Although simple in concept, Comedy Bathroom is an idea that was years in the making, before I had even performed any stand-up comedy at all. I had big dreams from the start, if you couldn’t tell.
Five years ago, I was a shy, directionless kid who happened to latch onto the soft, beer-soaked underbelly of the underground punk scene in Cleveland and Akron. While there were many drunk nights attending punk shows at the Grog Shop and Now That’s Class, my favorite nights were always the DIY house shows. And no, not just because they were free.
The DIY music scene consists of some of the best people I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting. Even the jerks are better than all of the other jerks out there. The houses with colorful names -- Dag House, Mosh Eisley, It’s A Kling Thing! House (RIP Scourge House and The Soggy Dog) -- and their residents opened their doors to local and touring acts, as well as fans eager to see some of their favorite tunes in a more intimate setting. Intimate in the sense that most of the time everyone was shoulder-shoulder and were someone in the crowd to have ebola, we’d all have it. The atmosphere is basically one big bodily fluid exchange, sometimes by choice, sometimes not. It seemed almost weekly that we would repeat the ritual of cramming ourselves into a basement, getting drunk together, laughing, and screaming our friends’ lyrics at the top of our lungs. Though, since most of us were smokers, our lungs prohibited any full-throated voices. More like a grandpa talking in a whisper. But we tried.
This is a community where anyone can feel like they truly belong. Unless you’re one of those other jerks out there. Eventually, as I came out of my shell (Leo’s really ARE late-bloomers!), I developed a desire to share my own creative ability with the world. I started performing stand-up comedy around the city and was even lucky enough to intern with the Chucklefck comedy shows at Reddstone for a short time. I learned a little bit about what it takes to host a successful comedy show, which surprisingly is more than just learning how to say, “Hey, its your turn,” or, “Get off the stage you hack!” or eating sandwiches. You also have to learn how pronounce people’s names correctly while having the utility available of asking them how to pronounce their names correctly. Tough stuff. The idea of the century was nearing fruition.
It was April of this year at Dag House when history was made. This was a particularly fun show, as some friends from Pittsburgh were in town to play the show and the drinks were flowing. After the bands were finished playing, a fellow comedian, Jesse Irvin, who was in town with the band, and I got to talking about performing together again at some point. That’s when it hit me. Why not bring our comedy to the DIY scene right here, right now? The accepting nature of the DIY scene in Cleveland was the perfect environment for comedy to thrive! Not only did we already have a crowd, but it was late, and we could capitalize on the fact that everyone would listen and quickly proclaim that we were comedy GODS. Captive, blackout drunk audiences are the best audiences.
As I walked toward the basement door to make sure the sound equipment was still set up, my friend Jeff Russell drunkenly suggested we should perform in the bathroom instead. Sure, if he had suggested almost any other bathroom, this would have been a laughable suggestion. But this was a SEVEN by TEN bathroom and could hold a standing-room audience of about 25 people, not counting hallway space. This idea was just laughable enough to work. Plus, bathrooms really are the funniest rooms of all time. I stood backstage, (behind a shower curtain), impaired beyond sane levels, trying to remember which jokes I had decided to tell. The crowd started chanting, “COMEDY BATH-ROOM! COMEDY BATH-ROOM!” so I opened the shower curtain, stood up on the edge of the tub, and joined in, to resounding applause. The adrenaline rush was incredible. I actually felt like I was in the bathroom of Carnegie Hall! The show couldn’t have gone any better, and the most impressive part was that we made it through the entire show without a single poop joke.
The success of that show opened the door (I knocked first) for me to book more Comedy Bathroom shows following Dag House punk shows. Since that debut, Dag House’s bathtub has served as the stage to a few of Cleveland’s funniest comedians, including Yusuf Ali and Tim Cornett [Editor’s note: Read Tim Cornett’s less gleeful account of performing in the bathtub immediately following this piece].
Five years ago, I was a boy with nothing to show for it. Today, I am a man taking credit for his drunk friend’s suggestion to act a fool in the same room where people relieve themselves of warm PBR and pre-show Chipotle. As far as I remember, I’ve had so much fun putting on each and every show, but again, they start late and alcohol is the number one enemy of memory. Don’t fact check that. There’s something truly special to be said about a group of people who will make their bodies and noses uncomfortable by piling into a hot bathroom, just so a few sad clowns can make them smile. That’s what makes me smile.
I know you’re all wondering what happens when people actually have to use the toilet during the shows. The answer is simple. There’s a toilet in the basement. Someone should probably tell that to whoever peed on the floor of the bedroom next door during the last show.