By Max Johnston
Listen Up Lansing Staff Reporter
Brett Mercer drove over 2 hours from downtown Detroit to Crunchy’s bar on West Grand River Avenue. When he arrived, Mercer delivered a 10-minute set that received laughter and praise from a half empty room of mostly distracted fellow comedians. What most would consider a wasted trip, Mercer considers a joy.
“There’s amazing shows out here and amazing comics,” Mercer said. “Young people that are out doing things and seeing comedy and laughing at things that I think people should laugh at.”
The Lansing area is full of comedy showcases and open mic nights that feature a rotating cast of Michigan’s finest comedians. Comedian Andy Bledsoe says it’s Lansing’s diverse crowds that draw comedians from across the state.
“It’s more of a younger, college crowd than places like Grand Rapids,” Bledsoe said. “As a comic, you wanna see if your stuff works with different types of people, and that’s what I like about Lansing.”
Comedians don’t just flood Lansing for the crowds, comedian Guido Saltarelli says comics come to Lansing to meet and work with other comedians as well.
“East side (of the state) and west side comedians converge here a lot,” Saltarelli said. “So it’s a really good area to network.”
Comedy veterans and up-and-comers alike have plenty to find in Lansing. The vibrant comedy scene helped turn comedy fan Cole Tunningley into a comedian in his own right.
“As a comedy fan, Lansing gave me an opportunity to see [comedians] that are incredibly good,” Tunningley said. “And then as someone starting standup [Lansing] gave me a welcoming group of comedians that have me advice, help, and rides.”
Were it not for the abundant comedy venues in Lansing, like the one’s pictured above, Michigan State University student Chris Ryan wouldn’t have been able to carve out a career.
“I come from a small farming town where there wasn’t really any opportunity to do anything related to comedy,” Ryan said. “I had always wanted to go on stage, and when I came [to Lansing] there was suddenly this opportunity to grow, test out material, and build a repertoire into getting paid gigs, and getting my ‘big break.’ “