Brookings native, Wooden Legs team up to create space for stand-up comedians

Courtesy photo: Brookings native and comedian Sean Leary is working with Wooden Legs Brewing Company to open The Comedy Room.

A Brookings native and comedian and a local pub want to bring some laughter to the community, something that’s been lacking since the start of the pandemic.

On Valentine’s Day weekend, Wooden Legs Brewing Company is partnering with Sean Leary for the premier of The Comedy Room Presented by Sean Leary with headliner Casey Flesch of Minneapolis.

Tickets are $20, and there is no drink minimum to attend the show. Tickets can be purchased at https://www.evenbrite.com/o/sean-leary-7470200911. The show times are 7 p.m. Friday, Feb. 12, and both 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 13.

“We’ve got Casey Flesch – he’s a comedian from Minneapolis. He’s hilarious, he has bels palsy, which makes half of his face not work sometimes, and it just makes for really, really great comedy – a unique perspective that’s based on self-deprecating jokes,” Leary said. 

“I’ve worked with him a bunch. He’s opened for me when I’ve toured, and he’s worked with a lot of other great comedians around the Midwest. So we’re really excited to bring him in. He’s going to headline all three shows … 100% of the money goes toward the comedians, the performers and the producing aspect of this for entertainers.”

Leary said Wooden Legs has been incredible to work with, and they’re taking safety into consideration.

“We’re really just trying to get this out to the City of Brookings as something fun, laid-back and safe. We’ve got a hard capacity of 30 people, 6 feet between the tables, hand sanitizer and masks will be provided. … I’m going to be producing remotely from L.A., I’ll come back periodically, but I’ll have people in Brookings helping me out,” Leary explained.

Leary is a stand-up comedian who currently lives in California, but he grew up in Brookings, where he grew his interest in comedy into a career. Leary said that since the COVID-19 pandemic began about a year ago, the small business entertainment industry throughout the United States has suffered greatly.

“I live in Los Angeles, and so this past March 2020, my significant other and I, Anna, we both do stand-up comedy and we’re actors and producers. The entertainment business out here, we really haven’t been able to do anything on a larger scale with some of the studios that have bigger budgets for COVID tests and things like that. That’s really all that’s available out here right now. 

“So, we were just kind of brainstorming ideas on what other ways we could still bring entertainment to people and other ways we can still create and give people an opportunity to perform and to really give people the opportunity to laugh. We need it now more than ever. Luckily, South Dakota doesn’t have as many people as L.A., so the risk is much lower in Brookings,” Leary said.

Leary said he wants to give other comedians an opportunity to showcase who they are, but comedy clubs are closing all over the country. “There are just so many places that are on the verge, and we’re just trying to keep comedy alive while also keeping comedians in the entertainment industry afloat as well,” Leary said.

He said the spill-over room at Wooden Legs has the perfect atmosphere and setting to make a great comedy club.

“I headlined there back in October and just fell in love with the space. It’s perfect for a comedy club – it’s very underground, very New York vibes where it’s a low ceiling and lacquer wood …  Everyone was on the same page, and we saw the space and there’s no comedy in Brookings – you have to go to Sioux Falls or Minneapolis to get that experience – it was this kismet moment where we realized this was going to work,” Leary said.

Matt Rustman, taproom operations manager of Wooden Legs, said changes were made to create a flexible and safe space.

“Previously, we used to have the event space and then the pub. There were always the double doors you could use to get over to the event space, but with COVID we really wanted to have the ability to spread our customers out,” Rustman said. “So we tore down a brick wall that separated the event space from the pub, kind of making it one huge room, but we also have the flexibility of installing a temporary wall so we can still host some private events in that space.”

Leary said the goal is to bring in an out-of-town headliner one weekend a month to do three shows.

“That gives people who may work a Friday night shift the opportunity to come on Saturday, or someone who works on a Saturday night shift to come in on a Friday, or something like that. … And if it goes well, we could potentially go to having one show per week. It just really depends on the interest, and so far the interest seems great,” he said.

Leary expressed the importance of doing shows like this during a pandemic, for both the comedians and the patrons.

“In March, everything in California shut down with really no answer. I pretty much lost my entire savings, and we just had to keep our heads above water until this thing called ‘pandemic unemployment assistance’ kicked in. We weren’t able to earn money, and we weren’t able to get regular unemployment because we’re self-employed entertainers,” Leary said. 

He said some of the bigger-name comedians and entertainers were fine because they can more readily make significant amounts of money, but Leary almost lost everything.

He decided to take a risk and tour Minneapolis and South Dakota, two areas he felt weren’t as impacted by the virus at the time.

“So it gave me that positive energy-boost to keep me going further into the idea for The Comedy Room,” Leary said.

“Brookings is such a great community that we thought it was the perfect marriage of progressive, upbeat, smart people in the community who also still want to live their lives and do things. So, it kind of worked out perfectly in that sense,” Leary said. 

“It’s also a little way to say thanks to the town of Brookings for supporting me on my journey out to L.A., and we also want to give back to the small businesses downtown who have been affected by the coronavirus and hopefully give them a reprieve and a night out and maybe cut loose and have a safe, fun Valentine’s weekend without having to worry about the doom and gloom in the world,” Leary said.

Leary runs a sports comedy podcast called “No Credentials with Sean Leary.” He is also working on a comedy “pandemic mini movie” that was inspired by a particular episode of “The Office” where the cast makes a goofy low-budget movie called “Threat Level Midnight.” It will be on YouTube in the near future.

For more information on this weekend’s event, visit the Wooden Legs Facebook page.

Contact Matthew Rhodes at mrhodes@brookingsregister.com.

COURTESY OF: The Brookings Register

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