Rubi Nicholas has a dream for Central PA. It’s a dream that involves a few jokes, a healthy dose of laughter and creating an even greater sense of the comedic community.
But when it comes to jokes, the professional stand-up comedian who calls Lancaster her home is not talking about an over-abundance of cheap laughs. She’s looking to create an environment that fosters real comedic dialogue, while giving up-and-coming comedians from the across the country the chance to display their abilities for local audiences.
“For me with comedy, it’s more than, ‘Hey, did you hear the one about the rabbi and the priest?’” Nicholas laughs. “It’s more about, ‘Hey, we’re all together as a community; we’re all having fun together, and we’re all getting to know each other.’ And comedy does push buttons, and we should make people a little uncomfortable and open those conversations.”
Nicholas, who got her big break being named Nick at Nite’s “Funniest Mom in America” and regularly performs at local and regional comedy clubs, has taken the initiative to create two new comedy series debuting in Lancaster in the coming months.
Up first is the Market Fresh Comedy series at the new Hunter’s Tryst venue in downtown Lancaster. The inaugural show features comedians Sam Tallent and Brent Gill from Denver, CO, who will perform on August 1 after finishing up a weekend series of shows in New York City. Tallent has opened for some of the biggest names in comedy, including Louis C.K. and Dave Chappelle, while Gill is known as the host of the popular Marijuana Radio podcast out of Colorado.
Besides the opening show, Nicholas has also booked New York comedian Ray DeVito on August 22; Mike Finoia, who has performed on Comedy Central and at the New York Comedy Festival, on September 12; funnyman Phil Porter on September 26; and Philadelphia stand-up Alex Grubard on October 10.
Nicholas says Market Fresh Comedy started to take shape last year when she helped organize four different comedy shows at the Ware Center in Lancaster. Those shows featured comedy talent from New York City – people who have performed on The Late Show with David Letterman and Comedy Central, including Carmen Lynch and Lenny Marcus.
Looking for another venue to host a regular stand-up series, Nicholas approached Hunter’s Tryst co-founder Anne Kirby about using her spot for comedy. Nicholas says the intimate setting of Hunter’s Tryst – housed in the basement of the building of 30 North Queen Street – lends itself perfectly for comedy, which features a dark setting, low-hanging ceilings and the feel of a classic New York comedy club.
“There’s nothing quite like being in that low ceiling, small room where no one gets away with not being noticed by the comedian,” Nicholas says.
In addition to Market Fresh Comedy, Nicholas has also organized a new comedy series at Tellus360 called “Tellus Jokes.” Running every third Thursday, Tellus Jokes kicks off with British comedian-now-New York resident Michelle De Swarte, along with fellow New York comedian Sam Mushman, on October 15. The series continues with Noah Gardenswartz and Matt McCusker on November 19 and Adrian Mesa and Josh Carter on December 17.
Nicholas, who moved to Lancaster five years ago after starting her career as a stand-up in Denver, CO, (and is also a full-time occupational therapist and professor) says the two new series are only the start of comedy events she has planned throughout the region.
“I think the community here is ready to support professional comedy. And I also think that the comedy community is going to develop even further once they get some exposure to comics who can help them up their game.”
She’s currently searching for another location to hold an open-mic stand-up night to complement the popular open mic started three years ago at the Chameleon Club in Lancaster by local comedians Steve Harkins and Ryan Meehan (now hosted by Meehan and Brendan Krick). It was at that open mic that Nicholas says she started to discover the wealth of comedic talent right in her own backyard, and she’s watched as the Monday night comedy night has grown exponentially over the last two years, regularly featuring as many as 30 comedians each week.
Nicholas says she’d like her own comedy series to be an incubator for local comedians, bringing bring professional comedians from New York City for showcases and also having local talent open for them – comedians like Shane Gillis, a Perry County resident who recently won Baltimore’s New Comedian of the Year Competition at Magooby’s Joke House and placed third in Philly’s Phunniest 2015.
“I think the community here is ready to support professional comedy,” Nicholas says. “And I also think that the comedy community is going to develop even further once they get some exposure to comics who can help them up their game.”
Market Fresh Comedy debuts at Hunter’s Tryst (30 N. Queen St., lower level, Lancaster) on Saturday, August 1. 7pm doors/8pm show. $20. 21+. Click here for tickets.