By Taylor Gesel:
Six half-deflated balloons left over from Mardi Gras blew in circles from the hot fan overhead, as a Budweiser sign missing the letters flickered when a door shut. A Celtic jig resonated through the speakers, masking the chatter in front of the 4-foot-tall papier-mâché head hung from the ceiling. Not helped by the burnt out bulbs in the miniature chandeliers above, the bar tap handles were illuminated by the television showing clips of The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson.
“I can say whatever I want and it still won’t get them to come back here. I could yell ‘Hey everyone, some girl just pulled out her boobs!’ and they would still just stand there like idiots,” said Rick Matthews, the show’s host, about the comedians huddled at the bar.
Matthews hosts the Rust Belt Comedy Showcase, an open mic comedy show on Tuesdays at Nietzsche’s on Allen Street. Crowned the “Funniest Person in Buffalo” in 2012, Matthews, 35, grew up in Eden, N.Y. and has performed comedy for the last five and a half years. Taking the Showcase’s hosting duties in March 2013, he has turned over the mic to some of Buffalo’s newest comics, and seasoned comedy veterans.
God no. I’d thought I’d be hosting fugitives maybe. Or hosting a parasite I got from eating food from the garbage. No way did I think I’d be doing this though. Sometimes I still don’t think I’m doing it.
What do you do when you’re not performing comedy?
I am a husband and a father, so usually hiding in the bathroom, flipping through Imgur. I work full time, in a job. It’s civil service. That’s as deep as I want to get into it.
What is the Rust Belt Comedy Showcase?
That’s deep man. Real deep. Rust Belt Comedy started out as a college tour. It died pretty quickly after a good run, and it went away. In this version of life, it is a collection of comics, mostly local, some out-of-towners, that get together every Tuesday to get on stage, working out new material, try out new characters, and make each other laugh, hopefully entertaining the people that paid to get in.
What is your role in the show?
I am the producer, the booker, the host, the MC, and the King of the North. I make sure everyone sticks to their time. I give them the light when they go over their time, which is typically every single god-damn one of them. I keep the pace of the show going if things get slow, or I slow it down if things get hot. I am also the guy to blame if someone maybe smells something farty. Even if it isn’t me…it usually is.
What was your reaction when you were asked to take over the show?
I was very excited, honored, and nervous. Nietzsche’s is the first stage I ever got on five and a half years ago. It was called “The Doin’ Time Comedy Showcase” at that time, run by my very good friend Kristen Becker. I wanted it, not gonna lie. I was afraid though, because I didn’t want be the guy that sunk the ship that had successfully sailed for seven years. So, I changed the name to The Rust Belt Comedy Showcase, and crossed my fingers.
After a year of hosting, how do you feel the show has changed?
I actually hope the show hasn’t changed too much, other than the name. I will play with the format sometimes, but that has always happened. I just want the comics to keep coming. I like how we all can be there. We can be ourselves, relaxed. If I stopped running the show tomorrow, I’d still sign up and be there next week.
How do you feel about the comedy scene in Buffalo?
The comedy scene in Buffalo is amazing. For being such a small town, the talent that comes out of here is unbelievable. We are very proud of this. I am very proud to be a part of it. The comics that come to The Rust Belt Comedy Showcase on a weekly basis have performed all over the country, with some of the world’s top comics, and hold their own every time. It is only going up.
Anything you would like to say to a comedian looking to start performing in Buffalo?
Do it. Don’t let anything get in your way. Don’t be afraid. The scariest time is the first time. After that, it all gets easier. Write every idea you have down. And come out a few times and watch. See what it’s all about, see what we do. And don’t force it, any of it.
What would be the Number 1 reason for someone to come see the Showcase?
FUN. We always have a good time there. The crowd leaves happy 99 percent of the time, plus or minus 70 percent.
The Rust Belt Comedy Showcase starts at 8 p.m. every Tuesday at Nietchzes; there is a $5 cover charge. See Facebook group.
Inset photo: Rick Matthews Comedian – Facebook