This is a guest post from Connected Comedian Rich Williams, who has been a part of the Houston comedy scene for the last four years. If you’d like to write a guest post with an overview of your local comedy scene for Connected Comedy, please email me.
1. Houston Audiences Are Diverse…And Somewhat Segregated
Houston is a port city with an amazing blend of cultures from around the world. With 10 colleges and universities within the Houston metropolitan area, it’s also one of the most educated cities. That said, the crowds range from extremely diverse to extremely homogenous depending on what side of town you’re on.
Houston’s strongest comics tailor their material, with minor tweaks, to work in front of whatever audience they’re performing for that night.
2. Living In Houston Is Affordable
The fair market rent for a 2-bedroom apartment is $872. If you’re willing to live outside the loop or outside the beltway and share an apartment/house, you can find some very good deals. Of course, you will spend more on transportation and give up on convenience if you live outside the beltway and you should know that nearly all of the prominent open mics are inside the 610 loop.
3. You’re Going To Need A Car
In terms of square mileage, Houston is larger than the state of New Jersey. The good news is, the best open mics are literally within a 10-mile radius of each other.
The bad news? Houston’s rail system is virtually non-existent (there is one track that runs from the Medical Center to downtown that is adjacent to exactly ZERO comedy clubs or open mics) and most of the buses shut down by 10 pm. This means to get to any open mic or comedy club, you have to drive yourself or carpool.
4. There Are Only Two Comedy Clubs, And Only One Of Them Cares About You
Within the last five years, Houston’s comedy scene shrank from four comedy clubs to one – the Houston Improv.
Fortunately, the Joke Joint Comedy Showcase (formerly the Comedy Showcase) was resurrected, and in its new incarnation, is really going out of its way to cultivate and feature local talent. It hosts a weekly open mic with a built-in workshop for both budding and experienced comics.
The Joke Joint is also the fastest way for a comic with skills to get host and feature experience. Not to say that the Improv doesn’t feature local talent, but their open mic is only once a month and breaking into their host/feature ranks can be difficult.
5. To Connect To The Open Mic Scene, You’ve Got To Go Online
If you ever want to know where to go for stage time on any particular night in Houston, your first stop should be the Comedy Scene In Houston website. This is critical because open mics tend to have a 2-month half-life in the city, and you don’t want to spend hard earned gas money only to show up to an empty bar.
If you plan on actually performing, a few of the open mics require that you sign up online by either sending an email message or filling out a form online. For example, Rudyards – one of the hottest open mics in town – happens every Monday, but you have to send the email between Thursday and Saturday of the previous week.
Warehouse Live has a Tuesday Open Mic that requires you to fill out an online signup form, but allow you to sign up for the entire month in advance.
For up to the minute updates on open mics,shows, auditions etc, make sure you join the Houston Comics and Houston Stage Time Facebook groups.
6. There’s Not Much Industry In Houston
While Houston is an outstanding training ground for young comics, if you seek to earn TV credits or get work in movies or commercials, this is NOT the place for you. Networks may come here every other year to audition talent for standup specials, but more often than not, you’ll find yourself driving to Austin (2 hours), San Antonio (3 hours), or Dallas (4 hours) to have a crack at spots on the small screen.
In addition, New Orleans (6 hours) has recently become a magnet for TV and film, with several casting agencies drawing talent from across the South for extra work in both TV and film.
7. Independent Promoters And The Rooms They Run Rule The Town
Where major clubs have closed their doors, independent promoters and non-traditional venues have stepped up to fill in the gaps. Carlos Wallace hosts the “Houston Allstars”show at the Houston Improv the 2nd Wednesday of every month. I personally produce/host two shows at Warehouse Live, The Bambou Lounge, and the Joke Joint.
Warehouse Live is stepping into the comedy game big time, with a weekly (Tuesday) open mic hosted by Gabe Bravo and Stephan Brandau, as well as periodically bringing in national headliners including Todd Barry, Chelsea Peretti, and Doug Benson.
Rudyard’s not only has one of the hottest open mics run by Dusti Rhodes, but they also have the monthly “Level Up”showcase produced by Brian Zeolla. Also, Steven Padilla runs the longest running Comedy Open Mic in Houston at St Daines every Thursday, and they also host a contest and periodic showcase. Meanwhile, Chris Oddo books the monthly “20/20/20”show, while The Hard Rock Café, Grooves Nightclub, and a host of other venues allow local comics to flourish.
In addition, MPAC, a performing arts nonprofit headed up by entertainment attorney Jalene Mack, sponsors a festival every year that features industry speakers, showcases, business panel discussions, and workshops as part of the effort to grow the Houston entertainment industry and support local talent.
Want more? You can read about other comedy scenes here.