CU Comedy’s open mic nights attract new collegiate comedians


Photo courtesy of Jesse Tuttle

A person performing stand up during the Canopy Club’s Open Mic Comedy. The Open Mic Comedy occurs every Monday and open to any one.

By Alexis Ramirez, Staff Writer

The Canopy Club hosts “Open Mic Comedy” every Monday night, but it’s far from repetitive, according to C-U Comedy co-founder and event organizer, Jesse Tuttle.

The Club’s Red Room welcomes an ever-changing roster of first-time and regular stand-up comedians each week. Attendees can find their preferred seating in the small, intimate space starting at 8 p.m. The performance itself begins at 8:30 p.m.

“Different people create different groups, and you never really know exactly what they’re going to be interested in, which is kind of the challenge of it,” Tuttle said.

C-U Comedy’s open mic nights at The Canopy Club — launched in early November — came after the success of those at NOLA’s Rock Bar, Tuttle explained. NOLA’s Rock Bar and The Canopy Club are owned and operated by brothers Ian and Arlan Goldberg.

“It was going so well over at NOLA’s, where we’re getting such big crowds, Canopy Club decided they wanted to try to kind of do that as well,” Tuttle said.

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C-U Comedy, founded by brothers Jesse and Justin Tuttle, has been active in the Champaign-Urbana and surrounding communities for approximately 12 years. In addition to the three local open mic nights, the company organizes weekend shows at various country clubs, wineries and event centers throughout the central Illinois area, Jesse Tuttle explained.

Tuttle said he is most proud of the consistency and relationships he and his brother have been able to build with local venues.

“We had to shut down (during the COVID-19 pandemic) just like everybody,” he said. “So right now we’re kind of in a rebuilding pattern, but our 2022 is looking really, really good.”

The company often recruits open mic performers as openers for headlining professionals at weekend shows.

Recently, it’s been Tuttle’s aim to attract more college students to C-U Comedy’s free admission open mic nights, he explained. Collegiate regulars, Tuttle noted, don’t often stay in the Champaign-Urbana area following their graduation from the University.

“I like seeing all the new performers that are younger that come out because they really help us build new crowds,” he said.

Trude Namara, a regular at C-U Comedy’s open mic nights, said the shows at The Canopy Club target a younger demographic.

“I felt very happy that (Tuttle) moved it to Canopy because I felt like there were people, like, my age who were the audience, so people just understood kind of like depressed satire,” she said.

Namara began performing at open mic nights – then held at Clark Bar – during her senior year of undergraduate studies at the University.

“I’ve always loved anything live, and then I found out that there was live comedy here,” she said. “I feel like if I had known, I would have been going all four years.”

Namara improved her English after arriving in the U.S. from Uganda at the age of 10 by watching stand-up comedy specials, she explained.

She describes her material as observational philosophy comedy. The subject matter she discusses ranges from everyday experiences, like shopping, to the Black experience in the U.S. and existentialism.

Tuttle said anxiety can lead to hesitancy in people who are interested in performing at a stand-up comedy show.

“It’s very nerve-wracking to get up in front of a group of people that you don’t know and try to tell jokes and make them laugh, especially when you have no clue who these people are,” he said.

Namara echoed the sentiment.

“When you go on stage, you are in charge of managing everyone’s emotions, like that’s the underlying truth to comedy,” she said. “If the audience is really uncomfortable, you will know, and all your jokes and all of that will be affected.”

“The easiest part is actually when you get up there,” Tuttle said. “Once you get up there and you’re telling jokes and stuff, it’s really not that bad. The anxiety kind of goes away because you’re in the moment.”

Taking a look at the more technical aspect of performing, Namara recommended that beginners use note cards with only a few bullet points to practice their routine. Most people who want to do comedy, she explained, are naturally funny people.

“If you can limit yourself to a couple bullet points or a couple phrases, you would find out you can just create humor just by talking how you naturally talk,” she said.

The organizers require that performers register in advance and be present 10 to 15 minutes prior to the start of the show. There are 11 to 12 spots available per night with the performance order determined by Tuttle at check-in.

“I like to mix it up between new people and people who have done it for a while, who I know are going to do pretty well,” Tuttle said. “I just kind of like to pepper them in, just going back and forth, just to see how it goes.”

Each performer is allowed five minutes on stage, with regulars occasionally going on for slightly longer if the night’s roster is shorter, Tuttle said. There aren’t many restrictions in terms of content at these R-rated shows, but hate speech is not tolerated, Tuttle said.

The Canopy Club’s COVID-19 safety protocols require that patrons demonstrate digital or physical proof of full vaccination or a negative test taken 72 hours prior to attending. All attendees are required to wear masks inside the establishment unless actively drinking.

The venue does not implement the two-drink minimum standard as many comedy clubs do, but it does offer specials on alcoholic beverages. The club strictly enforces an 18-plus age requirement, requiring a valid photo ID for entry. It has a standard $3 surcharge for all attendees under the age of 21.

“For anyone who really wants to join comedy, you are going to be very blessed to start with Jesse,” Namara said. “[C-U Comedy] is the safest place to start for comedy.”

“If anybody’s thinking about doing it, this is both the best and worst advice: just get up there and do it,” Tuttle said.

Those interested in performing at “Open Mic Comedy” should contact Tuttle in advance by emailing [email protected].

[email protected]