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Comedy On Fire Blazing

At Firehouse Gallery

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With Nine Successful Shows Behind Them, Matt Micheletti And The Comedy On Fire Crew Are Ready To Light Up Number 10

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By Jeff Moses
Modern Times Magazine

Jan. 29, 2014 — In an attempt to break with the comedy club tradition, Phoenix-based standup comic Matt Micheletti has taken comedy out of the dimly lit downtown bars and put it into a stalwart Phoenix art gallery and performance space.

For the past nine months, Micheletti has been hosting, booking, and promoting Comedy on Fire at The Firehouse Gallery, 1015 N. First St., every fourth Friday with number 10 just around the corner, on Jan. 31.

The idea, like so many great do-it-yourself ideas before it,  was born out of boredom. That is, boredom with the mundane established institutions of the traditional comedy circuit.

“My idea for Comedy on Fire honestly came from doing comedy for about a year and realizing that the rooms were getting the same kind of people. The same acts every time performing the same things over and over again,” said Micheletti.

In hoping to build a more lively comedy show in Phoenix, Micheletti turned to Michael and Joanna 23 of the Firehouse to bring stand up to a brand-new venue with a totally different crowd and comedic taste.

“I wanted to bring comics to a room that excited them to bring something a little different. Maybe something a little risque, or a little more off topic than most stand-up comedy shows, really just more diverse,” said Micheletti, who has performed at each of the nine events.

The Firehouse, which is legendary in its own right, was chosen because of its reputation as a place willing to push the boundaries of what is considered to be art. Not only does the venue host Phoenix’s longest running sketch comedy show, First Friday Night Live, it also is home to Firestage, the self-titled “widest variety show in Phoenix,” as well as The Arthouse, which is a webseries based on the goings-on at Firehouse, and an organic poetry night which is sort of a new take on an open mic format.

Comedy on Fire almost seems like a natural progression for a place that has been so welcoming to many different forms of art, and the show does not come without its own push on the boundaries of artistic expression. One of the previous Comedy on Fire events featured a comic in a KKK hood telling non-offensive jokes. Another saw a comic get into some hot water with local LGBTQ activist Ira Bohm-Sanchez for making jokes at the expense of transsexual people.

Sanchez stormed the stage and seized the microphone in an effort to silence the comedian. The stunned comic babbled a bit more before Micheletti retook the stage, calmed the situation, and introduced the next comic. But, admittedly, instances like that are what make DIY comedy more participatory than a standard night-club show.

The show, like most regularly scheduled events, has seen its ups and downs. The first few seemed to be only attended by the performers and their friends, but as word spread the audience diversified, and over time eventually became quite acceptable.

For their October show, Micheletti was able to attract 93.9 FM radio personality Kevin Gassman, as well as weed hip-hop comedy guru Supa Joint, ukulele-toting coffee shop cowboy Andy Warpigs, and Phoenix-based funk band Bacchus and The Demon Sluts. The music-filled comedy night made for an audience of 80 to 100 people, according to Micheletti.

“Honestly, the night we had Supa Joint, he was our musical guest and he brought a huge crowd probably 40 or 50 people just for him. It was cool that they didn’t just see Supa Joint and bail. They stuck around for an hour and half after Supa Joint, it was an amazing experience. It was the biggest crowd we’ve pulled so far,” Micheletti said.

To follow that show up, they invited another comedy/music act, Page The Village Idiot, which also made for a well-attended comedy event.

The show asks for a $5 donation, though no one is turned away. All of the money goes back into the Firehouse to help pay for other events, like First Friday Night Live. Comedy on Fire 10 is coming up on Jan. 31, and will feature James Hoenscheidt,  Bacchus Hooten, Kristen Alberts, and Kass McPherson among many other performers. The show begins at 9 p.m.

Jeff Moses a senior contributor at Modern Times Magazine. He can be reached at jmoses@moderntimesmagazine.com.
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