The Wednesday "You Think You're Funny?" open-mic at Carrollton Station is the spiritual successor of several other mics from venues across town. But since 2008, when the Carrollton mic opened, it's been a nucleus for comedy in New Orleans, both literally (it's in the middle of the week) and as a dedicated mic to highlight local comics. The show is in the hands of comics Scotland Green and brothers Cassidy Henehan and Mike Henehan. Tonight, the mic celebrates its fourth anniversary.
Below the jump, Green and Cassidy Henehan talk standup, performing in New Orleans and the rollercoaster of an open mic — and further after the jump, Gambit talks to comic Dane Faucheux, a regular presence on local stages...
Henehan: (The show is run by) the same group of people — people would hand it off to each other. For me it was at True Brew in the Warehouse District. … I started in ’02.
Green: I guess it stopped after the hurricane.
Henehan: I guess it was going up until the storm. And then there wasn’t even really much of a lag before (the open mic at Lucy's Retired Surfer's Bar) was up and going after the storm, because there wasn’t that much going on. I think Lucy’s kitchen being open that early kind of had something to do with it. [laughs]
Green: Towards the end of those days, Bill Dykes and Dane Faucheax ran that show. They brought me in and they were making money, man. It was crazy. And we’re running these free shows. [laughs]
Henehan: Well, we’re more artistically…
Green: It’s not about the money, it’s about the beer. It’s about the drink tickets.
Henehan: All these people in it for the money? Their perspectives are all out of whack.
How long had you been performing before the show?
Henehan: I’m nine and a half years. … We went to high school (at Benjamin Franklin) together for two years but never talked to each other. You see us now, and it’s like, "Oh, those two…"
Green: "They must’ve grown up together." But no, we haven’t grown up.
Henehan: We plan on doing it someday. But it’s this guy, Mickey (Henehan), my younger brother, they worked together at a video store and did comic book crap and everything, and I remember one Mardi Gras six years ago, we’re both obnoxious...
Green: We’re doing our obnoxious Mardi Gras gimmicks at the same time, kind of, not butting heads, but it didn’t click.
Henehan: I learned to back off. And we let the light shine on the true star. So yeah, I kind of just started doing it, early 20s, thought about going to the mic, and a bunch of my friends left town, and you know, whatever, it wasn’t that bad, but there was nothing to do, and a $3 cover to watch the mic at True Brew, and free to go up. My friend Sean (Patton), he and I went out afterwards, and I had a new buddy. But I moved to New York five months after. … After the storm I came back for a year ... and I’ve been back here permanent for like two and a half years now.
And you’ve also been doing the show (Comedy Catastrophe) on Tuesdays at Lost Love Lounge.
Henehan: We’re at a year and a half now for that. ... It’s fun, and it’s smoke and mirrors and a lot of duct tape. A lot of ear meat in the sausages we make. It’s a lot of fucking cornflakes in the meatloaf. It’s like creating the illusion of the shows I used to do in New York. The free, downtown, alternative or whatever you want to call it. Those showcases — a free show that is low stakes but still takes putting on a good show very seriously. It’s not fucking glossy fliers and people talking about who’s going to be a headliner.
Green: It’s also a place where people come in town and have gone up.
Henehan: We’ve had multiple Emmy nominees — a lot of people who’ve lost to The Daily Show come and grace our stage down there. [laughs] We try and make that... this is fun. This is a party. You get 20 people go up, three lunatics, four kind of boring people, five people who are good…
Green: This is a mic, but we try to make it fun for the audience. For some reason people come to this — maybe they won't tonight because I said this.
Henehan: This mic is kind of for the audience. Tuesday, being a booked show, is kind of for the scene, the comics. It is a show we want to present as a showcase. There’s not a lot of things I’m good at, but I’ve probably been in charge of 1,000 free comedy shows nobody cares about. Two or three a week. It’s important to set the lineup a certain way, see a new kid, you like what he’s doing, to not be like, "Hey, you’re a hotshot, go do 20 minutes," (instead) give them a spot between people.
