Tonight: Wham City Comedy Tour makes a stop at Arcade Comedy Theater


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They came to Wham City because they had heard it was a place of structure without structure, a place where independent artists could bond together to produce independent art.

It kind of makes you laugh.

Baltimore-based Wham City started in 2005 with the promise of giving the local artistic community a voice and a venue. A destination for inspiration.

And comedy. Lots of comedy. Skits, stand-up bits, monologues, improv and videos.

"Not all of us are comedians, but we have humor in our art," said Ben O'Brien, who joined the troupe in 2008. "A lot of us do a lot of things. I'm a video artist, and I also do the managing and booking, as well as some stand-up comedy. We're all performers and writers and we do a lot of different stuff.

"Well, over the years, our collective started amassing all these funny skits and stand-up sets. So I decided to combine it into one thing and put it all under one banner."

That banner -- The Wham City Comedy Tour -- arrives in Pittsburgh tonight as the first stop in the group's 2013 roadshow, hitting 18 cities in less than three weeks.

The six traveling artists participating in the tour loaded up their van this morning for the 8 p.m. show at Arcade Comedy Theater on Liberty Avenue, Downtown. Wham City is the first out-of-town guest to the theater, which opened its doors barely two months ago.

Crowded into the van with Mr. O'Brien are fellow artists Lola Pierson, Dina Kelberman, Mason Ross, Robby Rackleff and Alan Resnick, each of whom brings unique talents to the show.

"It's like a lot of people who just multi-task," said Mr. O'Brien, 28, a native of Oswego, N.Y., who moved to Baltimore after studying video art at State University of New York. "We all do what we want to do. I've always loved comedy.

"It starts with love for it. And then you get people to laugh and it becomes addictive. My humor started with the videos and it kind of evolved. I started doing stand-up and I had some success and that kind of inspired me."

Here's what you'll see for your $15 tonight.

"We start off with everyone in an introducey-type skit," Mr. O'Brien said. "Then there's a video, then small skits and solo stuff. And there's music. It's all hilarious.

"We have all this good stuff we've been developing over the years. Goofy, off-the-wall performances that all built up. So we put it together like a variety show."

Not all of Wham City's 20-some members take part in the tours, the first of which hit the road in 2010.

"The crew changes," Mr. O'Brien said. "But the tours were more successful than I ever thought they would be. We do everything from art shows and gallery shows to club dates. I guess the venues like the idea of having variety in what they book."

He promises that though much of the show has been performed in Baltimore, none of it has been on tour before.

"Absolutely everything is new," he said. "One of the changes this year is that we have actual rehearsals. So we kind of know what we're doing. In the past, we kind of flew by the seat of our pants.

"We're pretty set on an order of things. But we know that once we get on the road we're going to want to switch things up. You can't perfect it by rehearsing. You have to do it in front of people. Then you know. It always takes constant tweaking. We've given ourselves room to do that, but we also want to keep it as streamlined as possible."

At first, it sounds fairly familiar. Like Second City or "Saturday Night Live."

"I think that would be an unfair comparison," Mr. O'Brien said. "Those are professional comedy guys. We're a little scrappier. We're living, working artists, musicians, video artists and comedians all at the same time. Hopefully, you're going to get something new, something different that tickles you in a new way."

It's nice to hear someone who takes laughter so seriously.

"I'm committed to this," Mr. O'Brien said. "I have the stress disorder to prove it."

Again, the show is at 8 p.m. at the Arcade Comedy Theater, 811 Liberty Ave. Admission is $15.

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If you have a suggestion for something to do some evening, let us know about it and we'll see if we can get some of our friends to join you. Contact Dan Majors at dmajors@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1456. This story originally appeared in The Pittsburgh Press. To log in or subscribe, go to: http://press.post-gazette.com/


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