Southern Indiana and Louisville unite through laughter
By Grant Vance
Photos by Danny Alexander
Within the subtle but blossoming artistic community split between the metro parameters of Southern Indiana and Louisville lies something pretty funny. A lot of different somethings, in fact.
Although not properly appreciated as an official comedy hub by outsiders to date, the area hosts a plethora of different comedy stylings throughout any given day of the week. Shows range anywhere from open mics to variety outings, showcasing some impressively funny local comedians and outside, touring talent alike.
The vast amount of shows come with their vast amount of subgroups and specificity – from serialized specialties in Louisville to more traditional improv and standup on both sides of the river, including a brand-new venue.
Enter Adriane and Vernon Thompson, husband-wife creators and directors of Comedy by the Bridge, a dedicated hub inside the Sheraton Riverside Ballroom in Jeffersonville that hosts comedy shows every Friday through Sunday.
“It first started (with) my husband and two other comedians 10 years ago as Ultra Combo Live,” which performed in a number of local bars, Adriane Thompson explained. “We started getting feedback that people wanted us to get our own venue. We thought maybe we could open our own venue. The next thing you know, this opportunity came open at the Sheraton, and then one thing after another fell into place.”
Thompson is a successful local stand-up herself, responsible for leading the female-driven Ultra Combo Pink before establishing Comedy by the Bridge with her husband
Comedy by the Bridge hosts bigger “name” comedians with the inclination of attaching up-and-coming local comedians as openers and hosts.
“It’s a beneficial thing, especially for an up-and-coming comedian in this area. It’s not easy to get noticed by different comedians, especially a big name, like if you were in New York, Chicago or LA,” Thompson said. “But by doing a show with us, you’re getting exposure in front of comedians who are traveling around the country doing this.”
Local legend Mandy McKelvey (known best for her stand up, character roasts and storytelling show, “We Still Like You”), for instance, was on the docket not long ago at Comedy by the Bridge.
Bringing in outside names who have made it to network TV and the likes is a way to draw a crowd, but the heart of Comedy by the Bridge is in exposing the local community and making a name as an official comedy hub.
“Why can’t we make Indiana a hub for comedy?” Thompson asked. “Nashville is a hub for music, Indiana can be a hub for comedy. And that’s our goal: to make this a must come place if you’re a comedian.”
Comedy by the Bridge is one of many outlets providing a positive and welcoming place for local talent to perform and grow, but it’s not alone. Other Southern Indiana venues offering traditional open mics and stand-up are within the notable list of Wick’s, Barrel and Mac’s Hideaway. Branching back out to Louisville, there’s The Bardstown, The Caravan Comedy Club, Monnik and Tap Room, among others. Traditional stand-up is far from all the local comedy scene has to offer, however.
One venue offering a wide variety of alternative variety shows for Indiana and Louisville comedians is Kaiju in Germantown.
Kaiju is home to several different comedy shows, most notably the weekly variety show Kaijuesdays and the sketch comedy collaboration, Sketchy Stuff. Kaijuesdays’ alternative shows alternate per week, ranging from roast battles to storytelling to late-night-style talk shows, to name a few.
“Kaijuesdays was conceived as comedy homework,” producer Greg Welsh explained. “(It was) something to challenge comedians to get out of their comfort zones and try new things.”
New things arose and then some.
As Kaijuesdays producer Emilie Parker Strange puts it, a Kaijuesdays performance “might be the only time that, that particular thing has ever happened in history and will ever happen again.”
The show is roughly three years old, born from available venue space at Kaiju and a dream to shake up the local comedy mold.
“We star ted w ith only three shows : ‘Thunderdome,’ ‘Why Would I Know That?!’ and ‘Comedians in Cars Watching Bond,’” Welsh said. “Since then, we’ve had over a dozen original shows. Some have been hits, like ‘Slideshow’ and ‘Third Degree Burns,’ but some didn’t make the cut, like ‘Mix Em’ Up,’ which was a little too inside baseball to keep in regular rotation.”
Kaijuesdays certainly holds true to its manifesto of uniqueness and originality, with a cast of one-time and recurring characters and caricatures that would be a chore to list outright.
A couple standouts within the last three years include: Michael Bay as a renowned novelist (Nathan P. Woodard); the overly earnest, blumpkin henchman Clodhopper (Zac Carman); God (Tyler Gooch); and the locally-famous, self-aware possum, The Possum (Chris Vititoe).
“I spend more on costumes for Kaijuesdays than I do on my wardrobe,” Strange laughed.
Despite its influence and originality, Kaijuesdays is far from a one-trick Tuesday monster as far as benefiting the comedy community goes. Considering its expansive nature, Kaijuesdays lends itself to opportunities and comedic growth young or traveling comics may not find elsewhere.
“We like to cast a wide net so it’s not the same 10 comics on every show,” Strange said. “(Kaijuesdays hosts) a few comics from Southern Indiana, but we’re always looking for more. When people come in from out of town they can get on one of our weird shows, too.”
Welsh continued on the encouraging nature of Kaijuesdays.
“We’re all about encouraging comics to come up with their own show ideas and giving them an outlet and an audience,” Welsh said. “Some of the best stand-ups in the area have other comedic talents that rarely get showcased.”
“It’s a labor of love on our end,” added Strange.
Although Comedy by the Bridge inJeffersonville currently only hosts more traditional stand-up comedy shows, the sky is the limit for what can be done in the space.
“We’ve been in touch with 502 improv. Once we’re more established and know how it’s run, we would like to do an improv show there,” co-owner Adriane Thompson said. “Kaiju has a ton of variety shows. I did a show there called ‘Wild Card,’ and it was the most fun I’ve ever had. I would love to see something like that at Comedy by the Bridge. It would be awesome to take all of these different types of comedy genres and provide a venue for them to display that in Indiana, too.”
Keep up with Comedy by the Bridge by visiting comedybythebridge.com. For more information on Kaijuesdays, a schedule of comedy events ,and Louisville and Southern Indiana comedy in general, visit lolvillecomedy.com.