All this talk about the changing landscape of the Red River District is enough to make you cry. But there’s something new to the area that can help: stand up comedy.
Austin’s comedy scene has been left largely unexplored by many Austinites. Until now. One of newest open mic nights in town, Stand Up Empire at Empire Control Room & Garage, is proof that Austin’s comedy scene is on the rise.
Stand Up Empire is a cross between a typical open mic night and a featured comedy showcase. There is an emcee who guides the audience through the evening and a feature guest comic to keep things…well…funny. Or at least that’s the hope. And did I mention it’s free?
So let me set the stage for what you can expect on a typical Tuesday night at Stand Up Empire.
Empire Control Room & Garage
My first memory of this venue was when it was Creekside. It was the first bar I visited when I moved to Austin years ago and there was something magical about the space. Empire Control Room & Garage, as we know the venue today, is still just as magical. It’s one of my favorite bars in Austin. They have managed to meld together everything Austinites love about Austin: live music, community and art. It’s just the right mix of divey meets hipster which–to me–gives it a “true Austin” feel.
Another thing I love about Empire is they support local artists. Their murals feature many well known street artists such as Truth and Eatherly, and even their chalkboards are being overhauled by local doodler Rebecca Borrelli. They support heaps of local musicians, including the emo puppet band, Fragile Rock. You can’t get weirder than that.
All to say that when I found out Empire was hosting this new open mic night, I was immediately interested. Not only is the event free, but parking downtown on Tuesday nights is also free. There’s really no excuse not to go. After all, who doesn’t like to be entertained for free?
What makes this open mic different from the rest around town, you ask? For me, the biggest thing is that Stand Up Empire takes place on the outside stage, astroturf and all. It feels like you’re in someone’s backyard, which creates a very intimate feeling. It’s not intimidating, the organizers are all friendly and welcoming and, generally, people are at their best.
Stand Up Empire for Comics
If you want to perform, arrive early. Signups open at 8 PM and spots typically fill within the first 10 minutes. And be sure to bring your A-game. I’m setting the bar high with this article and you wouldn’t want to make me a liar, right?
Okay, fine. Your B-game will also work. But whatever you’re working on, come prepared.
Of course, you can test out new stuff. But many people aren’t reading from their notes and the 5 minute time slot gives you extra time on stage you might not get at other open mics. I like to think that people test out their material at other open mics around town, and then come to Stand Up Empire to “perform.”
Stand Up Empire for Lovers of Laughter
As I mentioned before, this is not your typical open mic night. The evening actually reminds me of Backyard Story Night, except everyone’s funny. Backyard Story Night is a welcoming community where people gather to share their unrehearsed stories. Alternatively, Stand Up Empire is a welcoming community for comics to tell their rehearsed stories.
The show starts at 9 PM and lasts about two hours. Come and go as you please. Ain’t nobody stoppin’ ya. Except for maybe the comedian heckling you from the stage. Just kidding. That might not happen.
So can I guarantee that everyone will tickle your fancy? No. But I can promise that someone will. What else are you going to do on a Tuesday night?
The Inspiration Behind Stand Up Empire
On any given Tuesday, you’re likely to hear the name Brently paired with several expletives. Basically because it’s all his fault. And thank goodness! Brently Heilbron, of Brently Artists & Media, wanted to create a friendly environment for comics. So, with the support of The Institution Theater, he partnered with Empire Control Room & Garage and Mike Wilson of Devolver Digital to bring Stand Up Empire to life.
Brently genuinely wants to build a community and see people have a good time. If you dream of being a full-time comedian, he’ll support and encourage you. If you just need to escape mentally from your 9-5, he’ll support that, too. If you’ve taken his stand up comedy class* at The Institution, then you understand what I mean. And if you haven’t, you should.
His ultimate goal is to continue to curate comedy and help artists get paid for their art. And it is an art like writing, painting, singing or playing music. Not everyone can do it, and we should support those who do.
So take a stand and join me Tuesday nights at Empire Control Room & Garage. If you hate it, I’ll refund your money.
*Shameless self-promotion time. If you want to see the comedic results of yours truly after “graduating” from Brently’s class, you can watch that video here. Viewer discretion advised.
@jpino9 wants to know:
Who’s your favorite Austin comedian?
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