For the first time in months, comedy returns to the stage of one Austin venue.
Big Laugh Comedy, an up-and-coming comedy company, is bringing live shows back to Austin by way of Vulcan Gas Company, located on 418 E. 6th St. While Vulcan Gas Company is known as an intimate nightspot, Big Laugh Comedy is turning it into the comedy hub on Thursdays at 9 p.m.
Live performances and comedy have taken a hit due to COVID-19 with Austin's famous Cap City Comedy closing its doors for good last month. Big Laugh Comedy CEO Brandon Lewin said in this dark time for comedy, they want to bring it back in the best, safest way.
"Everyone's really excited about the fact that live comedy is back and the fact that it's safe," Lewin said. "We're making sure that (safety) is the biggest thing for us and we're going to do it the right way in a safe manner."
For maximum protection, the venue is operating at 25% capacity with attendees assigned their own table, wearing a mask until seated and socially distanced. In fact, the feature comedian and the headline comedian don't even share a mic.
The maiden show at Vulcan featured Cory Michaelis with every seat on the bottom floor sold out. Lewin said he, as well as the audience, were very happy to see him perform.
"Cory did fantastic—he killed it," Lewin said. "Everyone loved him. Everyone was really happy with him."
Big Laugh plans to pull out all the stops and bring big names to the stage. This week, stand-up comedian Aida Rodriguez is coming from Los Angeles for the second show on Oct. 22.
Rodriguez, who is on Tiffany Haddish's Netflix special "They Ready," said this will only be her second time traveling to perform during COVID-19 and she is excited to bring laughter to a time when it is so needed.
"It feels good to know that during this time that I could possibly bring some laughter and joy and happiness to people who are being affected (by COVID-19)," Rodriguez said in an interview with Austonia. "It brings me joy to bring other people joy. I'm just grateful to be able to share that experience with the people of Austin."
Rodriguez often discusses race issues, social issues and family trauma in her sets, which she said is a cathartic outlet. This will be her first time performing in Austin and she said while she is nervous, she is excited to be able to use her art again.
"Comedy is what I do for a living but it's also my art, it's my profession, it's my love. It's something that fills me," Rodriguez said. "It's where I feel like I live because I exist in the world and I live on stage, so for that to be taken away is a castration of some sorts and you feel like a very important part of you is cut off."
Lewin said Big Laugh Comedy's goal is to restore that sense of fulfillment comedians get on stage by giving them a platform, an audience and payment for their art in a world that isn't always kind to performers.
Lewin said they are very selective with their choices of performers because they pay all of them.
"We're an advocate—we're really looking to partner with comedians," Lewin said. "So we really want to help them (and) we do help them."
Big Laugh Comedy plans to expand their reach to the suburbs of Austin and even neighboring cities, like Dallas and Houston. For now, they will continue to host shows at Vulcan for the foreseeable future. Big Laugh has plans to bring names like Tony Hitchcliffe and Craig Conant to perform soon.
"The mission has always been to make people laugh, bring laughter to people at the same time, give comedians a platform to do this and do it in a way where it makes sense for them and helps them to grow their brand, as well," Lewin said.
Tickets for upcoming comedy shows in Austin can be purchased here.
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