By DEAN FIOTTO, contributing writer
Inside Scorpions Bar and Grill on Main Street, one can often find a mob of thirsty students flocking to irresistible drink deals and familiar faces. However, the scene is much different on Monday nights. You can thank local comedian Josh Day for that.
That’s because Day has been bringing his weekly CoEd Comedy Night to downtown Durham since October of 2014. The lineup often consists of well-known comics like Juston McKinney and Matt Kona, but also offers the microphone to anybody who wants to try their hand at standup.
“It’s growing every week,” said Day as he unhooked his felt backdrop from the ceiling. “This is our biggest turnout, but the crowd has always been engaged.”
On Monday night, about 30 onlookers escaped from the whipping wind to enjoy some chicken wings, beer, and, of course, comedy. Topics ranged from magicians to mummies, from Disney movies to abusive fathers, and from being a psychic to getting hit by a UNH bus.
“I don’t usually go for live comedy,” said 21-year-old UNH student Cam Bouchard. “But I didn’t even know there was standup at Scorpions.”
And UNH students don’t just fill the chairs, they also take the stage.
“My fraternity brothers told me to get into it, to try standup,” said 19-year-old UNH sophomore and political science major Mike Collopy. “Here I am.”
Knowing that he could get behind the microphone and make some people laugh, Collopy just needed the opportunity. That’s why the CoEd Comedy Night is around.
“This is unique. It’s full of local, funny comics and people should come support them,” he said.
It was Collopy’s first time trying his hand at standup, but he was not the only newcomer. Kaelen Caggiula is a freshman at UNH and a member of Improv Anonymous on campus. He has tried stand up three times, but Monday was his first time at the CoEd Comedy Night.
Within a lineup that encourages rookie comics, there is sure to be some stumbles, gaffes, forgotten jokes, missed punch lines and other mishaps. However, those at Scorpions seemed to flow flawlessly and meshed well together.
“I try to write my set down completely,”” said Caggiula. “It helps me remember. This time, I even brought it with me.”
Helping each comedian on and off the stage was host and friend of Day’s, Jeff Koen. The 36-year-old Newburyport native has been attending the CoEd Comedy Night since its beginning and credits his commitment to the crowds that come consistently.
“The attraction of the show is the mix of comedians,” said Koen, leaning on the wall behind the pool table. “Some people are great, others suck. But the crowd is always good, they want to be here.”
The combination of veterans and newcomers seems to be a unique one. Bearded headliner Matt Kona, a popular Boston and Seacoast area comic who has also been with the show since its birth, noted that he even recognized a few of the faces in the crowd.
“People are coming back for more because the lineup is so eclectic,” said Kona. “That’s the draw.”
Kona understands that comedy is not for everyone, and is impressed by those students who have come out and tried their material on real people.
“There is an element of danger to it,” said Kona, referring to the risk that all comedians take when they go in front of a crowd. “You never know how they’ll respond.”
One thing is for sure, though: The CoEd Comedy Night will return to Scorpions on Monday night, starting at 8 o’clock and wrapping up around 9:30.