Super Stacked

Every comedian experiences an off night when they just can’t orchestrate a positive response to any story, punch line, or antic. But if bombing kept every amateur comic from returning to the stage, there wouldn’t be any to create a comedy scene that begins to knit itself when fellow comedians find one another at open mics.

All four show producers—Ryan, Grayson, Tyler, and Austin—met at Caffé Frascati’s Wednesday Comedy Night Open Mic, run by fellow comedian Jorge Sanchez. “I met Grayson right before his first set three years ago,” Austin remembers. “I asked him, ‘How long have you been doing stand-up?’ He said, ‘I’m about to go up for my first set.’ I’m like, ‘That sucks, that’s scary.’ ” It’s exactly why comedians need one another. 

“Gradually, you meet more people you realize are starting to do exactly what you want to do,” Grayson says of the stand-up community here. In promising baby steps, these performers figure out how to create and regulate the stage time they’re starved for. The time allocation for most stand-up sets runs only three to five minutes, so reliable platforms for comics to test their crowd skills are in demand.

A free, quality comedy show like Super Stacked—run by comedians, for comedians, and for everyone else—brings local acts to their most receptive audience. With San Jose becoming one of the most expensive places to live, the demographic that thrives consists of mostly young professionals. “And they don’t want to spend money on just material things,” Ryan points out. “They want experiences. It’s right in front of them, in
the making.”

The beauty of a rising scene, as opposed to an established one, is its collaborative energy. In addition to producing Super Stacked, Tyler has a show at Santa Clara Valley Brewing, Ryan runs two brewery shows and one at a GameStop, and Austin hosts one in Livermore. “We’re spread out, tactically placed,” Tyler says of the local comedy shows that have popped up in the last few years—booming, but not oversaturated. Shows that run on the same night at different times are great for comedians who can hit multiple venues in one night.

The first Super Stacked show began with Ryan and Grayson driving down Lincoln Avenue, looking for a business to host their own comedy show. “We kept getting turned down by dive bars—we assumed we had to run it in a dive bar, where most stand-up takes place.” Once that assumption disappeared, they struck gold: walking around the complex containing Hapa’s Brewery, they found the woodshop run by Trevor Raineri, who agreed to using the space. They launched the show in January 2017, right after Sketchfest, the San Francisco comedy festival. “The first show was just all of our friends and family. After that we started advertising on Facebook, and we put a wooden board behind us as a backdrop. Over time I think people got really interested because it’s such a unique venue, a very hip wood store.”

For a South Bay comedian hunting for those lucrative opportunities to perform for an eager audience, Super Stacked now attracts about a hundred crowd members per show. The producers observe a mix of brewery clientele and Willow Glen residents in their regulars. “The location is six minutes from downtown San Jose and six minutes from downtown Willow Glen,” Tyler says. “You’ll find there are jokes half the crowd laughs at, the other half is like, ‘ehh,’ Ryan adds. “It’s like a slice of San Jose.”

To run the biweekly show, the four friends communicate online with a spreadsheet, rotating hosting duties, and each booking a comedian. The whole group vets each comedian they book, whether from San Jose or out of town. “We won’t book a comedian we don’t all think is funny…if some of their bits might be a bit too risky, or if the direction they’re headed might not be where our show’s headed,” Grayson says. The order is carefully curated, too: low-energy comics are staggered between comics with a flashier personality, and strong comedians open and end the show. 

The ingredients and formula have continued to bring magic. “We leave every show feeling like it’s the best one yet. You feel comfortable in the lineup, part of something bigger,” Tyler says. “Satisfaction comes from people coming out and telling us they enjoyed the show.” That energy promotes quality. “You want to work really hard for it,” Austin says. “I like to put on a show for people that I would like to see myself,” Grayson sums up. “I’m going to try to make somebody’s day, make somebody happy.” 

Written by Esther Young
Photography by Daniel Garcia

Every other Saturday at
Studio by Terra Amico
460 Lincoln Avenue
San Jose, CA
Facebook: superstacked
Instagram: superstackedcomedy

This article originally appeared in Issue 11.1 “Sight and Sound”

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