Queens Club Owner Celebrates Comedy Anniversary, Condemns MTA
Comedy booker, producer, and venue owner Rebecca Trent believes in fostering talent and building community. With founders Sean Patton and Chesley Calloway she celebrates Thursday's seventh anniversary of East Village staple Comedy as a Second Language (known as "Kabin" to the bar weekly's regulars), and with fellow Hunters Point residents continues standing her ground on behalf of a neighborhood in transition.
Mindy Tucker/WithReservation.com Rebecca Trent at UCB Theatre
What's the significance of a New York comedy show lasting seven years, and how are you celebrating the anniversary?
There's a few out there that have been going on longer. Seth Herzog's Sweet I think has 10 years coming up. But seven years is a pretty proud number to achieve for a weekly comedy show. We've only cancelled two times. Once was when it landed on Halloween, and once was when there was an electrical fire in the building. We've played through floods and blizzards, we've played through absolutely every imaginable set of circumstances: no microphone, no lighting, a door being suck so we couldn't get out. Nick Turner once jumped on a pew and broke it in half. That was fun.
So we've been through a heck of a lot. And I'm the most recent producer; in my living room there's a framed picture of Sean Patton, Chesley Calloway and some dude I don't know. That dude I don't know was one of the original threesome. That was when it originally started. Now the threesome is Sean and Ches and me.
The first anniversary I had with them was the fifth year, and we had 55 comics. Last year we were the 6th of June, so we performed 6/6 with 66 comics. And this year we're aiming for 77. So it's going to be one heck of a marathon show. I'm super excited about it. Murderfist is going to close it out, and we've got Bonnie McFarlane, Rich Vos, Wyatt Cenac, Tom Shillue, Ted Alexandro, Bobby Kelly. And then Sean Patton, and...as far as this being a newsworthy, noteworthy thing, Chesley is stepping down. It's going to be his last Thursday at Kabin as the host and co-producer. Scotland Green and Rojo Perez will be taking his place. So that's a bit noteworthy.
It's still going to have the same booker/producer, but the truth is Scotland has been co-producing for about six months anyway. Sean's not around here as much as he used to be, but he is around all this summer, so it's going to be him and me and the two boys all summer. And then when Sean inevitably has to hit the road again, we'll have Rojo and Scotland to set up the room and to host it. But I'm still going to be the booker. Nothing will drastically change because of this. It's not like it will be "Only prop comics from now on!"
Other than failing to carry the mantle of prop comedy, what are the distinguishing characteristics of a Kabin show? What do attendees experience that they might not find elsewhere in New York?
It's a real New York room. It's a gritty New York room. The comedian is right up at ya. There's not a lot of space between the artist and the audience. I really like that aspect of Kabin, and that's not something you get to experience in most places. It's also, like, the dirtiest bar in America, so that's something to brag about, I guess. We have top-notch comedians that come in from all over, so we tend to have a lot of people in you don't necessarily get a chance to see otherwise, and every single one of those comedians has been vetted by other comedians. That's something you can't necessarily say at every other show. It's been vetted by mean, judgmental comedians. Not those comedians who are nice guys.
It's also such a super-convenient place location-wise. It's such a great place to have people drop in. So we're in a really great position to have really great artists come in. As an audience member, I might see a lineup of names I don't recognize, but by the time I get home, I can talk about how I saw Todd Barry and Louis C.K. drop in with Hannibal Buress.
And it's a show that goes late, so folks can come in after their regular stuff. It's a great hang; it's a good place to hang out with comics. Ultimately it's just one of the more fun vibes in the city, and that's a big part of it. I'd also like to say that the booker is pretty fantastic. She waits until she feels that people are really, really ready to have a kill set. Because it's so important to me to make sure these artists have an extremely good experience at Kabin. Sometimes it just hurts my soul. It want it to all be the best. So I try and make sure that every comic that goes on that stage is ready to go on that stage.