Deodorant and a dream
Ruby Setnik and Maryam Moosavi made Living Room Live, a comedy show in their very own living room
In a Midtown, multistory Victorian, a large crowd of locals chat through their Friday night while sipping on craft beer as they sit in rows of mix-and-match furniture. A playlist featuring artists such as Elton John and Mac Miller plays through a house speaker, setting the chill vibe of the night.
This scene might seem like a typical house party, but on one side of the room are several house lamps and Christmas lights that illuminate a makeshift stage with a duct-tape microphone stand and wooden stool.
Ruby Setnik peeks behind the sheet in the DIY green room, the kitchen. She grasps her microphone and nods to her co-host Maryam Moosavi to turn off the music.
The noisy chatter turns into cheers as Setnik introduces herself. “From all the way downstairs, please welcome your host, Ruby Setnik,” Setnik says, making her way to the front of the stage.
Finding a stage
That night, local comedians Setnik and Moosavi transformed their living room into the venue for their show “Living Room Live,” a free, monthly comedy night.
“Living Room Live feels like our little piece,” Moosavi says. “[It’s] something we can grow and learn from, and an opportunity for our local comedians, too.”
Their show has only been around for three months but has featured Kiry Shabazz, Melissa McGillicuddy and others. And it was all thanks to a business relationship that eventually turned into an accidental friendship.
In 2019, the duo met at a Comedy Spot open-mic night. Both had a year of stand-up under their belts, but wanted a comedic companion to confide in and sharpen their jokes with feedback.
A few months, the two grew close, and last September, Netsik and Moosavi decided they wanted to take their comedy to the next level. They wanted to host their very own comedy show.
“We wanted to pay back the comedians that have booked us so many times, be in control and have more time to test our material,” Moosavi says, “but finding a venue was difficult.”
They searched at different places around the Sacramento area and stumbled upon a certain theater they didn’t want to name. They created a plan that involved pretending to be business partners, schmoozing over the venue with “we mean business”-like confidence and putting on deodorant.
“We were like, ’We would like to use your venue to accommodate our show we want to do,’” Setnik says. “They were like ’Cool, just send us your insurance,’ and we were like, ’Cool, we will get back to you.’”
They did not get back to them.
Setnik was inspired by McGillicuddy and Shahera Hyatt’s “Moving Van Show,” a pop-up comedy show that involves a vacant lot, a battery-operated speaker and a microphone. She liked the idea that comedy could happen anywhere.
So Setnik and Moosavi decided to put the mic and speaker in their 15-by-30-foot living room in the “Eye Street Co-Op,” a house with 10 bedrooms, including a cottage in the back, where 12 people live together and share the expenses of food and chores. The co-op focuses on community, and the house has hosted music events for local artists. While this would be its first comedy show, the housemates were all on board.
“I personally enjoy being able to listen to comedy from my staircase,” says Lauren Taber, one of the residents. “I feel that I’m at the center of something that’s about to pop off.”
With their landlord’s blessing and their housemates’ support, Setnik and Moosavi had a location, but didn’t have a name for their show. They wanted something straightforward, and since it’s in the living room and it’s live comedy, they landed on Living Room Live.
The two young comedians started promoting their first show in October by creating social media accounts, inviting all their friends and family and posting homemade flyers around the neighborhood. Theirs featured two characters on a couch, illustrated by Setnik, and chirography done by Moosavi that read “Live from our Living Room, it’s Living Room Live.”
Booking comedians came easily to Setnik and Moosavi since they already had connections to the comedy scene. They figured they’d book comedians they find funny, who complement each other and who have helped them further their careers.
The day of their first show, they prepared the living room, a two-hour process. It came naturally, as they’d picked up a few tricks from comedy shows in local venues.
They knew to make the stage the brightest spot in the room, by moving all the lamps to the front. They arranged and tested each seat for comfort and accessibility. Perfect.
Then, the two began work on their set lists, which in the comedy world are outlines of jokes. Moosavi sticks with the more traditional approach by writing keywords of her jokes on a piece of paper, while Setnik draws a doodle that represents a joke.
When curtain call was closing in, the only people who had arrived were family members.
“Maryam was worried it would be like Woodstock,” Setnik said, “and I was worried it was just going to be our moms.”
Eventually, about 40 friends, family and community members filled the room, with a variety of adult beverage choices. It’s a free show, but there’s a tip jar. The money is split between all the comedians and used for better equipment for the show.
The action started with the charismatic Setnik warming up the crowd with her unapologetic style of joke telling—comparing her never-home housemates to failed ghosts.
Moosavi followed with her soft-spoken voice, distracting the audience from her bold punchlines, including how she accidentally sent nudes to her girlfriend’s dad, and now he’s asking for more.
The two guest local comedians, McGillicuddy and Benton Harshaw, finished off the show.
Since their first show, it has attracted regulars such as Aubrey Zevallos, an avid comedy-goer, who says that it’s different than other venues. “It’s a very intimate, personal setting where you get to have more of a relationship with the comedians than you might with a public venue,” Zevallos says.
Unlike venues that have a drink minimum and lack comfy chairs, the living room provides an intimate setting that gives a sense of community. “It’s more cozier and intimate,” McGillicuddy says. “I knew a lot of people in the audience, so it felt like you’re in the living room doing comedy for friends.”
There haven’t been any hecklers, but if they do show up, Setnik and Moosavi are more than willing to put on their mom jeans. “If someone heckles us, I will just send them to my room,” Setnik said.
The comical pair will continue to host their show every third Friday. For Moosavi, it’s not only about having their own outlet to strengthen their comedy, but having the freedom to do it.
“A lot of comedy is waiting around, asking for permission and waiting for approval,” Moosavi said, “but it is ours, and it’s very empowering.”