friendly events throughout the year. Across the street is Ant Hall, home to the Independent Comedy Club, Ghost Light live music venue. There's also an auditorium for comics and live bands with a large draw.
The Independent Comedy Club
Inside Ant Hall
2320 Caniff, Hamtramck
Most shows start at 9 p.m. and cost $10 at the door
Tickets at planetant.com
Zach Martina, Thurs.
Blain Hill, Fri.
Esteban Touma, Sat.
Whitney Chitwood, Jan. 10-11
Kristin Lytie, Jan. 17-18
Mike Cronin, Jan. 19
Brooke Cartus, Jan. 23
Mat Alano-Martin, Jan. 24-25
Josh Adams, Jan. 30