Steve Brady is a comic that, shall we say, loves to start shit. He can get quite confrontational on the mike, attacking the crowd when a joke or bit doesn't play well.
"It's kind of a mix of how I'm feeling at the time, making people a little bit uncomfortable and seeing if I can win them back—getting myself back in their good graces but also breaking a rhythm," says Brady, who cites Laurel and Hardy, Don Rickles and Louis C.K. as comedic influences. "A lot of comics have a certain cadence they'll follow. I try not to stick to that as much—you know, mix in a little storytelling and crowd-work with some coarse jokes."
Much as the Ohio-born, 32-year-old Brady loves shaking things up onstage, he's also looking to shake up the comedy community with Comedy Smashatron, a monthly open mike night with a technological component that makes it unlike any other in the Triangle. He's organized and hosted it every third Monday since last winter at Linda's Bar and Grill in Brady's home base of Chapel Hill.
Brady has experience operating comedy nights in the Triangle. He previously cohosted a popular open mike at the now-defunct Jack Sprat Café, also in Chapel Hill. "Mainly, everything that I start up is in Chapel Hill and Carrboro because I'm lazy and I don't want to travel to Raleigh or Durham," he says, laughing.
What makes Brady's new open-mike night different is the inclusion of a digital projection system with an Apple TV media player and a screen on stage. This gives comics the opportunity to add some online hijinks to their sets. "You can use the Apple mirroring function on your phone to actually throw things from your phone to the screen to do different, more interactive pieces with comedy," he says. "You can show videos or pictures or Facebook posts or whatever."
As someone who admits to being something of a troll on the World Wide Web, the tech-savvy Brady wanted to add the same fun he has online to the open-mike format. Comics have been taking full advantage of this audiovisual aspect. One night, Ryan Higgins pulled up the weather on his phone and took on the role of a weatherman. Thomas Dixson played a rare Biggie and Tupac clip from YouTube, went behind the screen and provided his own soundtrack.
Audiences have also been known to contribute to the interactive riffing. "People will yell out things and we'll do image searches of what they yell out," Brady says, "then pull them up on Google Images and just rip on them."
Using Comedy Smashatron's Twitter feed (@SmashComedy), Brady is looking for more ways to get audiences in on the action. He's even thinking about getting his stand-up pals in New York to do sets through FaceTime from the comfort of their own homes. It's all part of his plan to make stand-up comedy more accessible (and more unpredictable).
"Eventually," he says, "my vision would be that you can sit in your house anywhere in the country, go to an online forum and click any open mike that you want to see."
This article appeared in print with the headline "Feed the trolls."