Local comedians shake up Denton

Local comedians shake up Denton

Local comedians shake up Denton
June 14
09:25 2017

In a city known for its art and music, a group of locals use their voice in a whole new way through comedy.

Tony Casillas, 22, is one of the many comedians roaming Denton, looking for new opportunities to make people smile.

“It’s a cool life,” Casillas said, laughing. “As soon as I get off the stage I want to get right back on.”

A UNT undergraduate in media arts, Casillas came to the Denton comedy scene a year ago and quickly became entranced by the unique community and its audience.

“We’re a big group of misfits,” Casillas said. “That’s what I love about our scene. There are so many different types of people, from energetic and goofy to bitter and sarcastic.”

The comedic community meets regularly for open mics and showcases around Denton, with occasional shows in Dallas. Open mics are free events where rookies and regulars alike sign up to perform a five-minute act to whatever audience is at the venue that day. These acts are a time for comedians to shake out nerves before showcases and to try out jokes on audience members.

Joey Johnson, 26, who goes by stage name Joe Coffee, hosts and performs at the Bearded Monk’s open mic every Sunday evening.

“When I moved out here there was not a lot of comedy [in Denton] just mainly music and it’s growing so that’s cool,” Coffee said. “I helped cultivate the scene, and the community is starting to recognize us.”

Though the open mic acts are short, Casillas knows personally how one act can affect someone’s life. In one of his first performances last August, an audience member approached him after his set and changed his life.

“She told me that her mom had killed herself a month ago, and this is the first time she’s left the house in weeks,” Casillas said. “She said she could just forget about it for that time and just laugh. Just to have five minutes to affect a person like that was really cool.”

At the Bearded Monk’s weekly open mic night in Denton, TX, amateur comedian Colton Jones, 23, shares some jokes with the crowd. Jones is a regular to the Denton comedy scene, normally running “Convenient Comedy” night at Midway Craft House. Katie Jenkins

In that moment, comedy became much more than a hobby to Casillas. Comedy became a way of living.

“Performing in front of bigger crowds and being around full-time comedians makes you want to adopt it as a lifestyle,” Casillas said, beaming.

Casillas now aspires to host his own late-night television show similar to Jimmy Fallon or Conan O’Brien.

Colton Jones, 23, is also pursuing comedy as a career, and will do anything to achieve his dream.

“As you can see, I’m wearing my work clothes,” Jones said, jokingly motioning to his attire. “I only wash dishes so I can afford to do comedy.”

Once pursuing a degree in theater at TWU, Jones now pours his time into the community through his comedy and has personally seen its benefits.

“Comedy is just so satisfying artistically,” Jones said. “It’s just a stage and a microphone. You can go up there and do whatever you want.”

Jones hopes to see more of the Denton community and venues support their art by both attending and hosting open mics and showcases.

He’s not alone in that wish. A majority of the local comedians have noticed the drop in some venues, particularly the open mic nights.

“Comedy is a huge part of the art scene here,” Coffee said. “Our showcases do well mainly because of promotion, and our open mics vary on whatever venue or night happens to have more people.”

Though the turnout is declining, the community stays hopeful that Denton will return to its roots and begin supporting local comedians again.

“It’s kind of disheartening because Denton is supposed to be a town of supporting local art,” Casillas said. “It would be cool to see Denton come back. Because without an audience, comedy is just a ridiculous man speaking into a microphone.”

Featured Image: On Sunday June 11, Host Joey Johnson, 26, aka “Joe Coffee” welcomes guests to The Bearded Monk’s comedy night, where Dentonites can take a crack at stand-up comedy. The performers were given a mic, a small stool and five minutes to perform their sets to a live crowd. Katie Jenkins

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Kayla Henson

Kayla Henson

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