Rocketship Comedy

The lifeblood of the Indianapolis independent standup comedy scene.

Rocketship Blasting Off

The room was relatively empty, and yet still percolating with energy; it was more than just the particles in the air excited by the summer heat. Most of the comedians were puffing on cigarettes and clutching their sweating beer cans on the porch, surprisingly cooler than the thick and sticky air that congealed within. The TV was still showing Last Man on Earth, the show’s audio competing with the Notorious B.I.G. blasting from the speaker system. Motorcycles stopped at the light could be heard belching and sputtering. The room was dimly lit with beams of orange light streaking across the far wall from the bar side of the room. Three people, however, were huddled together in a booth in near the kitchen, their heads converging on a single piece of paper in between them. Cam O’Connor sauntered up to them and all three heads popped up to greet him. Noah Haler shuffled about the room, finalizing the preparations for the live recording, his lacquered toes a striking shade of teal peeking out from his sandals. One by one, comedians started to stream inside, passing by the table to check and see where they fell in line. Many comics were in various stages of inebriation despite the bar’s cash only policy, which had been instituted to ease the closing process in their last few weeks. Everyone eventually took their seats and before the incomprehensible babble of numerous conversations converging became deafening, Sam Griswold smacked his hands together into the loud clapping that has become our universal signal that the show was about to begin.

On July 5, 2015, Rocketship Comedy held the Blast Off Show from Sabbatical in Broad Ripple. The bar and restaurant was closing its doors within two weeks and the commanders of the team decided on a format that was only fitting for their exodus: a showcase with no less than 24 comedians doing three minutes of comedy each.

 Cam O'Connor

Cam O'Connor

The Sabbatical shows filled the void after Rocketship Comedy left the beloved spot at the Sinking Ship. Owners of and bookers for Sabbatical, Kevin Phillips and David Quiesser, reached out and offered to take the Sunday show in. Cam O’Connor, dubbed the godfather of Rocketship Comedy by his peers and friends, accepted their invitation and set to work on the first set list. The first show at Sabbatical was canceled when a Chicago Bears game took precedent. The first official show was held on January 5, 2014, ringing in the New Year and a new era for Rocketship Comedy. Cam opened the show and comedians Gabe Kea, Andrew Short, Sam Evans, and Alex Stone performed that night.

“I remember being at the first show when the changeover happened and thinking, ‘What a fucking nightmare,’” comedian Dwight Simmons recalls. The shows slowly won him over, however. He remembers fondly that, despite its size, Cam O’Connor still managed to find space to pace around nervously with his cup of coffee. The venue had changed, he said, but the comedy had not. “It points to trust in the Indy comedy scene,” Dwight said. “So many great comics have come and done that room. It’s a bit sad moving on from Sabbatical, but I’m excited to see what the future holds.”

 Jonathan Pfendler

Jonathan Pfendler

 Elise Whitaker

Elise Whitaker

For comedians, Sabbatical was a special spot and held a unique place within the scene. Neither an open mic nor a classic comedy show with a host, feature and headliner that is characteristic of many other local clubs, Sabbatical offered the scene an opportunity to showcase local talent, thereby developing a symbiotic relationship between comedians and show-goers: comedians were able to hone their set while show-goers were able to see a wide variety of comedic styles.

“I’ll always remember it as a place where we got better,” said comedian Joe Fitzpatrick of the venue, where he as well as Leslie Dinsmore and Sam Griswold all co-ran many of the Sabbatical shows after Cam O’Connor’s departure to Cincinnati in January this year. With Rocketship’s curated showcases, Sabbatical was a place where people were able to see comedians with Conan and Letterman on their resumes. As a devotee to the local scene, Michael Allen put it well when he said that Sabbatical gave people who actually cared about comedy a place to go and see a good show. “There were no pretentious ideas or a social event where you could be seen. It was people who loved comedy that showed up or did time. It was a place for the art of comedy.”

And on the night of the Blast Off show, 24 comedians came in to show off their craft. Bloomington comedians as well as a few Cincinnati comics were also part of the lineup. Lucas Waterfill told an unforgettable story about the time he shared a crosswalk with a Pentecostal woman, who prayed for him until he shouted that he was cured of his cerebral palsy. As Jordan Dybas held the microphone, Lucas began imitating the woman shouting in tongues to the raucous delight of the audience.

 Lucas Waterfill

Lucas Waterfill

Carrie Clause elucidated on her funny funeral arrangements while Jordan Dybas pondered the origins of the phrase, “Goody Two Shoes.” With a packed house, the air within became stuffier than ever, somewhat unfathomable given how hot it was to begin with. Comedians and audience members streamed in and out of the front door to catch a bit of fresh air or to smoke a cigarette. You could still hear their laughter in between puffs on their cigarettes or sips from their beer cans.

 Anthony Turner

Anthony Turner

 Leslie Dinsmore

Leslie Dinsmore

At the very end, Leslie Dinsmore, Joe Fitzpatrick and Sam Griswold came together to reed off each and every name on the set list to resounding applause. Performing that night were:

Jeff Vibbert
Wille Bostic
Devin Thomas
Elise Whitaker
Jordan Dybas
Lucas Waterfill
Josh Cocks
Nathan Gropp
Patrick Murray
Keith Ray
Jonathan Pfendler
Brian Christoph
Jordan Mather-Licht
Carrie Clause
Jimmy Roberson
Anthony Turner
Chris Siemer
Cale Forbes
Dave Britton
Jim Leugers
Sam Griswold
Leslie Dinsmore
Joe Fitzpatrick
Cam O’Connor

On Sunday, July 19, Rocketship Comedy is holding The Landing Show at their new venue: The Alley Cat Front Room in Broad Ripple. The first part of the evening will be a classically designed show with Cam O’Connor as the show’s host, Stephen Vincent Giles doing a guest spot, Tim Harmston featuring and Mary Mack headlining. Afterwards, there will be an informal showcase. A $5.00 donation at the door provides guests with priority seating. The show will begin at 7:00 PM.

 

Written by Pauline Shypula
Photos by
P. Shypula Photography for Rocketship Comedy


This post was originally published on another site on July 19, 2015

Background image by Pauline Shypula.