The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Lifestyles

January 10, 2014

Comedy coming? Several stand-up comedians will appear over next few months

JOPLIN, Mo. — The Joplin region's future looks kind of funny.

"The Bob and Tom Comedy Show" will make a trip to Neosho on Jan. 25, with appearances by Chick McGee, Drew Hastings, Tim Wilson and Jack Freeman. In December, JB's Piano Bar booked a comedy show featuring Bilal Muzaffar, Parker Willis and Kameron Johnson for its new 180 Lounge. The show got such a big response that it had to be moved back to JB's main bar. The 180 Lounge has another comedy show featuring John Pinney, Patrick Mahon and Ryan Smith booked for Valentine's Day.

And in March, Downstream Casino will host Bill Engvall, one of the members of the famous "Blue Collar Comedy Tour."

Some would say that if you can't see comedy is on the rise in Joplin ... here's your sign.

But a closer look shows that the convergence of comedy is just a scheduling quirk of several entertainment venues' business as usual.

Joplin has drawn big comedy names in recent history. Carlos Mencia, star of the Comedy Central show "Mind of Mencia," played the now-closed Joey Thumbs in 2011. Last year, Downstream hosted ventriloquist Jeff Dunham, who has starred in several comedy specials on Comedy Central.

"The Bob and Tom Comedy Show" has made plenty of stops in Joplin, and Missouri Southern State University and Pittsburg State University add comedians to their lineup of student activities each year.

Jukebox also hosted a pair of comedy nights in 2013, featuring performers such as Velly Vel, Sophia Star and Sheila.

But none of those appearances were tightly packed together.

Booking comedy is not a priority for Downstream Casino, said public relations manager Sean Harrison. Getting a comedian booked takes a combination of availability, routing and affordability, he said.

"We get some on a long list of available acts routing through our area," Harrison said. "If they are within our price range and all the puzzle pieces come together, then they are a viable choice. It just so happens we've done a comedian two years in a row, but there was no formal strategy in place to make sure we got comedy."

Casinos such as Downstream and Buffalo Run have larger facilities and budgets to attract bigger names. But a smaller club may be challenged to snag such a name.

Curt Zimmerman, manager of Jukebox, said a club his size has to find an act with a popular enough name that will bring audience members, but at a reasonable cost.

"It has to make sense," Zimmerman said. "People have come to me in the past wanting to do shows. If it's someone who our customers have heard of, and it makes sense, then you don't have to talk me into it."

Zimmerman said the club on South Range Line Road hosted two comedy shows last year. One was more successful than the other, filling up every table and leading to a standing-room crowd.

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