Buffalo comedian Rick Matthews reflects today on his history and future with the longest running underground comedy night in Buffalo. The Rust Belt Comedy Showcase makes its debut tonight, 8 p.m., at Nietzsche’s in Allentown. — ed.
Nietzsche’s means the world to me. That stage, The Doin’ Time Comedy Showcase, in the back of the dimly lit legendary Buffalo bar, is the first stage I ever stepped foot on as a comic. Only then, I wasn’t a comic. I was a scared kid. And by kid, I was a 29-year-old guy, who had to do something that was scratching a hole in his imagination since he was just a little guy. I had to get on a stage and try stand-up comedy. So, with Kristen Becker as my Obi-Wan, as host, producer, mentor and eventually one of the best friends I’ve ever had, I got on that stage. I got on that stage a guy that was so terrified that I had to take at least 3 Imodium pills to ensure that I wouldn’t have to poop on stage. I walked up those steps covered in stickers of past bands, no idea what the next 3-5 minutes would be like. I grabbed that mic, let the music stop, and started talking. I don’t remember much about that set. I got through it, this I remember. I heard some laughs, mostly by the friends I invited, and I walked off stage. As I stepped off that stage, I was a different person. I am not going to say that I walked off a comic, but the seed was planted. I was never turning back. Part of me is still on that stage. Always will be on that stage. Over the last four and a half years, I have been on that stage approximately 200 times. Give or take. And every time, every GOD DAMNED time, I think about that guy. I can almost see me, standing by the bathrooms, pacing back and forth, going over his set. I nod at him, and climb those stairs. Every time.
It is my honor and privilege to now be taking over as the producer and host of Tuesday nights at Nietzsche’s. Kristen Becker has moved onto bigger and better things known as Helium Comedy Club. I want to keep the same ideals that she installed in this room when she started it over seven years ago. With some changes to make it my own, of course. The show will now be called The Rust Belt Comedy Showcase. Not because I didn’t like Doin’ Time Comedy Showcase, but that name isn’t mine. Kristen has that name. Well, her and Martin. The name Rust Belt Comedy means the world to me. It speaks volumes for the pride I have of my region, and memories of some funny guys driving across NY doing college shows. The format is changing a bit, with a mixture of open mic spots and showcase spots. I want to keep the original idea of the open mic. I also wanted to be able to give WNY a weekly taste of what its best and brightest are capable of. It’s a change, but it’s subtle, and it is going to take the room to the next level. I couldn’t be more proud to have this responsibility. I want to say the names of other guys and gals. People who are trying their best to keep their bowels in their bodies. Cannot wait to grab that mic, say their names, and see if that seed gets planted again. Hope you guys are there with me.