Stand Up for Sketch Comedy at Club Cafe

Ron Placone and friends want to elevate your expectation of a comedy show.

The recent boom in Pittsburgh’s comedy scene can be attributed to a lot of things. The internet makes it easier for up-and-comers to get the word out and share their work. More bars are happy to fill a weeknight or two with a comedy open mic than ever before. Institutions like the Steel City Improv Theater and the South Side’s Corner Cafe have given funny people a regular home.

But more than anything, the scene in Pittsburgh is booming because talented, hilarious young performers are choosing to stay in Pittsburgh. Or, in many cases, return.

Among the many comics who have circled back to Pittsburgh, Ron Placone may be the performer who has most fully embraced his hometown’s stages. Having honed his skills during four years living in Seattle, he’s become a permanent fixture at local open mic nights, sometimes performing on multiple shows in a single night, always eager to try out a new bit. He’s appeared throughout the region and regularly at gigs in Ohio and West Virginia, and popped up on the WDVE Morning Show. And, for the past five years, presented Holiday HAHA, one of the year’s last big comedy events.

“I always came back [from Seattle] for the holidays, so I started to do a show—an opportunity for friends and family to come see me,” Placone says. “And ever since I moved back, I decided I wanted to make it something a little more special.”

With so many comics and shows filling up the calendar, though, making a show stand out takes a little bit more effort. So for last year’s event, Placone gathered a collection of friends to add some sketch comedy to the show.

“We have an interwoven theme with sketches and stand-up. Even a little bit of music this year.”

The music will be courtesy of Congressmen on Craigslist, a debuting folk-punk-comedy trio led by Placone. He’ll be joined by fellow comic Mark McCall and longtime jazz drummer Brian Davis.

Placone will perform a stand-up set, as will host Derek Minto, known locally for both stand-up and his weekly comedy podcast, “Haters for Hire.” They’ll be joined by Andy Picarro, a New York-based comedian who’s appeared alongside stand-up heavyweights like Louis C.K.

“Andy’s very funny,” Placone says. “His style is very tight and concise.”

The sketches were born out of a collaboration between a broad group of writers and performers eager to try out something new. Along with Placone, McCall and Minto, contributions were made by local talents Ben Kenny, John Pridmore, Molly Sharrow and Zach Simons.

Expanding the medium beyond a simple series of comics brings challenges to all involved, Placone explains. “We need to treat it like an actual theatrical production. Last year, we had to do an announcement to tell people they couldn’t sit in the aisles and things like that. It’s a lot more work, and you have to be mindful that that’s the kind of show that it is. The biggest challenge, though, is for the person hosting. They need to be the glue that makes sure that it runs the way it has to run.”

But those challenges will arise with just about anything that’s worth doing. And thanks to the efforts of Placone and his fellow performers, there’s more room than ever for pushing the envelope.

“You see these shows in New York and Los Angeles. There were shows like this in Seattle somewhat regularly. I thought it’d be cool to do something like that here in Pittsburgh, because it seems like it’s not something that really happens often.”

(Club Cafe, 56-58 S 12th St, South Side. Friday, 7 p.m. $5 in advance, $7 at the door. 21+. Info and tickets: clubcafelive.com)

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