Fans of Doug Stanhope might just want to thank local comedian (and erstwhile talent booker) Joel Ruiz for bringing the cutting-edge comic to Chattanooga. Stanhope had tested the waters of the local comedy scene before at the Comedy Catch and didn’t like the vibe. When he returned last year for a one-night stand at Lindsay Street Hall, where he’ll be performing on Tuesday, Aug. 7, he expected it to “suck,” in Ruiz’s words. “But the experience was positive,” says Ruiz. “He loved it, came to the after party and he’s been back (to JJ’s Bohemia) just to hang out.”
Such alternative venues as Lindsay Street and JJ’s might be key to attracting talents like Stanhope, whose abrasive humor attracts an edgier crowd than those who typically visit established comedy clubs. “I’ve been told by a lot of comics who come to JJ’s that it’s the comfort level that attracts them,” says Ruiz, a rising local comedian who has hosted the rock club’s comedy nights. People who go to comedy clubs are looking for “Tonight Show”-style humor, Ruiz says. “They come to clubs like JJ’s and venues like Lindsay Street because they are genuine comedy fans. There’s a higher intellectual plane to it—it’s not just language, comics feel more comfortable to try out new material.”
Ruiz himself finds comic sanctuary at JJ’s, where he has been honing his own stand-up act and hosting open-mic nights for the past three years. Last year, Ruiz branched out with comedians from Los Angeles for a two-week tour of the Southeast.
“I’ve tried to help broaden the scene,” he says. “When I started, it was nothing like what it is now. We have a big, supportive fan base in town and people come out to almost every show.”
It’s also cheaper, he says, than the comedy clubs, with no drink minimum, and a cover charge ranging from $5 to $8.
Ruiz likens his own comedy stylings run to that of Louis C.K. “I spin off myself,” he says. “It’s self-depricating humor, I usually make fun of myself, stuff that happens in my life, gaming weight, quitting jobs. I can do that pretty clean, and I don’t have to get too dirty or mean. I don’t have to say ‘fuck’ all the time. I sometimes think the whole audience is my therapist.”