Green: Give them opportunity to get better. Realize what it is in a small comedy scene.
Henehan: Occasionally people will put on ambitious shows and get a good payday, but I feel like what we do is a little bit hurt by someone charging $20 that’s been doing it six months and they have a nice looking flyer, and people go see a $20 show, and it is awful. So I’m like, "Hey, come to a free show I’m working on," and they’re like, "Well, after the $20 show, the free show must be terrible." It’s a free show because there’s not a huge demand. We could charge a little bit. Sometimes we do. But it’s more about making sure the demand is still there. We can’t rent out a studio and jam. We need an audience. If we do rent out a studio and jam, kind of like what we did at a show (on Feb. 11)...
Green: We got a last minute date here, we do a lot of featured shows here...
Henehan: We're like Tony Randall on Letterman at this bar. If somebody cancels...
That's the High Five Boys?
Henehan: Yeah. That’s another thing. We deliberately try to confuse people. We’re Cassidy Henehan and Scotland Green and we’re the High Five Boys, and the three with my brother Mickey are the Henehan Twins, and they’ve been doing the Good God Damn Show since I got back in town, but it’s all in the same spirit.
Green: Different variations. We know the difference. There might be like one weirdo who could take the quiz and know the difference.
Henehan: And Henehan Bros is me and Mickey’s two-man. That’s the other.
Green: Even though I did one of the Bro shows. I was a special guest. [laughs]
Henehan: It’s probably just confusing. We don’t have one brand.
[Here, the duo and Mike Henehan discussed several standup comics with varying degrees of mental stability.]
Green: That’s one of the joys of (the open mic). You’re more of a self-aware crazy person.
Henehan: Which just makes me more dangerous. [laughs] Me and Scot are talking passionately about the comedy scene in New Orleans, but at a certain point — and this isn’t me shitting on my hometown — you kind of have to be a little crazy to choose to be here, in a good way and a bad way. ... But if you’re crazy enough in the right ways, I mean right now [it was Carnival season], I’m not crazy. This is the week of the year where everybody is wearing a costume that isn’t anything in particular. The only thing weirder than being on mushrooms and running into your second grade teacher is running into your second grade teacher on mushrooms. … But you do get a lot of crazy people. Crazy people, that’s not pejorative. It’s not like we don’t want them.
Green: We do want them. As long as a crazy person isn’t like an ego maniac like, "When am I going to be famous?" A crazy person that’s a fun, open-mic attraction. Three or four minutes of crazy.
Henehan: I mean, if they keep working on it, and keep going up, then maybe what we’re interpreting as crazy we can clearly see what they thought was interesting in the first place.
Like they accidentally get chops on the mic?
Green: It’s like, "oh, fuck!"
Henehan: Fucking cowboy spurs is a brilliant satirist. Who would’ve know Hitler mustache actually understands irony pretty well?
Do you feel, after taking the mic and putting on shows, there's been any momentum in comedy as an attraction?
Green: I’d say that. I remember what it was like before. When I started and I remember what the rest of the scene was like, there’s definitely more shows, and more quality.
Henehan: And more people doing shows.
Green: Putting on their own shows. I mean that is what it is here, a total do-it-yourself scene. There’s no club to get to. You do it. People realize that.
Henehan: There’s not a brass ring to go to. "I’m going to make it at Carrollton Station!" I feel like when I first started and went to New York and came back two years later, at that point I was like "Wow, New Orleans is doing a lot better." I don’t know if that was just my perspective. In the Lucy’s days after the storm, I feel like that was another step up in shows.
Green: People had post-Katrina renewed fire.
Henehan: Plus everybody had their Katrina five minutes. Whenever there’s something like that, you get some people … Right after New Year’s, there’s a lot of people coming to sign up, after the Funny People movie came out and romanticized being a comedian.
And this is an epicenter for comedy, in the middle of the week.
Green: I definitely feel that. That’s just from us doing it consistently. Especially this thing, it’s always here and always good.
