Courtesy of Justin Golak
Bill Fienberg is a stand-up comedian, who hosts open mic nights around Columbus. He has hosted events at Kobo, Double Happiness, Cafe Bourbon Street and Bernie’s Distillery.
Stand-up comedy is one of the few art forms that is dependent on whether it has an audience.
A musician doesn’t need an audience to play or record a song, and a painter doesn’t need an audience to paint a picture, but a comedian can’t tell a joke without anyone around to laugh.
Columbus’ stand-up comedy scene features dozens of comedians, with shows held nearly every night throughout the city, many of which are free.
A few places to see professional comedy shows are the Columbus Funny Bone Comedy Club, located at 145 Easton Town Center, and Woodlands Tavern, located at 1200 W. 3rd Ave.
Some shows at Woodlands Tavern are hosted by Dylan Shelton, who moved to New York to accelerate his comedy career but returns to his native Columbus for the shows. Shelton has brought some up-and-coming comedians such as Kyle Kinane, Hannibal Buress and Rob Delaney to perform there.
Comedy showcases are also a way to see talented, local comedians. There is a monthly showcase at Circus Columbus Bar, located at 1227 N. High St., hosted by Columbus’ own Justin Golak. Circus’ next showcase is scheduled to be held Oct. 30.
Golak graduated from Ohio State in 2007 and since then has been pursuing a comedy career in Columbus.
He released his debut comedy album “Influenced” in April, which was recorded at Columbus’ Shadowbox Live, located at 503 S. Front St., where Golak also hosts comedy shows every first and third Tuesday of the month. He was also named one of Columbus Alive’s People to Watch in 2012.
Golak started doing comedy during his last year at OSU.
“It’s something I wanted to do since I was a kid. When I was about to graduate college I thought – like most kids (at) that age, thinking about what they want to do with their lives – I should give what I’ve always wanted to do a try,” Golak said. “I looked up where the open mics were and went to Scarlet & Grey Cafe and did five (minutes).”
Golak said the Columbus comedy scene “wasn’t very big” when he started, but now “there are a good chunk of people in the scene who have worked hard over a course of time to become talented performers and, in some cases, talented show producers as well.”
Golak said, to him, Columbus is home.
“I love Columbus, and Ohio in general. I will stay in this city as long as it’s creatively and financially viable. I’d hate to move, but if I need to to further, or even just maintain, my career, I will,” Golak said. “I’d like to be at a point where a parking ticket doesn’t mess up a month’s budget.”
Aside from comedy showcases, open mic nights are opportunities for anyone to show up and perform short – usually about five-minute – sets for an audience.
Venues such as The Summit, located at 2210 Summit St., Scarlet & Grey Cafe, located at 2203 N. High St. and Bernie’s Distillery, located at 1896 N. High St. host open mic nights.
One Columbus comedian got his inspiration to pursue comedy after watching bad comedy at an open mic night.
“I went to Scarlet & Grey and I watched people bomb, and I was like, ‘I could do better than that,'” said Dan Loper, a fourth-year in sociology. “I’ve always been a fan, which is why I went there in the first place and the notion of there being such thing as an open mic where anybody can sign up and go on stage and be a comedian, that just blew my mind.”
Loper started performing comedy three years ago, and said the Columbus comedy scene is “still growing,” but it’s “the highest it’s ever been” since he’s been involved.
“I like how much stage time there is,” Loper said, adding he hopes the entire scene continues expanding with fans, stage time and talent.
On his love of comedy, Loper said, “I don’t want to get to the point where it feels like a job.”
Another variety to comedy is improv, which is a spontaneous form of comedy. Groups at OSU such as 8th Floor Improv and Fishbowl Improv perform this type of comedy in shows across campus.
Aaron Nemo graduated from OSU in 2012, where he was a member of the 8th Floor. He was also voted MVP of Rooftop Comedy’s 2011 National College Comedy Competition.
Nemo said he has been doing comedy “hardcore” for three years, but his first show was four years ago at his high school talent show. He decided to give comedy a try after realizing his ability to make his friends laugh.
He equated performing comedy in Columbus to being on “a comedy island,” but that there is a wide range of audiences to perform to, ranging from the college crowd at Scarlet & Grey Cafe, to the progressive crowd at Surly Girl Saloon, located at 1126 N. High St., and the business-professional crowd of The Funny Bone.
Nemo said since getting his start in comedy he’s developed some goals for where he’d like to take his comedy career.
“I’d love to tour. I’d love to do some shows at UCB (Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre), be on one of the house teams there. I’d love to write for ‘Saturday Night Live,'” Nemo said. “I don’t really have a certain set of goals other than hopefully being able to make a living out of it.”