Despite what you might have read, Cap City Comedy Club isn’t closing. It can’t close. That’s like saying the letter U in Austin is closed. “Astin”? It’s ridiculous and a little insulting. So can we just all stop?
When I started hitting the open mics on a regular basis, Cap existed as an impenetrable emerald city. Sure, I could sign-up for the annual Funniest Person in Austin contest, get my allotted six minutes on their big stage, and after losing, moan about getting robbed to all my work friends. But the idea of doing a weekend there? Unbelievable. That’s the same stage I saw Patton Oswalt record his second album. It felt out of reach.
It wasn’t until I made the FPIA finals that I started to get work there. I soon graduated from someone Jon the security guy would kick out of the comedian seating section, to someone Jon would only glare at, to someone Jon would actually talk to, to someone Jon would talk forever to, to someone John would ridicule every time he saw me, to someone who Jon saw so much I could tell I bored him a little bit. Look at all that Jon history. Cap closing? You’re out of your mind.
Once I started getting regular Cap gigs, I got to know the real reason comics liked the club so much, the staff. The best parts of being there were getting to hang out with my friends Chandy and Samantha. Being tolerated and teased by bartenders Mark, Travis, and Rebecca. Getting such a warm greeting from Alex that I felt like I wasn’t a total fraud for one goddamn second, that I belonged there. Getting told I had “good stuff” by the Cap waitstaff even though they’ve heard my same jokes 6 times that weekend. Getting a big smile from John Becker. Cap isn’t perfect but it’s perfect enough. If that doesn’t make sense, you need to go more often. It’s not closing so you’ll get your chance.
Cap exists in a weird entanglement with the rest of Austin’s DIY comedy scene. Blissfully separate from a phantom stand-up comedy hierarchy, while also serving as an achievement unlocked for those that did work there. It’s why I can’t understate the importance of Matt Bearden’s show Punch!, a wonderful arrangement of alt comedians, club comics and those that were both or neither. This one weekly Cap show taught the whole community how to be a better scene. There was no better feeling getting off stage after doing well at Punch! and walking back to the darkened hallway where the other stand-ups were waiting with smiles and fist-bumps. Doing well there meant the world. You’re telling me that show is without a home? Brother, I have some land in Florida to sell you.
The club’s owners gave a shit. They wanted their audiences to have a good time and their comics to succeed. It was because of the support and kindness of Margie Coyle that I got opportunities inside the club and out. My favorite road gigs were all booked for me by Rich Miller. Every time Colleen McGarr called me I knew something fun was about to happen. If a headliner was a shitty weirdo to a local opener, that headliner didn’t work there again. I’ve been to three memorials held in the big room of Cap. I wish to hell I hadn’t needed to, but the club hosted them because it’s there for Austin comedy at its lowest moments. A place like that can’t close.
In an alternate reality, if Cap were to close, where would I go? Where else can I go on Tuesday nights and stand in the back with so many other comedians, barely able to see the stage, opposite a wall where my picture hangs next to Lashonda Lester’s and Andy Ritchie’s. If Cap were closed it might take me a while to process it, but I know I would be thinking about Margie, Chandy, Sam, Matt and everyone else who worked there, thankful and humbled by their support.
But Cap can’t close. As long as Cap City Comedy club remains open, I can pretend that there will be a “normal” Austin to return to after the pandemic is over. I can pretend the damage done to Austin’s creative community is reversible. That its communal spaces will be repaired, not replaced by more mixed use condominiums that artists can’t afford. As long as Cap stays open I can go on pretending. I was scheduled to open for Dave Attell next month, so I’ll see you there.