However, much of the talent that’s showcased locally aren’t local themselves, they are imports from cities with larger self-contained comedy scenes like Chicago, Madison and Milwaukee. Not only that, but in order to consistently see comedy shows, fans are sometimes forced to travel to those existing scenes.
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Enter local comics Vickie Lynn, Dez Uncensored, Emmett "Craz-E" Cannon and Dadred McKnight. These comedians have been working locally and touring on their own for several years trying to develop their careers, but recently, they hit upon the idea of working together and combining forces to help give the existing comedy scene in Beloit a boost. About two months ago, in their local haunt, Salvador’s on Bayliss Avenue in Beloit, the comics got together and hatched BCity BFunny, which stands for Beloit City Beloit Funny.
"We’re sort of like trendsetters, we’re breaking the ground here," Cannon said. "We’re all from around here originally so that’s part of it. But a lot of the people from around here that do comedy say to themselves, ‘Oh if I want to do this, I have to go to Madison or Chicago.’"
Cannon started his career in the area at the age of 16, when he won a high school talent show in Beloit Memorial Auditorium, an experience from which he’s never looked back.
"I’ve always been a fan of comedy. As a kid I was the class clown, I used to cut up everywhere, even in church, and one time my momma said if I was the reason she didn’t get into heaven she was going to kill me. So I knew I was on to something then," Cannon said.
Lynn met up with Cannon at a comedy show he performed at Bushel and Peck’s in Beloit in 2012 and knew immediately that she had to find some way into the comedy scene.
"I saw Emmett at a show at Bushel and Peck’s in 2012 and I was enamored -- it felt like an epiphany," Lynn said. "This is what I am supposed to be doing. So I said to him, ‘I know you probably get this a lot, but I’m funny and I want to do this’. He said all right and a little while later he let me open for him."
Each member of the group followed a different path onto the scene, but it’s when they came together that they started to feel the community grow. The comedians said that being part of a collective has certain benefits that they wouldn’t be able to take advantage of otherwise.
"Each one of us have different fans," Dez said. "I don’t know all their fans and they don’t know mine. But with all of us getting together and performing as a group, we all get each other’s fans. We are able to meet a lot of people like that."
In addition to using each other’s local influence to help fill seats at their shows, being a part of a group also just keeps them sharp, they say. Being among other comedians helps them cultivate their material.
"Being together and being part of this group is constant fuel for new jokes," Lynn said. "As a comedian it’s raised my ability to find the joke because everybody around me is quick witted."
Spreading the laughter
BCity BFunny is as grassroots as any group gets. Lynn has taken the role of publicist and uses a mix of social media and word-of-mouth to help get people interested. This raises the question, is there room in Beloit for a comedy scene? Apparently the answer is yes. Since BCity BFunny’s inception, the group has been able to gather a fair amount of regular appearances at local spots such Scoreboard Bar and Grill in Milton, Rooney’s Pub and Grub, The End Zone and Club Impulse in Beloit to name a few.
The group says that part of the reason they are able to consistently draw a crowd is their willingness to change their format and content.
"Our last show we added skits, so we’re not just standup," Cannon said. "Each and every time we do something different, we don’t want people to say, ‘Oh they did that stuff last time’. We want people to show up thinking, I have no idea what they’re going to do."
The group’s quick success has come as a surprise to them. Rooney’s was the first venue to take a chance on their show, giving them a Saturday night in early March to give a pilot performance.
"We were surprised how well we were received, it was amazing. We packed Rooney’s out," said Lynn. "We heard for three days afterward that people had never seen Rooney’s that packed."
They need you
The group loves to perform locally, and holds to the ideal that they always will, but they still have to tour in order to keep their schedules full. This is something they hope to work on going forward. They will continually seek the attention of venue owners hoping to showcase new entertainers, locals looking for a fun and safe way to spend an evening and even other people who’d like to give comedy a try.
"I always want to go see and perform comedy, but Chicago, Madison and Milwaukee are far," Lynn said. "We want to bring it here so people don’t always have to go out of town for safe and fun things to do. Also, if you’re from the area and you think you have what it takes come on out to an open mic. We’re really interested in growing the group."
For the group’s members a big part of what they are doing is answering a personal calling that has been ringing in each of their ears since a young age, but an important benefit they can’t ignore is the value of laughter and the effect it can have on the community.
"We’re trying to give our city a good name," Cannon said. "There are a lot of negative things going on right now, nobody wants to deal with that. In the midst of all the bad we’re trying to show that there can be some good."
- When: BCity BFunny will perform at Rooney’s Pub and Grub open mic night on May 14