Michael Deeds: Liquid Laughs team works hard, laughs hard

mdeeds@idahostatesman.comMay 17, 2013 

Jen Adams has a fantasy, and in that fantasy, Boiseans are like Brits without the accent.

"I would love it if everybody looked at comedy the way England does," proclaims Adams, who books the performers at Boise club Liquid Laughs. "Stand-up in England is considered a high art form! They put it in there with a gallery opening."

"Here," she says, her voice deepening into something masculine and faintly Garden City-ish, "it's like, 'Oh, let's go get a drink and listen to some guy talk about masturbating.'

"And there IS a lot of that," she admits. "But I always like people to know that not all comedians are the same."

Nor or all comedy clubs.

Until late 2011, Liquid, 405 S. 8th St., was noncommital about comedy, focusing more on live music. Then husband and wife owners Jeremy Aevermann and Elizabeth Oldenkamp tentatively decided to present comedy four or more nights a week, calling the club Liquid Laughs.

Several months ago, they raised the stakes. Adams was given the go-ahead to book a semifamous-to-famous comedian once a month. This type of performer can cost from $5,000 to $15,000 for a four-show weekend. Liquid Laughs holds only about 150 to 180 people. (The physical size of the customers affects the club's sellout capacity - no joke.)

It's paid off so far. In January, Pauly Shore sold out three shows and was a handful of seats away from selling out the fourth. Brian Posehn sold out all four of his shows last month. More important, these performers help generate buzz about stand-up comedy, which sometimes seems like an underground phenomenon in the Treasure Valley.

"There's still people in this town that think the Funny Bone is still open," says Adams, who moved to Boise shortly before that long-standing club closed in 2007. "There's definitely a fight to get an awareness out there. And also, I don't think Boise, Boiseans, have really thought of themselves as a comedy place. So I'm hoping that will change. I'm hoping that bringing bigger names makes them aware of the club."

On the horizon:

• Jamie Kennedy ("Scream," "Malibu's Most Wanted") on June 21 and 22.

• Bobcat Goldthwait - who had a recent special, "You Don't Look the Same Either," on Showtime - on Aug. 16 and 17.

• Dave Coulier (Uncle Joey from "Full House") on Nov. 22 and 23.

• Loni Love, a regular on E! network's "Chelsea Lately," on Dec. 13 and 14.

(Hit the newly redesigned website at liquidboise.com for more.)

The payoff from booking known, pricier performers is multilayered.

"It really helps advertise the club," Aevermann says. "The people come down for that show, and they say, 'Man, that was great. Maybe we should try it on one of these other nights.' "

Often, these "other nights" pleasantly surprise patrons.

"I'm bringing in comedians that are just as good as the big-name guys every week," Aevermann says. "But they're just not famous yet."

Liquid Laughs' managers are sensitive to the talents of journeyman comedians - mostly because they've been there. Raised in New York by a musician mother and magician father, Adams has been doing stand-up for 14 years. She stopped touring two years ago to have a baby.

Along with Liquid Laughs manager and comedian Matt Bragg - who used to manage The Comedy Store in La Jolla, Calif. - she wants to nurture not just touring acts, but local hopefuls.

"I want Boise to be on the comedy map," Adams says. "And I think it will be at some point, if we keep doing things the way we are doing them."

Adams will launch a multiweek "Funniest Person in Boise" competition in July, pairing comedic newbies with mentors. She's also working on "girls night out" in July - all-female comedy lineups.

Meanwhile, touring comics who live in the Treasure Valley - Sean Peabody, Heath Harmison, Ryan Wingfield - help foster the Boise scene. Peabody even offers a comedy workshop Tuesdays at Liquid Laughs: "It's been great for the local open-mikers," Adams says.

This enthusiasm makes the investment seem worth it for Liquid's married owners, who work at the nightclub and their adjacent restaurant, Solid, nearly every waking hour.

"Laughter's so good for the body in the first place," Aevermann explains. "That's what I like about it. People leave happy."

Michael Deeds' column runs Fridays in Scene and Sundays in Life. He co-hosts "The Other Studio" at 9 p.m. Sundays on 94.9 FM "The River" and appears Thursdays on Channel 6 News.

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