When Rick Matthews steps off the stage at Nietzsche’s on Nov. 24, it will be his last as producer of Buffalo’s longest-running comedy open mic showcase that was started by Kristen Becker nearly a decade ago.
To celebrate, Matthews is throwing a “Red Wedding” show with many of the comedians who began their careers in that room, including Dan Fisher, Shaun Murphy, Josh Potter, Mark Walton and Matt Wayne. I chatted with those comics about their memories of the Nietzsche’s stage.
Question: What’s it like to return to the Nietzsche’s stage after all this time, and to do it with the comics you all started with?
Wayne: I'm pretty excited about it. Tuesday nights at Nietzsche’s was my favorite night of the week when I lived in Buffalo. That crowd was always amazing, and (hanging out) afterward was always like an after-party. It was like starting the week with another Saturday night.
Potter: I met all of these people in this conversation at Nietzsche’s; all of my core comedy friends and some of my best friends.
Walton: I had been told at the time how special that mic was compared to what most people deal with in bigger scenes, so I appreciated it on that level too, although I had no idea how special that place was until I did some open mics in other cities.
Potter: Well, I can say from the year I started in 2008 until 2010, it was different than any mic that this city has had, even. I don't know if it's because I’m older, or if it was because I was new in comedy, or if it was because these guys were always there, but it had an electricity to it. I would get excited for it every week and then we'd ride out the energy till 4 a.m. like we had all just done "SNL."
Fisher: I love Nietzsche's. The mic there was such a big event for me. I’d prepare for it all week, writing jokes, and finalizing my set list as I walked there. We all got our first big laughs there, our first (and second and third) big bomb sets there, too. It taught us how to be a good comic, take raw ideas and hone them into good bits, that a lot of us still do now.
Walton: Having only one mic a week, and relatively few comics, but so many of those comics were people I respected, I felt a good amount of pressure to write more. I felt like if I could get the other comics to laugh, I was doing it right. Plus there were great audiences, and the set up with a professional sound person made a huge difference. It was an open mic, but so much more of a show than what most open mics are.
Matthews: When I started it was the only place I even knew comedy existed. I remember watching guys like Matt, Fisher and Walton, and thinking that they were the funniest people I'd ever seen. After I had done a few mics, and got used to the crowds, I'd tell my jokes on stage and listen to see if any of the guys I admired were laughing at my jokes.
Potter: I know this is show is billed as a final show for Rick, but it kinda feels like the end of an era for all of us, because no matter what the future holds, it won't be like the past, which makes me sad, but I understand it’s necessary. In a lot of ways its good to have seen us all grow since then, obviously.
Murphy: When when Comix Cafe closed I remember a very real sense of, “Well now what do we do?” There were no mics (that I was aware of) and it was like that for years. It's almost crazy with Helium and all the mics today but there was a time when Kristin’s (Becker) room (at Nietzsche’s) was it. Much credit to her for starting and keeping it going, especially in the beginning, because despite being the only game in town there were a lot of nights where it was seven comics performing for each other. I really think (that) helped our jokes and comfort level. Nietzsche’s was the first room I ever felt really comfortable in.
Potter: Not to sound cliché, but it felt really "work hard, play hard" as every one was serious about comedy and when a night at Nietzsche’s went well, we really would want to ride that high and keep it peaking because there would be six more days until it could happen again, so we'd never want the night to end. I wish my yearbook quote could be Matt Wayne's saying, "Who has more fun than us?"
Matthews: Ninety percent of me wanting to take over the Tuesdays at Nietzsche's was me trying to capture what we had back then.
Question: Rick, this is your last show as the room's producer, leaving it in the hands of Brian Netzel. Why did you step down and what do you see for the future of the Nietzsche’s mic?
Matthews: I'm stepping down because I have a baby coming, bought a new house, and I'm not 100 percent into it anymore. The future of the room is limitless, as long as the scene embraces it the way we all did. When that room is hot, it's magic. It's better than a 1,500-person theater in its own way.
Who: Rick Matthews, Josh Potter, Shaun Murphy, Dan Fisher, Mark Walton and Matt Wayne
Where: Nietzsche’s, 248 Allen St.
When: 8 p.m. Nov. 24
Info: Facebook event page