Omaha’s New “Scene” Comes Alive
By Shout Omaha Staff
Omaha has seen an explosion of comedic prowess popping up all over the place lately. There have always been comedy clubs like The Funny Bone and Joker’s that feature comedians quite regularly, but it was nothing like it is today. The OK Party Comedy team more or less kickstarted a whole movement, so it’s more common to hear about a stand up comedian or improv class in the Omaha area. Backline Improv Theatre, Duffy’s Comedy Workshop and Collabo Comedy are just a few new endeavors aiding the cause. Collabo Comedy’s Dusty Stehl took a few minutes to talk a little bit about his craft. –Kyle Eustice
I see you majored in mathematics. How do you go from math to comedy?
I majored in mathematics because I was studying to be a math teacher. I decided my senior year that I didn’t want to be a teacher, so I just got the math degree. I now work as an underwriter for an insurance company, so I still get to use my math skills. If anything, majoring in mathematics trained my brain to think critically outside the box. I suppose I use those skills in comedy.
How did you end up in Omaha and how did you get connected with other like-minded individuals?
I moved to Omaha after college in 2008 and lived with a college buddy. I was working for my fraternity as a traveling consultant (did this for nine months before I started as an underwriter). In 2010, I started thinking about trying standup. A year later, I drove to Lincoln on a Monday night to attend Duffy’s Comedy Workshop. (I had Facebook-friended Richard Reese after seeing him at the Funny Bone in 2010. He’s the one who informed me about Duffy’s.) So the first time I did standup was July 2011. I talked with a few of the comics there and they told me about a Tuesday night open mic in Omaha. That’s where I ultimately met Zach Reinert and Stephen Smith. We have similar comedy goals, so becoming friends was easy. We eventually formed a “group” in early 2012 but had no idea what it actually meant. Jack Comstock started doing standup several months after we did and we asked him to join in June 2012 right before we did our first show.
What do you think about Omaha’s blossoming scene?
I am extremely excited about the comedy scene in Omaha! When I started, you could get quality stage time maybe twice a week – now you can get on stage nearly every night of the week. The talent level in this city is quite impressive and should be taken seriously. OK Party Comedy should be given a lot credit for helping the scene get to where it is. They also inspired us to form Collabo Comedy.
Did you come up with Collabo Comedy?
Originally, the name of our group was Collaboration Comedy. We helped each other with jokes and would sing “comedy collaboration” to the tune of “Troy and Abed in the Morning” from NBC’s Community. So Collaboration Comedy just made sense as a name. We only recently shortened the name to Collabo Comedy. We felt it would be much more marketable.
We started an open mic at the Barley Street Tavern in October 2012. It took a while to get it where it is today. At first, comics were allowed 12-15 minutes of stage time as we only a dozen or so comics showing up. After the first of the year though, attendance increased and now we average about 25 comics per week (5-6 minutes per set). We’ve had several people do standup for the first time at our open mic, including our fifth member, Kyle O’Reilly. This guy brings a style and energy previously unseen in the Omaha comedy scene, so was a great fit for the group.
What do you like about being on stage? What is comedy?
I like being able to be myself on stage. I can say/do the things I want to say/do but can’t say/do at my job or in public. Standup has been an outlet for me to truly be myself and even discover further who o truly am. It helps to be surrounded by like-minded people (Collabo Comedy guys). There is no better feeling than making a room full of complete strangers laugh by something you said into a microphone. Standup is one of the few remaining forms of actually connecting with people. That’s pretty special.
Are you participating in Comedy Week? If so, what are you looking forward to?
Collabo Comedy is having a standup showcase at the Barley Street Tavern on Wednesday, July 17 for Omaha Comedy Week. The weekly open will follow. Omaha Comedy Week 2012 opened me to the world of improv and, in my opinion, created a great relationship between the different forms of comedy in the city. I look forward to showcasing the scene’s talent and gaining new fans/performers this year.
What do you think of the comedians that just go up there and take cheap shots at the audience?
I don’t really care what someone does on stage as long as it’s funny. I don’t believe in censoring people. I don’t think any topic is off-limits. But if you go up there and talk about a touchy subject and it’s not funny, the audience will let you know. As far as “cheap shots” go, it depends. Did that particular audience member deserve it? Was it funny? Again, I’m okay with anything as long as it’s funny and doesn’t ultimately destroy an audience member’s comedy fandom.
What is the future of Omaha comedy?
The future of Omaha comedy is bright. The scene is still very young – only about two years old. Collabo Comedy, OK Party Comedy, and the individual comedians are working hard and getting better all the time. The growth in the past two years has been amazing! I can’t wait to see where we’re at in two more years!
Do you ever get nervous before a performance?
I rarely get nervous anymore. The last time I got nervous was before my set at OK Party’s From Comedy Festival back in May. There were comics there from all over the country and I was taking some risks by doing some of my goofier off-the-wall material. I wasn’t nervous of the crowd, but of my peers. All was well in the end – I didn’t suck. When I do get nervous, I just tell myself to go up there and have fun. If you can connect the fun the crowd right away, you’ll be fine. Oh, and I also get a bit nervous at the Funny Bone – especially when the room is packed. There can be a lot riding on your performance – future gigs, connections with professional comics, etc.