Comedy Season preview Fact is, there just aren"t enough stages for all the funny folks in town. At least, not enough that are featuring comedy, unruly bastard child of the performing arts. Touring comics are selling the wares every weekend, but if it"s farm-fresh, homegrown talent you"ve got a hunger for, you might have to shop a little harder. There are only a handful of venues where local comics do their thing, but if you put in the time to find them, you"ll get your effort back in spades. Of course, you could just read on ...

The amazing Otto

If something in Indianapolis makes you laugh, chances are it traces its roots back to ComedySportz. The venerable improv group, Indy"s most established comic-commodity, has been a staple of stage time for area performers. This season, CS counts 10 years in Indianapolis and will be popping the cork at the Hard Rock Cafe for a black tie celebration Feb. 9. The family-friendly shows continue each Friday and Saturday, leading up to the CS National Tournament, Aug. 4-9, 2003, where improv athletes from across the county will face off for the much-coveted Meaningless Trophy. Also at the CS arena: Spinderalla, an improv for children beginning Sept. 7, and The Idle American, an open-to-the-public talent show, opening Sept. 26. Arriving just in time to warm the cockles, Five at the North Pole runs Thursdays and Fridays, Dec. 5-20, and anyone desperate for some Christmas cash can try their luck during Game Show Live, every Saturday in December. Nietszche est mort? Non! Friday nights in February bring the resurrection of the sketch comedy, Nietszche"s Trailerpark, about life, Lucky Strikes and getting struck by lightning. The eighth installment of the Chris Bauman-produced Circle City Secrets improvised soap opera goes live on Oct. 4 and subsequent Saturdays through Nov. 8 at the CS arena. Focusing on the life and loves of the "Watsins Girl," the soap, like all of Bauman"s offerings, is for mature audiences only; or at least people old enough to vote. The newest who dats on the giggles go-round are Sara Locker and Kate Ayers, who fledged the CS roost to start the sketch comedy troupe On The Rag. Bound to be a bloody riot, right? The Raggers have hung the shingle at the Tiny Little Theatre in Bookmamas. They"ve already got one show in the bag and plan for more on the horizon. With locations downtown and in Broad Ripple, Crackers Comedy Club is the place to catch nationally touring comedians. Some upcoming highlights at the Broad Ripple club include local boy done good Troy Davis Oct. 29-Nov. 3, Tim Cavanagh Nov. 19-24 and Craig Shoemaker Dec. 10-15. Appearing downtown are Lafayette native Dan Davidson Oct. 9-13, John Fox Oct. 16-20 and Ron Shock Nov. 20-24. The Crackers folks do a good job, and with One-Liners on the Southside and rumors of a Funny Bone going in on the Northside, there are plenty of opportunities to see stand-up comedy around town. It"s just unfortunate that the clubs don"t do more to foster local talent, because there"s quite a bit of it. Eric Shorts has stepped forward as the comic"s Robin Hood, leading his merry band of serfs boisterously toward their own land. Tally ho! Shorts got his feet wet producing the Unusual Suspects show in Anderson this past year and has high hopes for the Indiana Comics Tour he"s introducing this year. Any stages that Shorts helps pry open up for comics will be a boon for local performers. Open mic nights at the Melody Inn on Mondays and Crackers Broad Ripple on Tuesdays are the alpha and omega for up-and-coming stand-ups right now. The shows aren"t always consistent - the Melody Inn show in particular is as likely to feature slam poetry as comedy - but the chance to catch a set from Chris Barnes, Nick Goforth or Marques Bunn makes it worthwhile. Bunn has already booked some time with Shorts" Unusual Suspects show, but if anybody in town is due a break, it"s Barnes. He"s head and shoulders above almost any other stand-up in town. One comic not content to wait for his chance is the amazing Otto as Mr. Lucky. A whirling dervish of guerilla marketing, Otto can press the flesh with the best of them and he"s already been given - and taken, but not necessarily in that order - credit for the first sellout of an open mic night at Crackers. His plans for a rooftop comedy rave are so alien, they"re shouting from deep space, but it"s the kind of thinking that sets him apart. Otto has plans to sing in front of Bigger Than Elvis at Radio Radio and has a one-hour feature set shaking loose at the Melody Inn sometime in September. And it"s all being recorded for the Otto movie. Chances are, he"ll keep you posted.

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