What could be more romantic than a small black room filled with 90 people laughing? Especially if your idea of romance is casual food and dress over fancy, and lacks flowers but includes chocolate. Turns out the Backdoor Comedy Club's Valentine's Day Comedy Celebration show can be a dandy fine way to get you in the mood. Backdoor pulled it off by mostly ignoring the holiday all together, except for the free chocolate and champagne, plus a somewhat charming stuffed bear giveaway. One comic made his singleness a big part of his act, but otherwise it was a refreshing respite from the romance-industrial complex.
A hot box of humor, Backdoor Comedy Club has become a stand-up incubator in recent years as proprietor Linda Stogner edges into that stratum of finely honed top-shelf comics. The show presented a series of up and coming comics—Byron Stamps, Craig Coleman, Jan Norton and Ryan Perrio—plus Stogner and co-headliner Dean Lewis. Emcee Johnny Elbow kept things moving along at a too-fast clip, with not enough buffering between acts, since a couple of the warm-up comics left the audience needing some mood lifting. Elbow's wife, Sherry Belle, a colleague with Stogner in Four Funny Females, kicked off the show well, but wish she'd had more time to develop her act. Always love her routine of spiking the stapler after a job well done at the office, complete with knee-knocking football touchdown dance.
While all the warm-ups were good—you've got to work your way up the comic pecking order to snag a gig this good—the seven-minute sets mostly featured strung-together bits. The standout of the night was Ryan Perrio, with a slightly lost, put-upon persona that seemed like his authentic self. The 2010 finalist for the Funniest Comic in Texas focused on just two routines, starting with a charming, sweet and true elucidation on having a gay dad. His routine on GPS systems with consciousness was original and bright, including a GPS with angst and a GPS that imparted street wisdom on the neighborhood you were passing through, or worse, lost in. The rather tipsy fellow behind me who kept up a running commentary on the parade of comics responded with an enthusiastic "That's good stuff!" to Perrio.
Stogner was clearly an audience favorite. After setting her spaced-out, Southern and surreal persona for a few minutes with her routines on communicating with mechanics and T-boning a speeding train, she detailed being robbed while in her car and disappointing the thief with the take: "What? Did you see my '93 Honda and think 'Jackpot!'?" Tapping into her spastic physical humor that makes the most of her wirey body was a final routine on trial and error process of learning to jump start a car and how she learned what the term "to ground" means, but not before nearly electrocuting a squirrel.
Dean Lewis drove down Central Expressway from McKinney for the show: "My middle finger is killing me." He turned in an extremely lean and dense act with no pauses, provoking a continual round of chuckles punctuated by guffaws—can't get much better than that. He's got a knack for making the inoffensive interesting, giving a quirky edge to single parenthood and middle-aged weigh gain. On giving up bread: "When you wake up covered in crumbs and twisty ties it's a cry for help." He concluded his set with a bit on Wal-milk cows and I still can't get the imagery out of my head.
◊ The Backdoor Comedy Club is in the Doubletree Hotel at Central Expressway and Northwest Highway, and has shows Friday and Saturday nights and an open mic on Thursdays. Call 214-328-4444 for reservations.