Holiday Howl

At this time of year, there are few places to hide from the seasonal attack of nonstop Christmas lights, bad lawn ornaments, and the too-cheery carols that stalk us even into the supermarket. Movie theaters are plagued with Disney blockbusters, and we can't stand the thought of watching another television rerun of It's a Wonderful Life. So when we found out that the Backdoor Comedy club is braving the elements to keep the doors of its new location at 2824 Main Street open through the week of Christmas, we even thought about cracking a smile. Hell, they might even get us to laugh.

"The last place was nice, intimate," says Jan Norton, the club's producer and every-once-in-a-while performer. But it was a part-time bowling alley, so they "had to fight that bowling-alley syndrome," she adds. "I think people got the impression that we were down there with the pins."

The new place, inside the Cockeyed Parrot Bar, is still intimate and casual, with an "abstracty, cartoonish" backdrop representing a back-alley scene, says Norton, but in a "Daliesque kind of way." It was painted by recognized local artist Tom Prybil.

Backdoor Comedy has been around for more than 10 years. It has a showcase format, inspired by comedy rooms in Los Angeles and New York, in which several (usually local) comedians take the stage for short sets of 10 or 20 minutes.

Some of those who started their careers at Backdoor went on to achieve local and national fame, like Johnny Hardwick (a writer-producer currently known as the voice of Dale in the Fox series King of the Hill). Big-timers such as David Spade often drop by for a guest appearance when they are in town. Thursday nights are open mike: "We get everyone from a local millionaire and former Mary Kay vice president to bus drivers, lawyers, dentists, accountants..." Accountants? "We'll give anyone 3 minutes, as long as they do original stuff," says Norton. "But sometimes it gets painful."

And if you still don't know what to do on New Year's Eve (It's OK, we don't either), you can check out Backdoor's New Year's Eve Special, featuring headliner John McDowell and the best in local talent. McDowell has made more than 100 television appearances, including The A-List on Comedy Central and Evening at the Improv on A&E. This is a good chance to see him live and laugh your way into 1999.

--Juliana Barbassa

Backdoor Comedy's new location is 2824 Main Street; shows are Thursday, Friday, and Saturday at 9 p.m., with a Friday late show at 11 p.m. Entrance is $5 on Thursdays and $7 on weekends. There will be two shows as part of their New Year's Eve special event: one at 8:00 p.m. for $15 a person, and one at 10:30 p.m. for $40 a person or $75 a couple, which includes champagne, a buffet, and the music of Eden Automatic until 4:00 a.m. Call (972) 601-2204.


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