Oxford has had a revival of comedy acts this summer thanks to Oxford Comedy and their mission to bring standup to the Oxford scene.
Connor King, the man behind Oxford Comedy, hosts an open mic night at 9 p.m. every Tuesday at Harrison’s for comedians to try their hand at making folks laugh.
“This year is when we really started to kind of revive Oxford Comedy, which is the page on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram,” King said.
King, who got his comedy start in 2014 with a local Oxford improv comedy group called Laff Co., started to host showcases around Oxford this year, allowing touring comics to come and entertain Oxford crowds.
Oxford Comedy hosted their first show in January which featured Patrick Cunningham, a comic from Adult Swim’s “Your Pretty Face is Going to Hell,” as well as various other comics from the Los Angeles and Memphis areas.
Despite the success with booked shows, Oxford Comedy prides themselves on their weekly Open Mic Night at Harrison’s. At these events, seasoned and amateur comics have five minutes on stage to work on their craft and try and get a laugh out of the audience.
One comic, Charles Hester, who drives from Booneville every week to come to the Open Mic Night, said he has had a great time working with Oxford Comedy.
“The crowd is really good, the crowd is huge, like, compared to a lot of other comedy places, it’s really big, and there’s a lot of good comics that come,” Hester said.
The Open Mic Night was full of comics from all walks of life. The diverse group had people of color, different sexual orientations and different comedic styles that created a unique and diverse environment for the audience.
The audience got the chance to enjoy puns and situational jokes, giving everyone the chance to laugh in an environment that kindles creativity and confidence.
According to King, the local comedy scene is very strong. He believes that students would be the main force of comics driving the Open Mic Nights, but he found a lot of talent in the Oxford service industry.
King mentioned student comics, as well as those who cook at various locations around the Square and even an Ole Miss faculty member have taken to the stage for these events.
One of King’s missions is to try and allow first-time comics, like Steven Champion, to perform their first gigs through the group.
Champion, a rising senior at Ole Miss, started to pursue comedy last year, booking shows at Proud Larry’s externally of Oxford Comedy. King got in contact with Champion, and he has been attending the Open Mic Nights since he was made aware of them.
For Champion, it’s all about being seen. For comics to be successful, he said, they need to put themselves out there, even if they might fail.
“If you want to make your way into it, you’ve got to create things,” Champion said. “Let’s have a comedy night at this bar; let’s do an open mic, let’s advertise it, lets tweet funny stuff even. It’s not a blank canvas. You gotta buy the canvas first.”
Champion, who went first at the Open Mic Night at Harrison’s, knows the importance of getting on stage and putting yourself in the spotlight, even if you could fail.
“I kinda want to bomb, just to know what it feels like,” Champion said before going on stage.
During his set, Champion became flustered and asked to go later, fearing he was bombing, but the crowd cheered him on and gave him ample support, pulling him out of a bad set and allowing him to garner laughs during the show.
Champion said he is also starting his own open mic at Lost Dog Coffee in Taylor, Mississippi.
This kind of constructive and small environment provided by the open mic is a place for new comics to get started with their career. Two comics, Picasio and Zach Travis, both had their first sets that night. Travis didn’t even have a set written, but for him, it was about the experience.
“I’ll go just to go. I didn’t even think I would be in it,” Travis said.
The open mic had eight total performers from all walks of life. One comic, whose stage name is Kevin Stafford, used it as an opportunity to film content for his YouTube channel, “bg kumbi.”
Stafford, 21, has had an active YouTube Channel since he was 10 and acquired “bg kumbi” when he was 14.
The Mississippi native has 63,000 subscribers and said he has basically devoted his whole life to comedy since seeing early YouTube stars like Fred take the entertainment scene by storm.
“I’ve ruined my life for comedy. That’s what it takes,” Stafford said jokingly.
Oxford Comedy hosts shows called the Secret Comedy Club in addition to the Open Mic Night. The locations for Secret Comedy Club shows are revealed upon purchase of a ticket online. Despite having no announced location or comics, these shows have been successful since their start in January of this year.
The next Secret Comedy Club show is June 25. Oxford Comedy posts information about upcoming shows on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.