With live comedy more or less curtailed thanks to a little thing called COVID, Albuquerque comedian Sarah Kennedy turned to the internet to spread her laughs. For much of 2021, she hosted “Sarah Kennedy and Friends,” a Twitch-based weekly show, from Downtown’s Box Performance Space. Earlier this year, she switched to a podcast titled “Comedy Ghost Town.” The 11-episode series had Kennedy interviewing industry experts, business authorities, government representatives and more to figure out why a town the size of Albuquerque—with its objectively robust comedy scene—hasn’t had a dedicated stand-up comedy club since Laffs Comedy Cafe shut its doors more than a decade ago. After three months of investigation and speculation, the podcast ended with Kennedy and her wife, journalist/author Kelli Trapnell, announcing, basically: Screw it, let’s just do it ourselves.
The fruit of Kennedy and Trapnell’s labors, Dry Heat Comedy Club, is about to swing wide its doors to see how ready Albuquerque is for a mid-sized venue dedicated almost entirely to the art of stand-up comedy. It hasn’t been a quick or easy journey since the duo began renovating the space in the middle of March.
Kennedy’s mother calls the club her daughter’s “baby,” and the joker-turned-entrepreneur compares building a business to a short but difficult gestation period. “When you’re pregnant there is all this stuff people refuse to talk to you about. Because it’s so gross … or so boring.” Nonetheless, Kennedy and Trapnell have gotten through it, thanks in no small part to the dozens of people who have contributed to this “stone soup affair,” as Kennedy calls it. The recently completed stage was donated by a friend. Kennedy’s father has done a lot of the handywork. The overhead lights came courtesy of a recent makeover at Hotel Albuquerque. And a generous Downtown Storefront Activation Grant from the City of Albuquerque is providing enough capital to “take care of the first year of operating expenses if need be.”
The intimate, 45-seat venue is located in a former yoga studio on Sixth Street just off Central on the west side of Albuquerque’s reawakening Downtown. The walls have gone from a Zen-like teal to a proper theatrical black, and the bar/concession stand is in the process of being built. Although the space isn’t large enough for a full kitchen—which precludes the possibility of a liquor license—Kennedy hopes to soon offer “meal adjacent” foods. Empanadas tops her wish list, and she hopes that off-site friends like Kosmos, Bosque Bakery and Ritchie B’s Pizza will be able to offer on-site catering for events. And nearby business friends at Red Door Brewing and Founders Speakeasy have already offered to set up “picnic licenses” to vend alcohol for special shows.
Kennedy and Trapnell are optimistic about the need for a comedy club in Albuquerque. Kennedy is a veteran of the scene, having toured the country for more than 13 years. She met Trapnell in New York eight years ago, and the duo produced a string of comedy shows before moving back to Albuquerque in 2019. They count a number of professional comedians among their friends—people who have gotten their break on “The Daily Show” and “America’s Got Talent.” Those people have been ringing the newly installed Dry Heat phone off the hook, eager to book shows in the freshly constructed venue. Kennedy notes that Austin and Denver both have thriving comedy scenes, with many performers traveling between the two hubs. Having Albuquerque as a midpoint would be ideal for performers and would allow Albuquerque audiences to see a much wider range of comedic talent.
Dry Heat is set to open to the public on Thursday, June 23, and the jam-packed opening weekend features shows by well-known local comedians Jess Wood, Zach Abeyta, AMarie Castillo, Josh Fournier, Stef Darnell, Robert “Buck D” Gipson, Curt Fletcher and, of course, owner Sarah Kennedy.
Kennedy and Trapnell hope to book live shows “at least 20 times a month.” The rest of the time, the venue will be available for performers to produce their own events. Trapnell, the “literary” half of the duo, is bucking for getting literature readings, book launches and poetry slams on the calendar as well. In addition to the stage and the microphones, the club is equipped with a projector and a screen, which will allow for slideshows or “MST3K”-style movie screenings.
For a complete list of upcoming shows and event or to book tickets for opening weekend, go to dryheatcomedyclub.com.