“The reason I’m in this business, I assume all performers are — it’s ‘Look at me, Ma, look at me, Ma, look at me, Ma.'”

-Lenny Bruce

Stand-up comedy is a unique form of art, as it’s the only one which you need to watch the artist perform in person in order to get the full brunt of its effect. (Quarrelsome readers may point out that performance art shares that feature, making stand-up not unique at all. They are wrong, because bizarre capering, cacophonous ululation, and yanking scrolls from one’s body crevices are not, in fact, art.) You would be bored to tears watching Michelangelo chip a tower of marble into David, just as well as you would be watching E.H. ink The Old Man and the Sea. But with stand-up, the artist connects with you on a personal level. He just wants to make you laugh — it’s the only thing he has to do up there on stage, really. In that sense, in stand-up comedy, you are the medium.

Fargoans are funny people, so it is strange to think they have been without their own dedicated comedy club for quite so long. Aaron and Lindsey Templin, the proprietors of Front Street Taproom, have changed all that by starting The Cellar, the aptly named comedy theater beneath their bar and restaurant.

“We opened The Cellar in March last year,” said Aaron. “Before we dove headfirst into it, though, we went to some classic stand-up institutions to get some inspiration for what our place should look like. We quickly discovered that the dark, intimate settings of clubs like The Comedy Cellar in New York City and Acme Comedy Club in Minneapolis are the best for the audience to connect with a comedian in. They limit what you can pay attention to, as opposed to the Taproom upstairs which has a million things going on at once.

“Probably the biggest thing that The Cellar has going for it is Zach Tooker, a local comedy club expert who I was lucky enough to meet by chance. Zach used to work at Courtney’s, and opened Level 2 at the Radisson a few years ago. His experience means that Zach’s connected to great comedians from all around the country, talent like Eddie Pepitone, Brian Miller, Tommy Rynan, Mary Mack, and Fargo’s own Adam Quesnel. Because of Zach, The Cellar has hosted a lot of comedians who’ve appeared on TV including Conan and Last Comic Standing.

“One thing that we’ve been cautious about is creating ‘comedy fatigue.’ Even though Fargo’s a big town, if we have shows too often at first we’ll essentially oversaturate the comedy market. We always want big turnouts, because that creates the kind of energy that a comedian best flourishes in. We also want star talent, which means taking our time to bring only the best comedians to Fargo that the country has to offer. We started out doing one show a month last year, and then two. The goal is to make this a really frequent thing sometime in the future. I know we’ll get there.”

While Aaron stresses that booze is in no way necessary to fully appreciate the subtle nuances of stand-up comedy, anyone who’s ever had a few knows how perfectly it complements funny stuff. Lucky for us, the Taproom is replete with great potions to choose from. They’ve 30 local beers on tap representing the pinnacle of what North Dakota and Minnesota have to offer including Fargo Brewing and Drekker. (There’s wine, too, for the hoity toity types.) You can bring anything from the Taproom downstairs, or take advantage of the satellite bar right there in The Cellar itself.

You’ll enjoy the Taproom’s embarrassment of riches when it comes to other activities to enjoy there as well, including live music, trivia, and open mic nights. (Open mic nights are for the bold. I tried one once, in Toronto, after I had drank far too much absinthe, which is technically any amount of absinthe. I vaguely recall my friends having to stop me before the Bulgarian man I was hazily attempting the Rickles treatment at pummeled me senseless. Lesson learned — it’s only gin for me going forward.)

The Front Street Taproom and The Cellar are at 614 Main Ave in downtown Fargo. Go and show them that Fargoans deserve a hearty chuckle whenever they’d like one.

 

David Scheller