By Jonathan Baca, Staff Reporter | Photo by Jonathan Baca
The world of stand-up comedy is changing, and a handful of dedicated comics in Albuquerque are taking back the scene and doing things their own way, said professional comedian and Burque native Mike Long.
One local comedian who has broken out in the scene is Digital Media major Curt Fletcher. Fletcher has become a big name in local comedy, and has had success performing at clubs and comedy festivals throughout the country, he said.
“I like the scene here. Everyone is super supportive,” Fletcher said.
Since he started doing stand-up twelve years ago, Fletcher has performed all over the country, to audiences in 24 states, he said.
He has moved up through the ranks of the comedy world, battling critical club owners and drunken hecklers along the way, he said.
“I think it takes a certain kind of person. You definitely need to have thick skin,” and Fletcher said “You have a lot of bad shows before you get good.”
He first started performing there, despite his extreme nervousness and shy personality, and feels that he has come a long way since then, he said.
A new style of do-it-yoYurself stand-up is changing the local comedy scene, replacing the old model of the comedy club with a looser, more democratic system that puts the power back into the hands of the comics themselves, giving comedians and their fans the power to do things their own way, Long said.
“There’s a real resurgence of comedy as an art form, but it’s more accessible. All the gatekeepers have been removed, so it’s more do-it-yourself. Everyone has access to the same kind of network and scene,” Long said.
Just like many other comedians in Albuquerque, Fletcher got his start at Laff’s Comedy Club, where he previously worked.
“I’ve known Curt Fletcher for eight years and he’s one of the hottest comics coming out of New Mexico now,” said local actor Steven Michael Quezada, best known from his role as Agent Gomez on Breaking Bad.
Quezada also got his start as a stand-up comic in Albuquerque, and has since been the host of a local late night talk show, where he helped put the spotlight on many local comedians.
Former student and fellow comedian Terrance Brown said, “There’s a lot of funny guys here, but Curt is on another level.”
Local comedian Sarah Kennedy, along with ten others, will be hosting Comedy Awareness Week from October 12 to 19, with multiple shows every night, performances at UNM, and many other events, all with the goal of putting the spotlight on Albuquerque’s comedy scene and letting people know about the caliber of talent the city has, according to their Facebook page.
Kennedy runs the website AlbuquerqueComedy.com, which has become a much needed source of information for local comedy fans, with a calendar of performances, profiles of local performers, and other useful information.
“Since I started doing comedy, I think we’ve become so much more connected and so much more collaborative, and I think we’ve grown a lot,” Kennedy said.
Kennedy hosts several stand-up open-mic nights at Blackbird Buvette downtown and at Broken Bottle Brewery on the west side, as well as a showcase at The Box on the first and third Saturdays of the month. With so many options, new talent has a chance to shine, Kennedy said.
“I would put any comedian from here up against what happens elsewhere in the country, and they would shake out to be equal if not better,” Kennedy said.
Comedy in Albuquerque has evolved from the days since Laff’s Comedy Club closed its doors years ago. Back then, if a local comic wanted to perform, Laff’s was the only stage in town.
“Now, with the internet and the local hubs of connectivity that we’re seeing, it’s a whole new world. We’re seeing people having amazing success without having to go through those traditional channels,” Long said.
Big name touring comedians also have plenty of venues at their disposal, Long said.
The Kimo Theater, the Kiva Auditorium, the Guild, and the Launchpad are all hosting touring comics, as well as the casinos, especially Santa Ana Star casino’s new comedy spot The Stage, and all of these are helping to make New Mexico a lucrative destination for national talent, Long said.
“The fact that there is a good paycheck to be made for a national headliner in New Mexico is a really big boom,” Long said.
National acts like Doug Stanhope, Seth Meyers, Steve Hofstetter, David Tobey, and many others have made New Mexico a stop on their tours is a testament to the growing importance of the Land of Enchantment as a comedy destination, Long said.
This helps the local scene because many of the opening acts for these shows are local up-and-comers, said Kennedy. Kennedy, Long, and fellow local Matt Peterson recently opened for Doug Stanhope at the Launchpad, which was a great opportunity for them to get stage time with a high-profile headlining act, Kennedy said.
Many exciting things are happening in the local comedy scene, and the challenge now is getting the word out, Long said.
“There’s half a million people in Albuquerque who don’t know that comedy shows are happening in this town,” Long said.
Thanks to people like Long, Kennedy, and dozens of others, the scene is alive and well, and should only continue to get bigger.
“There is always room to grow, and I hope Albuquerque stays on top of things, and remains ahead of the curve instead of just following,” Kennedy said.