Standing Up for Themselves

A group of young stand-up comics is trying to revitalize the local comedy scene by cracking up a tough crowd — each other.

As she one-gulps a last-minute gin and tonic to calm her nerves, Carly Albert hears her name called. This is her chance. After months of pursuing her newly discovered passion for stand-up comedy in front of small handfuls of people at local open-mic nights, she now has three minutes to make 40 paying customers laugh.

Three minutes of her most finely tuned jokes later, there's not a single chuckle.

"It was awful," says Albert of her debut performance at the Royal Comedy Club in Castle Shannon. "My material was completely out of place. It was an older crowd, and older crowds generally look for what's familiar."

Albert, who has been performing on the local stand-up scene for the past nine months, calls her brand of comedy dark, surreal and self-deprecating. Anything but familiar. But that unfamiliarity, the desire to bring the audience out of its comfort zone, is exactly what the 28-year-old Munhall native strives for.

comic

Photo by Becky Thurner Braddock

Carly Albert, 28, works a small audience during a local open-mic night.

"I grew up feeling like George Carlin was my father," Albert says of her idol. "But I was a shy kid, so being up on stage was a really big step."

Like many of her fellow Pittsburgh comics, Albert works various service-industry jobs to make ends meet and spends hours a night at coffee shops huddled over a steaming cup and a yellow notepad scribbling potential jokes. It wasn't until last year that she worked up the courage to take the stage at an open mic at St. James Place Tavern on the South Side.

"The first time was terrifying, and I was horrible," recalls Albert. "I didn't look at the audience. The mic didn't really work. I don't think people laughed. But I did it, and when it was over, I had so much relief and pride and self-satisfaction."

Now, Albert says she is addicted to performing. She frequents the region's burgeoning open-mic circuit-Duke's Station in Bethel Park on Mondays, Papa J's downtown and the Smiling Moose on the South Side on Tuesdays and the Royal Place on Thursdays. With each performance comes confidence. With confidence, ambition.

"I hope to just keep getting better," says Albert. "Get some more opening gigs for more established comics, start hosting some open-mic nights and eventually move to a place like New York or San Francisco with a bigger market for stand-up."

Chris Ciardi, Albert's uncle and fellow comic, manages the Royal Comedy Club and serves as a pillar of support for Albert's aspirations.

"This is a classroom," Ciardi says of the open-mic night there. "Everyone needs a place to 'hone their funny' and decide whether they can be a comic or should go into cement working," he says, quickly quipping, "and a lot of these fine young people would make excellent contractors."

Albert and few dozen other young local comics craft their routines at such sparsely attended open-mic nights where they often find themselves performing only for each other.

"It's a process," says three-year veteran Ron Placone, 25. "You think something's funny, and you come to these open mics and try it out in front of all these comics. Then you realize it's not that funny. But we all grow and get better from it."

Back on the silent Royal Place stage, Albert reaches deep into her yellow notepad for a one-liner to salvage the night: "Somewhere in the world," she ponders, "there must be a male escort service called Peter Sellers."

Finally, laughter. Albert gets woozy with adrenaline.

"It lasts long enough to get you to the next gig," she says.

Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

Top 10 Things to Do in Pittsburgh in October

Top 10 Things to Do in Pittsburgh in October

This month's best bets in The 'Burgh.
The 10 Brands That Built Pittsburgh

The 10 Brands That Built Pittsburgh

From glass and aluminum to ketchup and candy, Pittsburgh has made its mark, thanks in large part to the instantly recognizable brands that remain etched not merely on its buildings — but on its DNA. We look at 10 of those brands and explore how they helped to establish and define the Steel City.
Wheels Up? What's Next for PIT

Wheels Up? What's Next for PIT

Under a new CEO, Pittsburgh International Airport heads into its 25th year while attempting to woo flyers and flights and leave its empty, post-hub days behind.
Pittsburgh's Connection to an Out-of-This-World View of Space

Pittsburgh's Connection to an Out-of-This-World View of Space

Three men at NASA serve pivotal roles in maintaining the Hubble Space Telescope, which has been taking high-resolution photos of deep space form more than 25 years. And they're all from Pittsburgh.
Edit ModuleShow Tags

The 412

See it Now: Trailer for Filmed-in-Pittsburgh “Fences”

See it Now: Trailer for Filmed-in-Pittsburgh “Fences”

Directed and starring Denzel Washington, the first big screen treatment of August Wilson's Pulitzer Prize-winning play arrives in theaters on Christmas Day.
2016 Athena Award Winners Announced

2016 Athena Award Winners Announced

Named for the Greek goddess of strength and wisdom, the ATHENA Awards are unique among regional honors for professional women because of the focus on developing the next generation of leaders through mentorship.
Watch: Tributes and More For Golfing Great Arnold Palmer

Watch: Tributes and More For Golfing Great Arnold Palmer

The golf icon from Latrobe, Pa. died Sunday of complications from heart problems.
9 Things to Know About The North Park Water Tower

9 Things to Know About The North Park Water Tower

Thanks to Rick Sebak, we have some rare pictures of the view from the top.

