Behind the noise of bowling strikes at Heritage Lanes is the sound of jokes and sporadic laughter.
A back room at the Red Deer bowling alley turns into a comedy club every Thursday night at 8:30 p.m., as up-and-coming comedians try out new material in front of an audience.
Sometimes crowds are sparse — as in only a hand-full of people. But sometimes there are 30 people in the room— especially after a bowling league plays, said Red Deer stand-up comic Josh Earl. “The patrons who come to bowl don’t expect to hear comedy, so sometimes they chime in!”
Open mic comedy nights have been held around Red Deer, including at the International Beer Haus and Stage, The Olive, Slumland Theatre and The Vat — but Earl wants more people to know about the Heritage Lanes events because he feels it’s a good space to perform.
When bowlers and others stay for comedy sets, they actually listen to the jokes and not just to talk to friends, said Earl. It’s a pretty respectful crowd, he added, although there are sometimes hecklers.
The 23-year-old Red Deer labourer tells semi-autobiographical stories about growing up and dating (or trying to get sex, as the case may be). He is one of about a half-dozen regular comedians at Heritage Lanes. Some of the comics come from as far as Edmonton for the chance to get a laugh in Red Deer.
Earl began writing jokes about two years before summoning the nerve to stand up and tell them in front of strangers. The thing he most enjoys about performing is “I don’t have to rely on anyone else to be successful. …
“I also like the rush I get on stage when I’m doing really good,” he added.
Even if the wise-cracks come from real-life experience, most comedians wear a “mask” when performing, said Earl, who thinks of his onstage persona as a more confident version of himself. “I’m socially anxious in big groups of people, but I can loosen up when I’m up there.”
Earl is clearly very committed to comedy. He even looks for day jobs that are flexible enough to allow him to “pursue my comedy dreams.”
As for attending open mic events, you never know when you’re going to see someone who’s destined for greater things.
There’s a $5 cover charge for the Thursday comedy nights at Heritage Lanes bowling alley.