Students host alternative open mics off campus

Two students formed a comedy open mic night in the basement of an off-campus apartment.

Lyle Drescher, a sophomore film and media arts major, performs a comedy set at Cave Open Mic on Fontain Street near 15th on Friday. | JAMIE COTTRELL / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Lyle Drescher stole about a dozen folding chairs from his mother’s house in Maryland to furnish his comedy club.

“She asked me to bring back the chairs or else she was going to yell at me more, but she was like two hours away, so what’s she gonna do?” Drescher said. “We just kept the chairs.”

Drescher, a sophomore film and media arts major, partnered with Dave Hogsett, a junior film and media arts major, to form Cave, a weekly comedy open mic series, in September 2017. Held in Hogsett’s house on Fontain Street near 15th, the group hosts free open mics, or events where anyone can sign up to perform a five-minute comedy set, on Friday nights.

During last Friday’s show, about 20 people performed, including some first-time student comics as well as more established Philadelphia comedians, like Matt Hyams, who founded the online satirical spirituality magazine Egobaby.

Drescher and Hogsett said they were compelled to organize the shows after the disbanding of Temple University Comedy Club, a student comedy group, in Spring 2017. The group used to host regular open mics at Saige Cafe, a coffee shop near SEPTA’s Temple University Station.

For each Cave performance, attendees gather in the basement of Hogsett’s house, which is sparsely decorated with wall tapestries and a TV displaying Cave’s logo. The logo, created by Summer Semanyk, Hogsett’s girlfriend and a sophomore tourism and hospitality management major, depicts cartoon versions of Hogsett and Drescher inside a cave filled with beady-eyed rocks.

Matt Hyams, 43, performs a stand-up comedy set at Cave Open Mic on Fontain Street near 15th on Friday. Hyams, a Philadelphia comedian, has been a regular at Cave since he first found its events on Facebook. | JAMIE COTTRELL / THE TEMPLE NEWS

For Drescher and Hogsett, Cave fills an important niche in the city’s comedy scene. Unlike shows at bars, where some people attend primarily to drink, Hogsett said people come to Cave specifically for the comedy.

“If you’re going to be here, you have to be here on purpose,” Hogsett said.

He added that Cave’s proximity to Main Campus attracts students and encourages a more diverse audience.

“Generally at open mics, you’re going see the same faces every week,” Hogsett said. “Cave is different. We get college kids, and we get friends that are supporting [the comedians].”

As a freshman, Drescher said he found himself bored on weekends and uninterested in fraternity parties. By forming Cave, he said he’s helped create a social space for people who share his interests.

“Doing this is great because I’ve created my version of a good Friday night, which is hanging out with people and doing a cool thing,” Drescher said.

Yarlyn Rosario, a senior film and media arts major, attended her first Cave show on Friday. Compared to many performances she’s seen at other comedy clubs, like Good Good Comedy Theatre at 11th and Race streets, she said she appreciated Cave’s intimate atmosphere.

“I enjoyed the house environment,” Rosario said. “It’s awesome, [seeing] people that I know from school, supporting creative people.”

Drescher said he thinks the experience of Cave is also very different from campus house shows, where groups of students host musical performances.

“It is a linear event,” Drescher said. “It has a beginning and an end. It’s like you’re watching a show, whereas these house shows are more [like] parties.”

“There is a community built in automatically,” added Shane Duffner, a senior media studies and production major and Cave’s music and light manager. “You don’t even need an audience for music. You need an audience for stand-up.”

David Feinberg, a senior media studies and production major, has performed at Cave shows. He said he likes that the space is conducive to socializing with other comics, especially for people who are under 21.

“I started [performing] when I was 19, and I couldn’t hang out with comics,” Feinberg said. “I had to be quiet at bars because I wasn’t allowed to talk to people or be known or I’d get kicked out.”

Feinberg added that he would love to see more places like Cave spring up on other college campuses.

In addition to traditional comedians, Cave has also hosted some more unconventional acts. Two weeks ago, NIIC the Singing Dog, a Philadelphia-based performer who wears a neon green dog costume, signed up for a set at Cave.

Playing an acoustic guitar, he led the audience in sing-along renditions of popular songs, like “Wonderwall” by the band Oasis.

“I never promise anyone a good time, but I promise them an experience,” Hogsett said.

Later in the semester, Hogsett said he might consider hosting a comedy showcase, a paid event with a predetermined list of performers. But Drescher added that any large expansions would contradict the ethos of Cave.

“Cave is great because we just like doing it to do it,” Drescher said. “Here, anyone can walk in from the street and say their truths.”

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