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SERIOUS FUN

Galapagos takes its alternative comedy revue rather seriously

for The Brooklyn Paper

The monthly "Pie Hole Comedy Show" at Galapagos isn’t just an alternative to Manhattan’s comedy clubs; it’s an alternative to Manhattan’s comedy. Just as alternative rock made a splash in the ’80s and ’90s, alternative comedy is making an imprint.

"My comedy taste is more alternative and experimental, less stand-uppy and more of an emphasis on characters and stories and music," said "Pie Hole" curator Andrea Rosen, 33. She calls herself a curator, rather than a host, because the show is an amalgam of comedic performers who do anything on a given night from read their high school yearbooks to present a faux-campaign speech.

"[’Pie Hole’] is different because there’s no host," said Rosen, adding that the "Pie Hole" show is a group effort - at least five performers each night.

"I don’t want the identity of the show to be about the host," said Rosen. "I want the identity of the show to be about the group of people who are performing that night."

The performances are varied in form and content - some musical, some improv, some sketch comedy: anything that veers away from what Rosen calls "ba-dum-pum" comedy, the kind of pre-fab mainstream comedy found in Manhattan’s standup clubs like Caroline’s or Gotham.

Not that there’s anything wrong with standup.

Rosen includes at least one dose of pure standup in each show. But while she pledges partial allegiance to that old fashioned institution, you won’t find the show saturated with it.

"You have to do something different every time because the audience is often time the same," she said.

Alternative comedy is nothing new. The term gained fame in 1980s Britain, when out-of-the-ordinary sitcoms like "The Young Ones" or "Absolutely Fabulous" popped up, and continued in America with unorthodox sketch comedy groups such as Manhattan’s Upright Citizen’s Brigade. But, according to Rosen, alternative comedy predates all of those acts.

"Mel Brooks was an alternative comic," said Rosen, citing his famous 2000-Year-Old Man routine. "So is Steve Martin." And Rosen’s influences also include old masters like filmmaker Woody Allen, who started his career as a standup. "There’s a whole world of alternative comedy rooms, in bars and basements."

But Galapagos is the first venue to bring that alternative world across the river and into Brooklyn, said Rosen. If the days of ba-dum-pum comedy are waning, and if any neighborhood is ripe for the cutting edge of comedy, it’s Williamsburg.

"Galapagos is a very theatrical place anyway, so it’s sort of an experience just to be there," said Rosen.

Yet the audience isn’t just the super-hip of that community. "A lot of my crowd is not really from Williamsburg," said Rosen. "A lot of them travel to see the show. It’s a double adventure for them, seeing the show and Williamsburg for the first time."

The impressive lineup is what lures comedy-goers from across rivers, tunnels and bridges.

"[The acts are] people who are on the brink," said Rosen. "And people who are seasoned and well respected."

Past performers include "The Daily Show’s" Ed Helms, Wendy Spero from Comedy Central’s "Premium Blend," Carroll Gardens own Mike Rock from the Bert Fershners, and David Cross, whose alternative comedy "Mr. Show" was a big hit on HBO.

Rosen has been doing comedy for nine years, but she wasn’t always a performer. "I just knew I was scared to death of it," she said. "I was harboring a secret desire to do comedy all along."

After majoring in English at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, she headed to Los Angeles to study with the Groundlings, the venerable improv group that birthed many "Saturday Night Live" performers, including Jon Lovitz and Phil Hartman. She was working as a cocktail waitress at Galapagos when owner Robert Elmes suggested she start a comedy night there.

Asked if Galapagos, which often showcases music, fashion shows and spoken word, was lacking without comedy, Elmes told GO Brooklyn, "We [at Galapagos] like to be insightful, reflective and burlesquey. We were lacking a big toothy smile but a big toothy smile that communicates something as well as being funny."

That was three years ago, and "Pie Hole" has earned a steady following.

"I’m nervous every time that nobody’s going to show up," said Rosen. "It’s like throwing a party but thinking that nobody’s going to come."

But she has no reason to worry. After three years of comedic performances, there’s still no alternative to the "Pie Hole."

 

"Pie Hole Comedy Show" is the third Thursday of every month at 8 pm, with a $7 cover charge. The next show is Nov. 20. Galapagos is located at 70 N. Sixth St. at Wythe Avenue in Williamsburg. For more information, call (718) 782-5188 or visit the Web site at www.galapagosartspace.com.

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