Henehan: The consistency of content, putting on a good show is important. For some reason if you know that’s not going to happen, just having a show when it sucks.
Green: Sometimes it can be great!
Henehan: Last night when the show started we had one couple making out, who happened to be there for Valentine’s Day, and all of a sudden I had a good set, and people come in, like, "What is this? This is fun." That’s important, especially when it’s such a small scene and there is no fucking notarization of being... All I’ve got is what you see that night. If I have a shitty night that’s what you know of me. It’s important that people don’t show up here on a Wednesday, and we were like, "Oh, no, there’ s a girl I want to fuck so I’m not going to go up tonight." If there’s two people here, maybe we’ll push it and start late, and hope for the fucking tour bus to pull up, we still got to do it.
Green: Never cancel a show.
Henehan: I don’t think I pander to an audience with what I’m saying. I think it’s very important to recognize how important they are. I’m not going to change what I’m saying based on the audience, but I'm going to do my best to communicate to that audience that I’m lucky to have it.
Green: In doing this show, I definitely care more about the audience then I do about the comics. I will give someone who’s eating shit the light way early because I’m trying to keep the audience here. Then if somebody does terrible, you kind of have to acknowledge that. You can’t just be like, "Well that was great!" because then they don’t trust you anymore. "This guy says everything's great." If you as a host admit, in a funny way, "I am paying attention to this show too, and I know what you think, and I know you didn't enjoy that."
So when you get that list...
Green: I ask people to write "early" or "late." And we set it up like a rollercoaster, "good bad good bad." But towards the middle it's like, good good good good good. But it's also, who brings people, who's here every week. ... But it's still an open mic.
Henehan: And someone may surprise you. ... But you know this guy's a yeller, don’t put them back to back. … Sometimes it’s like this guy is racist and a misogynist, so everyone in the crowd is going to hate him. Then Scot puts me on after. [laughs]
Green: "This guy brought the entire room, and now, here’s Cassidy Henehan." [laughs]
How do y'all feel about the idea "to make it" you have to leave?
Henehan: To make it as a comic, you can’t really be anywhere. It’s on the road. Or to make it as a comic, you can quit doing comedy and go out for auditions. It’s pretty rare, people who can not have another job to support themselves. That’s as much about your network, your national ability to get in touch with people to book shows.
Green: I could see it getting better. Also I think there’s something in going away and getting seasoning going somewhere else.
Henehan: If I didn’t go to New York I wouldn’t be as good as I am now.
Green: "Making it," I don’t know, that’s… there’s so much more you have to do than just standup.
Henehan: As far a growing a scene to make it a thing where from people from around this area, from central Arkansas that want to get into comedy, and there's nothing going on there, we can make it a satellite thing, but it already is like that. We have people who drive to this mic from Mississippi.
Green: I went to Portland, and people asked me about this show. I was like, "Uh, that’s my show!" The guy was like, "I was in town and the guy wouldn’t let me up." I was like, ‘Oh, that was me!’
Henehan: We have a national reputation. … I think the stuff me, Scot, my brother, Chris Trew and all the Stupid Time Machine guys — they work a little too hard. [laughs] All of that work has its immediate ends, but I think it’s all kind of building something towards something more. And just us being credible in the shows we put on and do something we're proud of, and any time somebody comes in town and treating them well, and the young kids, going to their first standup show, they can see somebody from somewhere else. All of that's part of the same thing. We don’t have any world domination plans, or anything.
Green: A comedian can definitely be based here.
Henehan: That hypothetical person is able so still do the work here, where there’s five credible mics every week. … What we’re do now is laying steps for maybe that happening in the future.
Green: From when I started in 2006, it’s all been setting the ground work for this to be a better comedy town than it was.
Henehan: And it’s so great having Trew back in town.
Green: As soon as he got back, it was just like, working. Doing it. Booking. Hell Yes Fest was amazing. ... As the High Five Boys that was a highlight.
Henehan: The only good show we've ever had. [laughs]
When Zach Galifianakis went up recently, he just showed up?