Sign Up for the 412 e-Newsletter

 

Our daily e-newsletter is curated by the editors of Pittsburgh Magazine and is designed to give you the very best Pittsburgh has to offer -- delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign me up!
* Email
 First Name
 Last Name
  * = Required Field
 
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

Top 10 Things to Do in Pittsburgh in October

Top 10 Things to Do in Pittsburgh in October

This month's best bets in The 'Burgh.
The 10 Brands That Built Pittsburgh

The 10 Brands That Built Pittsburgh

From glass and aluminum to ketchup and candy, Pittsburgh has made its mark, thanks in large part to the instantly recognizable brands that remain etched not merely on its buildings — but on its DNA. We look at 10 of those brands and explore how they helped to establish and define the Steel City.
Wheels Up? What's Next for PIT

Wheels Up? What's Next for PIT

Under a new CEO, Pittsburgh International Airport heads into its 25th year while attempting to woo flyers and flights and leave its empty, post-hub days behind.
Pittsburgh's Connection to an Out-of-This-World View of Space

Pittsburgh's Connection to an Out-of-This-World View of Space

Three men at NASA serve pivotal roles in maintaining the Hubble Space Telescope, which has been taking high-resolution photos of deep space form more than 25 years. And they're all from Pittsburgh.
Dish Review: Bar Marco's Turnaround

Dish Review: Bar Marco's Turnaround

The Strip District eatery overcomes tumult and once again is one of Pittsburgh’s finest restaurants.
Talk of The Tahn: Weird Things We Do that Make Pittsburgh Wonderful

Talk of The Tahn: Weird Things We Do that Make Pittsburgh Wonderful

The things that are best about us? They’re not things. They’re ways.
Edit Module

Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

On the Blogs


See it Now: Trailer for Filmed-in-Pittsburgh “Fences”

See it Now: Trailer for Filmed-in-Pittsburgh “Fences”

Directed and starring Denzel Washington, the first big screen treatment of August Wilson's Pulitzer Prize-winning play arrives in theaters on Christmas Day.

Comments


Pittsburgh, only cooler
PittGirl: How You Should Grade A Squishy Tongue

PittGirl: How You Should Grade A Squishy Tongue

Kennywood Park opens soon and new this season is the return of the famed whale at the entrance of Noah’s Ark. In the name of science, PittGirl paid an early visit to test the squishiness quotient of the whale's all-important tongue.

Comments


All the foodie news that's fit to blog
Dinette's Sonja Finn to Helm New Restaurant at Carnegie Museums in Oakland

Dinette's Sonja Finn to Helm New Restaurant at Carnegie Museums in Oakland

Finn and chef de cuisine Becca Hegarty to bring salads, sandwiches, house-baked bread, wine and more to the refurbished Café Carnegie.

Comments


Not just good stuff. Great stuff.
6 Best Restaurants for College Students in Pittsburgh

6 Best Restaurants for College Students in Pittsburgh

Easy access from universities, wallet-friendly prices and really good food make these our favorite choices for the university set.

Comments


Drinks With Some Spirits at Harmony Inn

Drinks With Some Spirits at Harmony Inn

The historic (and purportedly haunted) Harmony Inn is a fine stop for drinks and food.

Comments


Mike Prisuta's Sports Section

A weekly look at the games people are playing and the people who are playing them.
Pens Look Back and Ahead to Cap ‘Summer of Stan’

Pens Look Back and Ahead to Cap ‘Summer of Stan’

The puck drops for the opening of training camp on Friday, and once that happens the Penguins must transition from “champions” into “defending champions.”

Comments


Style. Design. Goods. Hide your credit card.
Work It

Work It

A new handbag from Sandra Cadavid’s is perfect for work — or play.

Comments


Sean Collier's Popcorn for Dinner

The movies that are playing in Pittsburgh –– and, more importantly, whether or not they're worth your time.
If All Remakes Were as Good as Magnificent Seven, We'd Really Love Remakes

If All Remakes Were as Good as Magnificent Seven, We'd Really Love Remakes

Reviews of the "Magnificent Seven" remake and "Storks," plus local movie news and notes.

Comments


Everything you need to know about getting married in Pittsburgh today.
A Laid-Back Love: Kelly McHolme and Bob Stasa

A Laid-Back Love: Kelly McHolme and Bob Stasa

This Pittsburgh couple wanted their guests to be just as content as they were at their wedding.

Comments


The latest tips and trends to refresh your home.
This Weekend: Annual Wilkinsburg House & Garden Tour

This Weekend: Annual Wilkinsburg House & Garden Tour

Also: If you’re looking to redo a room to invite relaxation, PPG Paints promises a wide variety of soothing colors for 2017.

Comments


The hottest topics in higher education
Duquesne University Inaugurates New President with Deep Pittsburgh Roots

Duquesne University Inaugurates New President with Deep Pittsburgh Roots

Ken Gormley began his new tenure by delivering good news to University employees.

Comments