Nothing lifts the spirits and warms the soul on a cold Kansas City night more than a good comedy show, and the Uptown Arts Bar put on an especially spectacular one on Thursday, November 19. Titled “Kansas City’s Moderately Wanted Comedy Show,” the lineup included several talented stand-up comedians who exhibited skills that are sure to make them more than moderately wanted in their field.
Host Spencer Chase Perkins, described as “Dennis the Menace if he grew up to be sad,” warmed and loosened the crowd with self-deprecating humor and the disarming air of a trained psychotherapist preparing his patients to open their minds. What followed was almost two hours of nonstop laughter from an appreciative, almost-packed house.
Comedian Luis Powell made an immediate impact on the crowd before he said a word by appearing on stage wearing a San Francisco Giants baseball cap. A bold move in KC Royals territory where, as Powell pointed out, the fans are especially passionate about their home team. Explaining that he wore the hat to match his outfit, he quickly and effortlessly won the audience over with hilarious takes on Ronda Rousey’s recent knockout by Holly Holm, his own concerns about what would happen to him if he ever entered the ring, living in Kansas City with no car, adventures on the Metro and misadventures in dating. Powell is a cool comedian with swag, but without the pretension that usually comes with that package. Brave enough to swim in a sea of Royals wearing a Giants hat, and bold enough to be his own brand of individual in a world of copycats, Powell won the audience over with his nonchalant style and powerful punch lines.
Jeff Nelson’s set amped-up the energy level, and the room’s engagement with him was palpable from beginning to end. It was clear that Nelson had passionate feelings about the topics he touched upon, and his passion was contagious. With sarcastic vigor he shared the trials and tribulations of being a 33 year-old man who lives with his parents and must contrive sneaky, ingenious methods of getting girls past them and into his bedroom. His opinions of Marilyn Monroe and all the women who quote her were delivered with expertly-feigned outrage that sent the audience howling. Some of Nelson’s biggest laughs came near the end of his set as he made suggestions for more realistic titles for adult films, and it’s his unique take on reality that sets Jeff apart. He’s looking at the same world as the rest of us, but through far different, far edgier, and far funnier lenses.
When a man wears a prominently displayed belt buckle of two crossed mics, you know he’s serious about performing. Tai Fu Panda handled his business like a pro as he took the stage and commanded the audience’s attention with his mellow, offbeat, irreverent style of comedy. The crowd easily identified with his observations on some of the quirkier aspects of Facebook, the code words women use when trying to hook guys up with their less-than-appealing single friends, and things women do that men don’t – like dancing with each other at a club or passing toilet paper under the stall. Panda’s laid back style gave his flawlessly crafted jokes an extra unexpected punch, proving that he deserves to display that double-mic belt buckle with pride.
Amber Lehman, performing on her 25th birthday, exhibited the stage presence of a far more seasoned comic as she delivered one witty, incisive insight after another. With a natural comedic flair, she turned painful experiences into opportunities for laughter and cleverly reframed them in ways that allowed all to join in. From facing racism as a Native American to growing up shy and chubby, Lehman demonstrated the power that comes with the ability to laugh at the oppressive and painful. Her quips on Jared from Subway’s recent sentencing, misguided advice received from older people and the ways in which men perceive female comedians also garnered huge laughs and rounded out a brilliant set.
One thing is for certain, the Uptown Arts Bar knows how to put on a show. Founded in 2012 by Greg Patterson and managed by premier Kansas City performance artist Jeanette Powers, the Arts Bar was voted Best Open Mic venue in Kansas City by Pitch Magazine readers in 2013 and 2014. The bar’s rapid rise to prominence is due in large part to Patterson’s passionate commitment to making the arts the “backbone of the bar.” The Uptown Arts Bar has the feel of an artistic oasis for the nurturing of KC’s most talented performers, and produces a broad array of superior quality entertainment. There’s the Comedy Open Mic on Mondays, a music open mic called Lyric Lab, a poetry and spoken word open mic on Wednesdays, regular performances by the Kansas City Cabaret burlesque troupe, improv showcases, sketch comedy, staged play readings and more. With reasonably priced drinks, surprisingly tasty bar food and some of the most creative, original acts in town, a visit to the Uptown Arts Bar is a must for any self-respecting lover of the arts and supporter of local Kansas City talent.
The Uptown Arts Bar is located at 3611 Broadway, Kansas City, MO 64111 in the Uptown District of Midtown and is open from 6 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. Monday through Saturday. The phone number is (816) 960-4611.