Green: Before the show started, he was at the bar, like "That guy with the mustache and the visor kind of looks like Zach Galifianakis." He watched the show and about four or five people into it he came outside, it was you, (comic Andrew Healan) and me, he asked you guys, "Who do I talk to about going up?"
Henehan: Something like that, like I was saying before, consistency. You’re never going to have… Eddie Murphy’s not going to drop in a show that has a reputation that’s lazy with the audience. … It might seem like, "oh, they got lucky, Scot’s show got this little boost from the guy being there," but the reason the guy was there was because we’re always here on Wednesday. Sometimes the best feeling you can get from someone, when it's raining, it may us doing a Henehan show, and my dad and his girlfriend are there, and some weird couple, and three drunk dudes, and we're like, "Oh, God, three drunk dudes" — and then they sit there, and we put on a good show. To know we actually still did it and said, "Yeah, I saw this show at Carrollton Station." Our name is on the line. Comedy in New Orleans’ name may as well by Cassidy Henehan. … I don’t want people to go see a terrible comedy show and feel like, "You do a comedy show? It’s just like that." … Everybody should feel that. You feel that way about your family. I represent New Orleans comedy, and whether I like it or not, whatever New Orleans comedy is, represents me. I’m part of it.
Comic Dane Faucheux (above) started performing in 2004 and is a regular face on local stages. He also performs sketch with Stupid Time Machine, and he's performed across the country doing standup and sketch.
What made you interested in performing comedy?
I grew up loving sketch and watching that. Just on TV. I grew up in Luling. There wasn’t anything like that. I’d watch Saturday Night Live, The State and Kids in the Hall. In college, I kind of played with acting and doing technical theater. I always felt like that was pretty limiting. I always felt like I wanted to talk to the audience. So I was like, "Hey, I’ll just do that in standup." I’d always loved standup growing up, too. ... When I went to an open mic, I didn’t tell anybody. I just started doing it. And I loved doing it. ... I went to Delgado and UNO. I did some stuff at Delgado and very quickly I realized I liked the technical side of it. I was the stage manager for a while. It’s much more fun. Much more drinking going on in the tech booth. That’s the weird thing about a lot of comics. They want to be actors. Acting is fun, but, it’s not something I enjoy as much.
But you like doing sketch.
But it’s a different thing. It’s not as weighty.
So you’re doing these secret standups and not telling anyone.
I was very lucky. When I started, as small of a scene as it is now, which is great, it was even smaller then. From the first time I started doing standup, there were these guys at the show who were comics, open mic comics, and were very nice, and I became friends with them. Sean Patton and Neal Stastny and Seth Cockfield. It ended up I became good friends with them pretty quickly. It’s a neat thing to start with a support base where you’re not really trying to make the audience laugh, you’re just trying to make those guys laugh.
You’ve been doing it well enough or often enough — you put on quite a few shows.
It’s like a second job for me. I tour a little bit, I do more shows out of Louisiana than I do in Louisiana. ... (Carrollton Station) has been a staple for standups in this city. Shows that have been coming out of here have been really fun and have a following. It’s ridiculous that an open mic even has an audience. Open mics around the country generally do not. ... Previously this has been a great training ground for someone who wants to do standup and move away — which is what a lot of my friends gave done. Sean and Neal went to New York, Seth went to Austin. I stayed here. I love it here. My family’s here. Just to go out a little bit and do it the way I do it is fun for me.
Have you been tempted to move?
I have. But it’s something I love doing so much. I love the way I get to do it, kind of on my own terms. I work with a lot of comics who are road comics, who live on the road, getting paid at this show to make it to the next show, and that’s their life. ... I’ve always wanted New Orleans to become a comedy city. And I think it’s on its way, as opposed to a place where people can start out and move away. ... If it becomes a destination city for comedy, I'd love it. It seemed impossible for a long time for other cities to do that. ... but now, the last six years, Austin has blown up and its comedy scene has become huge, kind of an underground movement. Now New Orleans is the next city to do that. There are the people here to do it now, and people are choosing to stay here. ... I could've gone to New York, but I think it would've become a different thing for me.
