On a Friday night in St. Paul, the newest comedy club in town, Baddie’s Comedy Co., is packed to capacity. On stage, comedian KJay is absolutely destroying, and the laughter is so loud that you’d think there were well over 130 people inside.
Since opening back in February of this year, Baddie’s has created a place for black and urban comedians to get stage time, while giving audiences an opportunity to experience a new group of comedians they may not have seen at other area clubs.
With how comedy-rich we are in the Twin Cities, between clubs, open mics, and showcases, the idea of not being able to find a place to perform seems nearly impossible. But according to Shed G, on-air personality at KMOJ and one of the best-known comedians in Minnesota, that is exactly the situation he found himself in when he moved to Minnesota back in 2013.
“It was hard for us to get into a lot of these clubs because of nepotism,” Shed says of the challenges he and other black and urban comedians faced.
Shed was able to help change that after a chance encounter with comedian Mike Brody during House of Comedy’s amateur night.
“I went there and Mike gave me three minutes, and I destroyed those three minutes,” he says. “Then I came back the next week and did seven and destroyed that too.”
His performance, along with his understanding of how untapped the urban comedy scene was in Minnesota, led to the creation of the KMOJ Comedy Series, which took place on the third Wednesday of the month at House of Comedy. The series allowed for some of the best national urban comedians to make their very first appearances in the Twin Cities.
“They were doing 20 to 30 people there on a Wednesday before, to doing 150 to 300 people consistently,” says Shed.
Today, Shed has moved the monthly showcase to Minneapolis’ Parkway Theater, in an effort to continue to expand the opportunities for both local and urban comics.
“Minnesota is one of the top spots for comedy,” he says. “But urban comics don’t get booked, unless you were on ‘Last Comic Standing’ or you’re a celebrity like a Jay Pharoah or something. But honestly, I know a lot of the funniest comedians out there who destroy these mega stars, but don’t’ get the exposure. Now, with the House of Comedy, Parkway, and what they’re doing at Baddie’s we’re getting more exposure for everyone. I say the more the merrier.”
While there is a clear benefit for national headliners looking for places to perform in Minnesota, the opportunity for local comedians to get stage time has improved as well.
According to Pierre Douglas, who owns Baddie’s along with fellow comedians Brandon Riddley and Bruce Williams, the initial goal of opening their own club was to provide new opportunities to developing local talents.
“The goal of Baddie’s is to bring in new people who have either never really tried comedy themselves, or who don’t feel like there are any rooms or nights to see urban comedians,” he says.
Since opening its doors, the club has booked hometown comedians such as Alvin Irby, Earl Elliot, and even Shed G himself. Though the idea of putting the spotlight on the established comedians in town is great, Shed believes that the real benefit is opening things up for a new group of potential performers.
“People see that the crowds are showing up, and they’re coming out of the woodwork to try it [stand-up],” he says. “Comedy is about being able to relate to people and we’ve created a place where new comedians feel more relatable.”
The national comedy scene has begun to take notice of the growing urban comedy trend, as Kevin Hart, arguably the biggest star in comedy today, is bringing his Comedy Central show, “Hart of the City,” to Minnesota this summer for a taping. The show spotlights up-and-coming comedians in established and emerging comedy towns. Shed was contacted by the producers earlier this year about filming, and recommended they use Baddie’s.
Although many people associate Hart with urban comedy, Shed is quick to point out that he put the word out to the Minnesota comedy scene as a whole, letting them know about the opportunity and how they could audition.
“I put the word out to all of the comics, and we probably had about five non-African American comics audition,” he says. “To me, that says we have work to do in terms of integrating our comedy scene. In comedy, you see a lot of cliques and I don’t like that. I believe in unity. Funny isn’t a clique. When you’re on stage, no one cares what clique you’re with. Funny is funny.”
For now, the guys from Baddie’s, along with Shed and others locally who are paving the way for more Twin Cities urban comedy, take pride in the fact that their influence is spreading and promoters are taking notice.
“There is a void, to be honest,” Shed says speaking both as a comedian and as a comedy fan. “But we’re showing people that we’re marketable, funny, and that we have followers.”