DUBUQUE – A mailman, a bartender, and a record shop worker walk into a coffee pub.
And as soon as they do, the titles they carry at work fade away.
They only title they care about now is the title of comedian.
“When you’re a kid, you get that first laugh, and you keep wanting more,” explained Todd Baysinger.
Baysinger is just one of several local comedians that make up the Dubuque stand-up comedy scene.
Starting just under a year ago, this community of comedians has seen nothing but growth.
But it wasn’t always this way.
“When I first started doing comedy [three years ago,] there was nothing around town,” said Baysinger, detailing how he’d have to drive to Cedar Rapids and Iowa City for open mics.
Ryan Graham, another open mic-er, described the early roots of what is now a continually expanding comedy scene.
“We started…about 11 months ago, so in January, and at that time we had about three people,” he said.
But with time, the group gained more comedians, expanded their audience, and transitioned from rowdy bar scenes to venues much more suited for comedy.
“We were working to try and find an open mic spot we could do every week,” said Chris Coffman, another local comedian.
And they found one here, in the basement of Monk’s Kaffee Pub, where the low ceilings, dim lighting, and a generous PA system combine for a perfect comedy venue.
Basements around town like the one at Monk’s have turned into showrooms for more and more local comedians.
Yet, these comedians will be the first to tell you that stand-up is about much more than simply getting laughs.
“Everyone has their own reasons [for doing stand-up],” said Baysinger.
He can explain what comedy means to him in one simple word: therapy.
“[When you’ve had] a lot of crappy stuff happen in your life, you’ve got to talk about it.”
For Chris Coffman, these open mics are the remedy to a condition you might not expect a comedian to have: agoraphobia.
“I wanted some place to kind of have a release,” he added.
Those who have agoraphobia feel intense anxiety being in places that might cause embarrassment.
Which, for a comedy show, might seem like an inevitability.
But these comedians are experts at crafting their emotions into experiences that the audience can relate to—and laugh at.
And the promise of laughter is enough to keep both the comedians and the audience coming back time and time again.
“It makes all the work you’ put into it worth it,” said Graham.
A mailman, a record shop worker, and a bartender walk into a coffee pub.
It’s not a good set-up for a joke, but it is the perfect set-up for a night of entertainment.
“I just want to keep doing it for the rest of my life,” said Graham.
With a laugh, he added sarcastically, “It’s a great way to stay in shape.”
You can catch Todd Baysinger, Chris Coffman, Ryan Graham, and more local comedians at their comedy open mics every Monday at Monk’s Coffee Pub and every other Thursday at Tavern on The Main. The shows start at 9pm. Newcomers are welcome, and the admission is free. Find out more by visiting the Dubuque Comedy Page on Facebook.
Ben Friedman is an anchor and co-executive producer for LCTV News. He is a junior at Loras College from Ankeny, Iowa. Ben enjoys LCTV because it gives him an opportunity to combine creativity and storytelling in a way that helps him provide value to the tri-state community.