Every weekday evening U Street Northwest floods with people looking for some after-work stress relief. As soon as you pass through the 13th and U Street metro gates, the artwork leading to the outside acts as a moving showcase of what’s available at the top of the escalator. Musicians, dancers, singers, even martial arts fighters accompany your walk down the tunnel but one scene the mural is missing, however, is a group of people gripping their stomachs from gut-busting laughter.
Don’t feel like working out? Hate the thought of getting hit on? Maybe you’re not much of a drinker. The comedy troupe, L.Y.G.O (Laughing Your Grits Off), is like a hidden jewel among the strip’s vast treasure trove.
I joined their Wednesday evening audience on February 6, 2013 at the British-themed pub, Codmother, at 1334 U Street N.W. I like to drink and get hit on but I was curious as to what was attracting standing-room only attendance on a weeknight. I was pleasantly surprised to see the show preceded by a beautiful rendition of India Arie’s “Because I Am A Queen” delivered by rising star, Nazhoni, with the show’s manager, Richard Bennett, on guitar. I don’t know if it was because I was in a mood to laugh but seeing Rich in a full suit on guitar totally put me in the mind of Bill Clinton on the saxophone.
Nonetheless, the duo did an excellent job of conjuring the spirit-calming soulfulness of the original song and gently prepared us for the following two hours of laughs.
Sara Armour was the evening’s host.
Her bubbly, self-effacing personality kept me on the edge of my seat every time she took the stage because you never can quite guess what she’s going to say next. And, no, I don’t like her just because we share the same name! She kept me laughing and relating her comedy to my personal life as she made fun of her background, her dental work and her sex life. I almost died when she started praying in Hebrew. If you can’t catch her on a Wednesday evening, she is a regular at the L.Y.G.O Sunday brunch shows.
Check Sara out on You Tube, Sara Armour – Stand-Up – Topaz Hotel
Sara introduced M.K. Paulsen as the first act after her opener. M.K. is the self-proclaimed “thought leader on dick jokes.” Let’s face reality. Comedy is not for the sensitive or uptight and by the time M.K. was done I stopped feeling guilty about downing cranberry vodkas under a framed pro-prohibition photograph nailed above my table.
M.K. came across as the kind of comedian that doesn’t need to write anything. Saying what’s on his mind at the spur of a moment makes him naturally hilarious. After sporting his homosexuality as a badge of honor, M.K. unabashedly made fun of lesbians. LOL Much like me and true to blogger style M.K. coins his own terms. Feeling enthusiastic about something? M.K. would say you’ve got “Tits Out”. Dude’s just funny. He currently produces a show called Gaylarious at Lakazbah Lounge at 2147 P St. N.W. and you can click on his blog here, The Hilar.
Next up was Mariya Alexander. I wasn’t too sure at first where to place her comedy mentally but my interest in sociology was piqued when she started to explain nuances of her upbringing in Russia and the differences she notices with American culture. Clearly a seasoned professional, Mariya can talk without breaks and every sentence leads effortlessly into another joke on a totally different subject.
So comfortable in her own skin, Mariya finished her set with a dance-off with Sara before the next act came on stage. Check out her podcast at The Mariya Alexander Show.
L.Y.G.O. promises a full show giving patrons their money’s worth with three main acts before the headliner. Every act seemed to be more experienced than the next. Third up was Tyler Richardson. If you are native to the D.C. area, you may appreciate his comedy the most.
Tyler’s face is half-way smiling through his entire set and listening to the inner workings of his mind made my stomach hurt especially when he took us down the journey of being lost on the D.C. metro system under the influence of marijuana. Also, I don’t know if he arranged his material around the fact that he was performing after several other people but his show was entirely interactive. He engaged us with a leader’s “call and response” format and made eye contact with audience members while he asked “on the spot” questions. I was delightfully shocked to hear racial comedy that black people usually keep to themselves. I recommend going to see him if only to find out the value of a good “Bernard Johnson”.
Tyler Richardson performs at the D.C. Improv (1140 Connecticut Ave. N.W.) the weekend of Valentine’s Day and will host the March 15, 2013 show at State Theater (220 N. Washington St. Falls Church, VA). Catch him here on You Tube, Capital Comedy Connection – Tyler Richardson.
Tyler was followed up by the headlining act for the evening, Mr. Doug Powell. With a 10-year history of working all over the country you may have heard him somewhere like maybe the Friars Club in Beverly Hills or on Sirius Satellite Radio’s Raw Dog Comedy Station. He even has an album/DVD titled “I Am You An Hour from Now.” There is nothing like a live performance though.
Now I know Doug was speaking to an audience full of people but I felt like he was just talking to me. That’s how personal his communication style is like he’s talking to his best friend. Doug knows his best friend smokes weed too. His best friend is around the same age as he is. His best friend can relate to the difficulty in steering your kids away from drugs and trying to get them to value a school system that you yourself take issue with. You don’t just laugh with Doug. You empathize with him because although you never told anybody, you went through these same things just last week. When listening to Doug Powell, you will laugh regardless of race, sexual orientation, or upbringing because he touches on life experiences we all go through as human beings, especially those of the “not-afraid-to-experiment-with-life” variety.
Check out Doug Powell on You Tube, Doug Powell – “Banana Holder”
To conclude, the “Laughing Your Grits Off” troupe offers a full line up of professional comedians who appeal to a diverse audience. Shows feature both live music and intermission lead-in music from DJ Kyotey Grey of the Reluctant Yuppies. Tickets are only $10 for two hours of solid entertainment. To learn more about the comedians and the L.Y.G.O performance schedule, visit http://lygodc.com/.