Brian Crall, comedy impresario
In 2005, Crall and fellow Free Hooch Comedy Troupe member Ron Dumonchelle emptied their pockets to launch the Sacramento Comedy Spot, where locals have a place dedicated to laughs
The Free Hooch Comedy Troupe had just finished another set in front of a dimly lit bar full of patrons too busy drinking and socializing to pay attention to the open-mic talent on stage. One of the members, Brian Crall, knew that improv and sketch comedy needed more than just a weekday open-mic stage in a bar full of clinking glasses and rambunctious crowds. So in 2005, Crall and fellow troupe member Ron Dumonchelle emptied out their pockets to launch the Sacramento Comedy Spot, where locals have a place dedicated to laughs. The Comedy Spot offers a variety of comedy shows and also offers classes in improv, stand-up and sketch comedy. Crall chatted with SN&R about the time he tried to perform while high, overcoming stage fright and how the community has kept the Comedy Spot going.
What made you want to pursue comedy?
I didn’t want to pursue comedy at first; I wanted to be an actor. I was at Sac State, and I was a theater student, and right after college I asked a buddy of mine, “What do we do now?” And we were thinking about doing plays and things like that, and he was like, “Well, you should do sketch comedy.” I don’t know why, but I was like, “OK, let’s do that.” And so we did—we formed a sketch comedy troupe. I think the idea was we were going to do one show and then see how it went and probably move on to something else, but then we were like, “No, this is pretty cool.” By the way, the guy who told me I should do sketch comedy never joined the sketch comedy group, but that’s how it started off—over beer.
Favorite comedian and why?
I love Amy Poehler and Tina Fey. And when it comes to old school, I like [John] Belushi and Chris Farley. I really like Amy because she will do anything, Tina Fey is one of the smartest writers ever seen, and Belushi and Chris Farley are just physical and crazy. I really try to bring that to my own comedy by being physical but being smart at the same time, and so those four are really good examples of what I try to bring to the stage.
Worst experience onstage?
We do a show called Drunk versus High, and the idea of the [improv] show is one team is drunk and one team is high, and the audience picks the winner. Usually, the high team wins because the drunk team is too drunk. We do monitor everything and keep it safe, but it still doesn’t matter because the drunk team will always lose and the high team will always be OK. I don’t smoke, so I was like, “I will do the high team.” So, I wasn’t used to it, and the show length is about 20 minutes, and for that entire time I just stood in the back hanging onto the wall. And one time, someone mentioned a bird, and I walked forward and I was like “Ca-caw” and I went right back to the wall. I was telling people backstage, “I think I am time-traveling.” That was probably my worst moment onstage.
Biggest challenges while opening the Comedy Spot?
We had zero money coming into this. We were able to take out a loan, which was pretty cool, but we did everything on the cheap. We used our creative juices and we were like, “How could we save money and open this thing on a shoestring or no budget?” If it wasn’t for the people who were super into it, it would never have succeeded. So creativity, lots of loyal and very hungry people that wanted to do something different.
What type of shows do you offer?
We have things that are accessible to everybody. We do improv, stand-up and sketch, so if you are into more traditional comedy like stand-up, there is something for you. If you like something more like Saturday Night Live there is something for you, or if you like shows like Whose Line Is It Anyway? we have something like that. My favorite show is Anti-Cooperation League, which is a long-form improv show. We have Lady Business, which is the first all-women improv team in Sacramento. We have sketch shows like Squad Patrol which is our Friday show, and then we do some weird shit. The later it gets, the weirder it gets.
Dead or alive, which comedian would you want to perform at the Comedy Spot?
What really drew me to long-form improv was an improv group I saw at the Upright Citizen Brigade Theatre in Los Angeles called ASSSSCAT. That’s where I took classes, and I would be at the theater all night long. I had my favorite performers, and I was always excited when they were in the show, so I would love for the cast of ASSSSCAT to come to Comedy Spot, because so much of what I have tried to do in Sacramento has been what I really fell in love with when I went to LA.
Any advice for anyone who wants to pursue comedy, but has stage fright?
Just do it. I had horrible stage fright when I started this. The kind of stage fright where my body would physically tense up to the point where I couldn’t use my arm and it would tense into my chest. I kept on getting onstage, and sometimes I would succeed and sometimes I would fail, but the more I got onstage, the less I failed. I’m not saying I don’t fail now, because I do, but I fail less because I get up onstage and I stopped having that stage fright. It’s like anything else in life; if you want to get good at it, you just have to do it.