Dallas — Starting and running a comedy club, or any comedic business endeavor, is about as far from a slam dunk as you can get. Comedy clubs have come and gone out of the Metroplex countless times over the last decade or two. It’s getting no easier, either: Since 2015, legendary comedy and improv theaters like iO West in Los Angeles, Gotham Improv in New York, and Punchlines in Atlanta, have all shuttered.
That’s what makes the feat of Linda Stogner and Jan Norton, who founded and operate Backdoor Comedy, all the more impressive; the club is about 30 years old and still going strong.
Not that they haven’t had their ups and downs. They have moved more than a military family, from bowling alleys (the same one twice, non-consecutively) to pizza places to my favorite, a feed store—among other venues.
These days, they comfortably lived in the Hilton Doubletree in Dallas (off Intertate 75, between Lovers Lane and Northwest Highway), with an open mic on Thursdays and standup showcases Friday and Saturday.
A showcase is slightly different than the conventional 2-3 openers followed by a headliner booked weeks in advance. There are many more comics, and they are given less time. This comic isn’t your style? Wait a few minutes.
It’s a format with superficial similarities to an open mic, which Norton is quick to clarify. “People think a showcase is like an open mic or a bar show, or just amateur comics just telling dirty jokes.”
But, Norton and Stogner want you to know, that’s not the case at Backdoor. These are pros, working comics, and many of them have been incubated and developed at Backdoor over the years. They underscore that it’s not a “clean” show (and it’s not), but they aren’t looking for guys who just want to out-gross each other.
“We are very nurturing and we are proud of that. We’ve always believed in comedy,” says Norton. Stogner likens them to NYC’s Comedy Cellar of yesteryear (they’re still open but things have changed), who have churned out so very many of the country’s most beloved comics.
Cristela Alonzo, Tone Bell, Johnny Hardwick, J.B. Cook, and Justin Navarro all went through standup puberty at Backdoor, and even non-locals such as David Spade will drop in to workshop material. They are open to such drop-ins from those who have earned it, which prevents them from putting out, say, a calendar of events. All of this serves to give Backdoor a stripe of authenticity hard to find in other Dallas standup venues.
But you don’t care about that, you wonder if a good time and laughter is to be had.
Well, on Oct. 19, it sure was. I loved Adrian Lara’s joke about being mistakenly profiled as white by the police. David Griffin was a master of the unexpected punch line, and Asher Allen’s joke about his stream of consciousness while high, wondering if X ever did give it to him, might have been my favorite joke of the night.
If THAT wasn’t my favorite line, then T.V. Corrales’s “I love women. The only thing I love more than women is hyperbole” was. Matt McInnis sounds like Dave Chappelle and references apple juice like Hannibal Burress. Dave Little was so great and so at home doing nothing but crowd work. D.D. Ingram was the biggest crowd pleaser by my estimation.
Stogner, long one of my favorites, reminded me why with her set. Norton, M.J. Moody, Johnny Elbow, Sheridi Lester, KeLanna Spiller, Ryan Perrio, and closer Paul Varghese all brought it. It’s really a steal that you can see so many all-stars for just $14 every Friday and Saturday night.
» Backdoor Comedy Club is located at 8250 N Central Expressway in Dallas. Open mike is 8:30 p.m. Thursdays; the Friday showcase is at 9 p.m.; and Saturday has two shows, at 8 and 10:15 p.m.