How'd you get hooked up with Stupid Time Machine?
They were performing at La Nuit Comedy Theater. After Katrina, everything got kind of scattered. The comedy had to rebuild itself. ... They came together as Stupid Time Machine there, and I would go occasionally to the open mics there and got to know those guys a little. I briefly did improv ... but I knew I couldn't do it as well as standup. I couldn't do both. ... They were serious about comedy and really had their stuff together, and really cared about it. ... You do have to work. You have to do open mics. I saw them as a crew that had a lot of respect for comedy. We became closer and closer friends, they left the theater and were reforming themselves. They had already done their first show and asked me to join. ... Now we've gone on to Chicago twice, L.A., San Francisco — been doing really great. Chicago was amazing. They were adding seats to our show.
What are the writing sessions like?
We generate ideas, evolve some ideas, improv some stuff and go back and write. It's fun because each of our shows, we try to present as a full piece. It's not like, "Here's some sketches." Each show has a theme. We really like writing in that way. Gives a more complete feel for the audience. Coming to a show, it's not some random thing.
When did you start filming?
We started filming a while ago, just on our own, trying to figure it out. None of us are especially filmed stuff. Jonathan Evans is a local director. He really knows his stuff. He's very good at what he does. It just took us to a whole 'nother level with us. ... We got our stuff on FunnyOrDie.com They featured us the day after we shot the "Turning Points" video. We're so excited to do so much more with that. We just need time. ... Standup is a bit of a different world. Some of us have run between (improv and standup). Standups are more like ... lonely sad bastard sort of thing. [laughs] But the two communities come together really well. Chris Trew does stand up. Hell Yes Fest just happened, a lot of local comics performed ... It's good for anyone. In any scene, the good rises to the top. The New Movement definitely stands out as a force for good in the city for comedy. Standups have taken note of it. (Carrollton Station) will always be the hub for standups. It's been here for so long. ... This will be here after everything else probably.
Any plans coming up?
For a while I've just been performing. I'm not as crazy about producing shows. Under The New Movement I've been doing an open-mic at A Shotgun Near You, which is pretty fun. This show has a certain amount of weight to it, because it has an audience, people tend to not do new jokes, but that's a free roaming... it's got a fun vibe to it. A lot of people who may have been too intimidated to do standup here have come to that show. ... And it's really supportive. Like when I started with a really great base, it makes you fearless, you can just thrive. You see people grow so much faster. Now they have comics who have come from The New Movement group already, like Addy Najera, Drew Platt and Cyrus Cooper. They've grown so quickly in the scene because they have such support behind them. I haven't seen that since I started comedy. ... It hasn't been like a sense of community really backing it. I'm going out of town here and there. Going to South By Southwest in Austin, some shows out west, some terrible bars in the southeast. Depending on when you start comedy, it changes drastically about every 10 years. When I started it was the death throes of all the comedy clubs across the country. Most died already, but there were some still going on. And when you talk to comics about that, like "Oh yeah, comedy clubs." I've done shows in comedy clubs. But for me, when I do tours, I do them in bars. It's just a different vibe. It's not a regular crowd there to see whatever performer. It's people who've come to see that specific show that's only happening then. That's how a lot of comics tour now. ... There are some really fun ones, like Laughing Skull in Atlanta, but the traditional "Bucket-o-Yucks" or whatever... I don't want to do those — unless they give me money, and I'll be happy to do shows. ... Carrollton Stage is so huge because they put on shows when no one else would. ... We would do Comedy Invasion shows here. For a while they were once a month. They became weekly. The open mic, ... I started one at Lucy's, and went to Howlin' Wolf, and at that point I was sick of running shows. Now Scotland runs it, and he's doing an awesome job. ... The scene's been growing. It's been a slow burn for so long. I think now it's going to explode. ... It feels like there are real teeth in it. It's finally sticking around.