JOHNSTON, R.I. (WPRI) ─ It’s called “Curbside Comedy,” but this funny business is also being delivered from lawns, porches and a few other spots by a couple of comics who live to make you laugh, especially now.
Connor Kwiecien starts off their 40th show with about ten people in an audience of lawn chairs in a Johnston backyard.
“Are you ready for a ‘Curbside Comedy’ show,” Kwiecien says to applause. “Please put your hands together for the first comedian of the night.”
Then, a short comedic pause.
“Me!” he says.
So, what happens if the watermelon-adorned chair gets more chuckles than the backyard humor?
“Here’s an impression of me going on a date,” Kwiecien says while looking down at his phone. “She cancelled.”
About half the crowd laughs lightly, but according to the New Hampshire native, it’s no different when a joke bombs in a small crowd as opposed to a large one.
“A joke bombing anywhere is terrible. It’s the worst feeling in the world,” Kwiecien says. “But it’s the best feeling in the world to bring them back and make them laugh.”
There are also challenges to “working a room” without any walls, where unwanted sounds can be a distraction to the performer and the crowd.
“We have cars going down the road. Sometimes trains in the background,” Kwiecien said. “Dogs. Neighbors.”
Also, crying babies and chirping crickets according to his partner and fellow New Hampshire native Trevor Glassman.
“His skin is pale, but his comedy is dark,” Kwiecien tells the crowd while introducing Glassman.
But with a camera in his face, Glassman pulls back the reigns on his cloudy shtick.
“I can’t do this one on TV. It’s too dark,” Glassman says. “Actually, never mind.”
That joke was a just little too dark to repeat, but the following quip was okay.
“My dad is Jewish. My mom is Greek-Orthodox,” Glassman says. “And together, they’re divorced.”
They were both working the New York City comedy circuit until the far-from-funny reason crowds are masked emerged.
“When New York City shut down, so did the comedy clubs,” Kwiecien said. “When you love doing comedy, it feels like a piece of you is missing.”
They reached out to their fellow comedians for ideas on what to do to fill their void and soon developed their concept of small shows, outdoors with masked audience members.
“There are a lot of people that are not as comfortable leaving their house,” Glassman said. “Why don’t we bring comedy to them? This is a safe way for us to keep doing what we love.”
Curbside Comedy was not the first name that came to mind.
“My mom suggested cul-de-sac comedy,” Kwiecien said. “I said, ‘Mom, not everyone lives in a cul-de-sac but most of us have curbs.'”
As they deliver their material, a jar sits on the makeshift stages, but it’s not just for tips.
They’ve given away about half the contributed cash, nearly $5,000 to local charities. Those include Comedy Gives Back, an emergency fund for comedians and Direct Relief, which helps people recover from disasters.
“It feels great to give to charity while doing what you love,” Glassman said. “It’s important.”
“It’s sobering to do this during a pandemic but then you get some perspective,” Kwiecien added. “And you say, ‘There’s a pandemic going on and I made some people laugh. That’s pretty cool.'”
Kwiecien and Glassman have a pair of Curbside Comedy shows coming up next week, including one in Newport on Sept. 25 to benefit Newport Mental Health.