March 2022 - MAKE 'EM LAUGH: Long Live The House Show!
By Sarah Kennedy :: Comedy Events Writer
Sometimes when you are a part of a scene that relies on you to do everything yourself, your best bet is to take inspiration from the punk rock DIYers of yesteryear. If you are a comedy community without a designated home for shows like the one in Albuquerque, the next best thing is a house show. This month we talk to comedy producers who let crowds into their humble abodes, letting the jokes fly under their roofs.
Genevieve Mueller hosted a monthly house show back in 2013: Comedians Power Hour, where two comedians go through the drinking game gauntlet you may remember from college–a power hour–drinking the equivalent of 60 shots of beer in 60 minutes. They also switch off telling jokes and tackle challenges. It’s a fantastic show that would’ve sold out auditoriums if it wasn’t for one problem: Legally, there are no drinking games permitted on the premises of places that sell alcohol in New Mexico. So, to get the show off the ground, it had to be a house show. “It [became a] house party and that was legal,” remembers Mueller. “You can do whatever you want in your house. And we ran it like a party.”
Mueller moved away from ABQ in 2015, and right on her heels in creating a house show was comedian/musician Greg Ziomek. He was one of the lucky few people in New Mexico with a basement in his house, and after having to clear it out due to a burst pipe, he saw potential. Ziomek recalls, “I thought you couldn't do a punk show down there, but if you just had a small amplifier and a comic, we might be able to squeeze some people in there. I thought, let's just give this a whirl.”
And with that, Greg’s Comedy Basement was born. Over three years, it played host to traveling guests and local performers alike.
After Ziomek moved in 2018, the house show scene lay dormant for a while, due to a steady rise of public-facing open mics and shows. This was, of course, until March 2020, when everything came to a halt due to Covid-19. Several months into the shutdown, a group of local comedians once again looked to a house show as a way to keep comedy happening in town. William Wheeler runs The Garage out of his, yes, an actual garage, and after a year of steady events, he’s quickly become one of the most successful producers in town. Wheeler is proud to offer the Garage as a supplement to the other offerings in Albuquerque. “I pride myself in telling people that it's the most free speech open mic in town,” says Wheeler, “because we're literally in a garage, so there's no pressure of saying the wrong thing.”
When considering the future of comedy in Albuquerque, it’s important to tip our hats to the innovators who helped our scene become what it is today and laid the foundation for what it’ll be in the future.
Comedians’ Power Hour is still occasionally produced in a variety of venues across the country. Greg Ziomek performs regularly in Austin, Texas. William Wheeler runs The Garage twice weekly, he also performs in various venues across Albuquerque.
Sarah Kennedy is currently exploring the history of Albuquerque Comedy and investigating what it would take for the city to open and sustain a comedy club in her new podcast, Comedy Ghost Town, which can be heard wherever you listen to your podcasts.