By M. Scott Morris, NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO - A guy walked into a bar ... Ouch!
But, seriously, folks, a comedian walked into Papa's Place at Vanelli's and told a bunch of jokes, and people loved it.
Vasilios W. "Bill" Kapenekas, owner of Vanelli's, started a funny experiment in April when he invited nationally touring comedians to perform Friday and Saturday nights.
"We had been thinking about having live music, something like that, and I was cruising the Internet and came across a booking agency at SummitComedy.com," Kapenekas said. "Why not comedy?"
And these aren't ordinary, everyday, average comedians, either. Jim Wiggins, who performed at Vanelli's in May, is a veteran comedian who reached the semi-finals of NBC's "Last Comic Standing."
"This guy's a friend of George Carlin, Richard Pryor - all those guys," Kapenekas said.
Al Katz, another recent visitor, has performed with everyone from Oprah to Tom Hanks.
"Al Katz told me a story about Red Skelton, if you can believe that," Kapenekas said.
Musical comedian Kier, who's shared stage time with Reba McEntire and Roy Orbison, is scheduled to perform today and Saturday, and Roy Wood Jr. is on tap for next week. Wood placed in the top 10 of Comedy Central's "2002 Laugh Riots Competition."
How it works
Doug Stewart, event coordinator of Vanelli's and emcee for comedy night, said the comedians play everywhere from Los Vegas to cruise ships, and they seem to be pleased with the Tupelo experience.
"They all said they'd come back and recommend us to their friends, so we must be doing something right," Stewart said.
At about 9 p.m., the staff starts turning off the TVs, setting up the sound system and getting the lights in place.
"We tell everyone it's an adult show with adult language," Stewart said. "It's only open to people over 18."
At 9:15 p.m., Stewart hosts a "joke-off." Five people in the audience get to tell their favorite jokes. The winner, who's chosen by audience applause, gets a prize.
"Then the comedian comes on and usually does an hour to an hour and 10 minutes," he said, adding that the same comedian performs Friday and Saturday.
After the show, the comedians generally hang around to answer questions and shake hands. They usually have CDs or DVDs for sale.
"The comedians call it their gas money, which is important these days," Stewart said.
Part of turning Papa's Place into a comedy club involves educating the public. There are two simple rules:
Turn cell phones to mute or vibrate.
When not laughing or clapping, keep quiet and allow the comedians to do their jobs.
"We are trying to learn how to be a better comedy club. This is all new to us," Kapenekas said.
"We're going to continue through the fall and see where we're going."
It's funny business, sure, but there's always been a serious side to comedy, Kapenekas said. The ancient Greeks enjoyed a good laugh, and kings through the ages have been known to keep at least one guy around who knows how to deliver a good zinger.
"We're just trying to bring a little joy, a little happiness and a little fun to Tupelo," he said.
"Comedy helps us better deal with the everyday stuff we all go through."
Now, what's the best thing about living in a trailer?
You can meet the fire department halfway.
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