Funny ha ha
Catch a Rising Star
Reno, NV 89501
Gary Raffanelli warms up the crowd with a Jerry Lee Lewis-style piano medley, while the crowd of around 100 people settle in to their seats and order cocktails. There’s a no-drink minimum at the Catch a Rising Star comedy club, and judging by the way the elderly lady up front is heckling nonsense at the stage before the actual comedy act has even begun, there’s no apparent cap on the other end of the alcohol consumption spectrum, either.
If laughter is the best medicine, then stand-up comics are the doctors and nurses of dispensation. Strangely, the cure is also the contagion. Laughter heals. Group giggling is a popular form of meditation. There’s even “laughter yoga.” Can “laughter pilates” be far behind?
When we laugh, our bodies relax. Blood flows to our extremities. It limits production of stress hormones like cortisol and increases natural painkillers, like endorphins.
According to Dr. Lee S. Berk from Loma Linda University, “laughter helps to increase the count of natural killer cells and also raises antibody levels. Research has shown that, after laughter therapy, there is an increase in antibodies in the mucous of the nose and respiratory passages, which is believed to have a protective capacity against some viruses, bacteria and other microorganisms.”
Club manager Jerry McLaughlin calls this magical field of healing “comedy consciousness.”
Each week, he swims through the vast talent pool of comics from around the nation to net a few new acts on the upward swing of their careers.
“Edgy comedy is good,” he says. “Crude comedy is not.”
The club is an intimate, non-smoking venue that seats over 200 people.
“We’ve had big names in here,” he says. “Ray Romano opened the club for us in 1998. Larry the Cable Guy played here one week.
“Of course, some comedians are simply happy being a club comic,” says McLaughlin. “Not everybody aspires to star in their own sitcom.”
On the bill tonight is the sarcastic Eric Hunter and headlining is Charlie Weiner. Hunter looks a little and acts a little bit like a lesbian frat boy, and Weiner is a frenetic geezer with a seasoned take on marriage and long-term relationships.
Performed live, comedy is amplified by the people in the audience. It becomes a collective thing—a participatory thing. Jokes that may not be that funny if seen through the perception-deadening box of a TV force out an involuntary laugh when heard in the actual give and take of live comedy.
Weiner, who says he hasn’t held down a regular job since March 16, 1978, does 250 to 300 performances per year. That’s a lot of time by yourself on the road.
“It’s as normal as anything else to me,” he says. “Sometimes it’s great. Sometimes you wonder when your next paycheck will come.”
There’s nothing really all too funny about that.