Comedian Daniel Reskin is celebrating his 26th birthday with a ukulele-wielding lesbian singing a little ditty about joining the Christian right to piss off her ex-girlfriend. This display does not disrupt his celebration. In fact, it's very much a part of it. Reskin is in the midst of hosting the birthday edition of his monthly, Casa De Ha-Ha comedy showcase. The evening's theme is musical comedy and alongside the uku-lesbian, the evening features similarly quirky singer/songwriter gags, like one comic who changes the lyric "...the lion sleeps tonight" to "the lion poops tonight."
In the spirit of DIY punk, Casa De Ha-Ha exists outside of the trappings of institutional comedy. As it approaches its third year, the showcase is a cornerstone of South Florida indie humor circuit, but it's no longer the only such comedy event in town. Jessica Gross, a regular at Casa de Ha-Ha, is launching a comedy night next month at Lester's.
Casa de Ha-Ha at Sweat Records
Reskin got into comedy after he graduated college from USF, spending a year working the circuit in Tampa. But rather than fixate on some kind of bloodthirsty comedy ascendance, Reskin simply decided to do it himself and host his own event at sister Lauren Reskin's Sweat Records.
By existing outside of the usual network, Casa is able to avoid many of the more expensive and/or tedious elements of comedy, like patronage minimums for comics (bring X number of audience members), or covers and drink minimums for patrons.
Plus Reskin had a guaranteed place to perform, the opportunity to book friends and peers, and the ability to give a shot to novices. "We put up first-timers all the time," Reskin says, adding that he'll book just about anyone "that asks nicely. The show has a reputation," he says, "[for hosting] a hip smart crowd. It's in an indie record store, it has that feel. It's a looser show."
While the night features its fair share of pop culture analysis and provocative subject matter, Casa comics exude a wry and quirky social awareness. For instance, Reskin has a bit in his routine about living and working in Little Haiti as a young, white, aspiring comic who waits tables during the day.
Moustache Ride at Lester's
"All Miami likes is dick and fart jokes," says Jessica Gross, Casa De Ha-Ha comedian and curator for the upcoming Moustache Ride comedy show at Lester's. "Not that those aren't great," she adds. But like Reskin, Gross is interested in getting intellectual. The comedians met while slogging it out in the same discouraging South Florida comedy clubs.
Reskin compares Gross's humor to "the sparkling wit of a thousand bottles of champagne" and describes her act with one line: "'Hey everybody, guess what I have in my pants. Here's a hint: It's not a penis." Gross soon became a regular at Casa. Now, she is gearing up to host her own night.
The idea for Moustache Ride came out of Gross's appreciation for the newly opened Lester's and the mounting success of Casa De Ha-Ha's alternative venue format. "Smaller rooms get to see a comedian develop," she says. "It's like seeing a local band: you follow them around and then you brag about seeing them when they first started out."
Gross explains that in the age of Zach Galifianakis, the borders between conventional comedy and some kind of "alt" comedy may be evaporating completely. While this may result in more indie/hip types to show up to events at Coconut Grove's Improv outpost, it may also be a sign of a sub-demographic within comedy who will continue to forego the traditional comedy apparatus.
While Casa is a three-hour salon, often featuring last-minute guests and first-timers, Gross envisions Moustache Ride as a more tightly curated hour-and-a-half. And, of course, Reskin will be performing at the inaugural edition.
As far as her own personal moustache preferences, Gross is quick to assert she loves a good handlebar. "I would totally wear a handlebar moustache. I'd be obnoxious about it and ride a motorcycle. I just sounded like such a lesbian."
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