When the pandemic shut down live events, jokes were scarce and smiles were covered by masks. Out of the stale-faced silence emerged Kinda Live Comedy (KLC) — a quirky, local comedy production company whose shows have expanded from D.C. to New York with the goal of providing laughter, diversity and community for audiences and comedians alike.
Founded by local comedians Hayden Arrington, Noah Goldstein and Victor Gonzalez, KLC launched their first show — not in a lively bar or crowded comedy club, but outdoors in a Northwest community garden. Any year outside of the strangeness of 2020, Wangari Gardens wouldn’t be an ideal venue for a comedy show. It has no chairs and poor acoustics; as a performing comedian, it’s less than comforting to know a ripe tomato is within arm’s reach of an audience member who might not like your jokes. What the KLC team lacked in location, however, they made up in community building.
“We want our audience to have a personal connection with us,” says Kate Blansett, a frequent host and team member. “We try to be intentional about creating that atmosphere, whether it’s passing or performing. We’re starting conversations, asking names and making jokes so when they come to our shows they feel like they’re with friends.”
The twice-monthly garden shows were free — and so were the drinks. Viewers leisurely snagged booze out of a college-style cooler filled with beer, champagne and orange juice (the mimosas went fast). Socially distanced audience members brought their own lawn chairs and picnic blankets and watched artists perform on a small makeshift stage, big enough for comedians to pivot about 90 degrees to the left. It was different, but it was alive. Real comedy was (kinda) happening again.
As Covid-19 restrictions began to loosen in 2021 and the success of the team’s personable, light-hearted approach to comedy shows began to spread, KLC moved from the garden to a permanent home at the Saloon on U Street — an intimate, two-level venue equipped with string lights and a full-service bar (goodbye, college cooler) that can seat nearly 100. Every Friday, KLC hosts sold-out shows at the new venue, hosting some of the most diverse comedian lineups in the area.
“From ethnicity, gender and age to the material, we want to create a platform where a wide range of stories and experiences can be shared on our stage,” says Hayden Arrington, who curates the brand’s digital presence. “Funny is funny. It doesn’t matter if a person onstage looks and sounds different than you; they’re going to find a middle ground through laughter to make everybody feel welcomed and included.”
Along with diversity, KLC’s booking style is unique in the fact they aren’t headhunters searching for the biggest names in comedy to headline their shows and fill up seats. They’re in search of people like themselves: the everyman comedian who’s often overlooked, driven by a love for the craft.
“We started (KLC) because we just wanted to perform and practice, but we weren’t getting booked often since we were new,” says Noah Goldstein, who serves as the team’s premier location scout. “That’s why we started our own show. Even as we grow, we try to look out for and take a chance on the talented underdogs.”
KLC’s shows give budding comedians a chance to develop their craft and earn their stripes in front of live audiences, and this approach has paid off handsomely. Comedians booked with KLC have gone on to perform at some of the major comedy venues in the city, including DC Improv, DC Comedy Loft and Hotbed, Underground Comedy’s new club in Adams Morgan.
“I think every comedian should produce their own show at least once,” says Victor Gonzalez, who made his DC Improv debut this year. “Every comedian, like a comedy show itself, has their own unique voice and style. Learning how to identify, promote and grow will have a direct correlation to your success as a comedian, just as it impacts the growth of a show.”
In 2022, KLC launched a New York branch called Kinda Live Brooklyn, spearheaded by Arrington, who recently moved to the city. From the garden to the Big Apple, a lot has changed over the past two years for KLC, but their mission remains the same.
“We just want to create a show where people are welcomed and feel they belong,” Arrington says. “Friendly rooms just seem to create the best opportunities for laughter.”
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