Although the Minneapolis comedy scene spans an array of stand-up venues, University of Minnesota students Kate McCarthy and Nick Saxton and University graduate Andrew Friedman found a gap in the comedy scene’s offerings: there was no weekly show to encourage the exploration of new material.
“[McCarthy] … interned at Second City [a comedy theater in Chicago] this summer, so I went down to visit her,” said Saxton, a junior studying English and theater. “We saw a show there called ‘Holy Fuck Comedy Hour’ … Every Friday at midnight, it’s an hour of brand new comedy.”
On a Wednesday in September, the three decided to launch a Minneapolis take on the concept, and “Midnight Shit” started that Friday at midnight. While the first three shows were held in attics, basements and an outdoor amphitheater on campus, the show has found its home in Humble Cup, a coffee shop on West Bank.
“It’s pretty fun when it’s packed, and the coffee shop is full at 12:30 am, and we see people like walking by and they just come in,” Saxton said. “And then there’s always one person who walks in and will just walk in front of the crowd, and be like, ‘hey, can I have two cappuccinos?’”
“Midnight Shit” celebrates new, weird material from its performers, an element of the show that’s freeing for performers and audiences alike. Previous shows have included bits that range from twists on traditional improv formats to funny characters to McCarthy setting her hair on fire.
“Let’s say someone does a bit where it’s really, really weird and it doesn’t make sense and it bombs,” said Friedman. “Then, someone does something very hack and says ‘hey, how ‘bout that airplane food,’ and it does really well. I would be pretty mad at the person who did something that I’ve seen before, and I would encourage the person who did something weird that didn’t do well.”
Compared to more formal shows, “Midnight Shit” seems greatly under-rehearsed — bits are sometimes devised hours before the show.
“When we do talk about how loose we are with everything, a tremendous amount of work and thought goes into this show,” Saxton said. “We take it seriously, we’re not just college kids who are like ‘we’re going to fuck around and get our friends to come’ … While it is loose and fun, it’s… because loose and fun is the best way to do this show, not because we are not putting in the effort.”
Friedman and McCarthy are more involved in comedy, while Saxton brings theater experience to the show. “Midnight Shit” was partially inspired by a shared experience the performers had in their respective forms: venues, both theaters and comedy shows, don’t always encourage new work.
“There’s definitely some aspect of when the best case scenario going into something is being as good as someone who has already done it… that makes you question why you’re doing it,” Saxton said. “There’s a reason why we draw from people who are in the theater community, and people who are in the standup… Neither one of them is more naturally inclined to this form because this form is whatever you want it to be, as long as you’re creative and have a desire to make new stuff.”
Although the constant cycle of devising new bits can be stressful, the weekly requirement to create new material naturally spurs improvement.
“I did speech in high school... I was supposedly passionate about [it] and… would I watch people do the same thing over and over again and try to replicate a form,” Friedman said. “But I would watch myself do that too… [for 'Midnight Shit,'] I’ve tried to find more internal motivations, like I want to get this point across, or I want the audience to feel like this when they’re watching this.”
“Midnight Shit” ultimately lets its performers explore what makes them laugh and wants its audiences to indulge in that enjoyment.
What: Midnight Shit
When: Midnight, Fridays
Where: 1851 Washington Ave. South, Minneapolis
Editor’s note: Kate McCarthy is a columnist at the Minnesota Daily.