If you put a handful of comics in one room and tell them to perform brand new material in front of an audience, you start to realize that comedy may not be so easy. They fumble over their words and spout jokes at each other that nobody else really understands. But honestly, it’s all part of the fun.
Fresh Bleats, hosted at The Comedy Corner Underground, is a workshop that operates in the form of a game show. Comics are only allowed to perform material that nobody has ever heard before and, in the process, they can earn points for prizes.
They get one point for finishing a bit in five minutes and five points for jumping in right after another comic has finished their own five-minute set. The winner earns a prize — whether that’s a box of powdered donuts is anybody’s guess.
“It’s fascinating to see these comics interact with each other,” said Kate Anderson, the creator of Fresh Bleats. “Part of it is you're watching comics trying to learn how to work because not all comics work together.”
The workshop started roughly a year ago after Anderson realized there was something missing in the Twin Cities comedy scene. She came to the idea for Fresh Bleats during an open mic night in New York City that turned into an impromptu workshop.
“These guys sort of took over the open mic, and they're offering advice,” Anderson said. “There's some really good comics that were noticing there's no response [to the material] and they're like, ‘Hey, you should do that line like this.’”
Anderson brought the idea to The Comedy Corner Underground in Minneapolis, and they paired her with another comic, Devohn Bland, who had only been in the scene for about two years.
“We met up, we talked, and [Anderson’s] idea for the show was just so wild and funny and goofy that I was like, ‘Yes, let's just do this,’” Bland said.
The two had never met before collaborating on Fresh Bleats, but they quickly realized that the workshop had the opportunity to fill a space the Twin Cities comedy scene needed to fill.
“You're criticizing your own material at an open mic,” Bland said. “Some people will give you feedback, but the feedback is a little bit more like, ‘Hey, that bit wasn't that great.’ Whereas in this show, the feedback is like, ‘Hey, this is how you can make this better.’”
The comics sit in the audience while another comic is performing their bit so that they can get the audience perspective and provide constructive feedback right away. It can be nerve-racking considering the feedback is happening in front of a live audience, but at the end of the night, it helps the comics become more confident.
“It can be kind of intimidating,” Anderson said. “It's almost like you're eavesdropping, but this is a show where comics can learn how to have more control over themselves and their work.”
Fresh Bleats celebrated its one-year anniversary to a loud crowd at The Comedy Corner Underground on Nov. 21. The show is going on a short hiatus while it finds a new home, but that only made the night feel more special. Comics cracked jokes about bringing a dog to a vet, setting booby traps as a kid and stealing Advil from a gas station.
“You can just kind of let go of those expectations,” said Jodie Maruska, a comic who has performed at Fresh Bleats a number of times in the last year. “It’s daunting, but it’s really creative and it makes you think on your feet.”