The host of the CNN show “United Shades of America” is known for exploring tough subjects. In two seasons of “United Shades,“ Bell has spent time with members of the Ku Klux Klan and has sat down with Alexandria-based white supremacist Richard Spencer. The show was nominated for a Primetime Emmy award in 2016.
But although he’s been outspoken about his support of social causes, Bell says his comedy act is not about political affiliation.
“I feel the need to make the jokes about the people who I feel need to have jokes made about them, it could be the left, it could be the right, could be somewhere in between,” he said.
The comedian believes that too many of America’s issues have been politicized even though those issues exist no matter where someone is from. By poking fun at both sides, he believes he helps erases some of the social divides.
“We think of the north and the south and the west and the Midwest, but every town, every city, every part of this country, there are different things going on,” Bell said. He thinks that once people stop focusing on what makes us different, “we’d realize that we all want more money from our job, we all want better schools for our kids.”
In an especially polarized political climate, Bell thinks that his show can be a place for people to unwind. He says his visits to places with histories of racism often turn out to be the best shows, because the audience members need the break more than anyone else.
The author of the book “The Awkward Thoughts of W. Kamau Bell: Tales of a 6′ 4″, African American, Heterosexual, Cisgender, Left-Leaning, Asthmatic, Black and Proud Blerd, Mama’s Boy, Dad, and Stand-Up Comedian,” released early this month, wants people to leave his show willing to engage with those with different perspectives.
“We are not as strong in our communities as we think we are, we need to get to know our neighbors,” Bell said. “We need to get to know the people two streets over, we need to get to know people outside of neighborhoods.”
And although it can be uncomfortable, he believes it’s an important learning experience.
“Awkward can often lead to a better place, a smarter place and a more joyful and more informed place,” Bell said. “That’s what I’m encouraging people to do, lean into the awkward.”
Bell will perform two shows at the Drafthouse on Friday, an early show at 7:30 p.m. that is now sold out and a late show at 10 p.m. Tickets are $35 for general admission, $63 for general admission and a book.
It’s expected to start Sept. 7-9 with comedy legend Jon Lovitz. Later that month, Pauly Shore will be performing a “one-nighter” on Sept. 24. Another former MTV personality, “Jackass” star Steve-O, will be in town Oct. 19-22. And comic/actor Tom Arnold will perform his standup act on Nov. 3 and 4.
In addition to the comedy, actor Val Kilmer will be at the Drafthouse on Oct. 6 and 7 for a special screening of his one-man play about Mark Twain, plus a question-and-answer session after the film.
This summer’s comedy lineup includes “Super Troopers” star, director and co-writer Jay Chandrasekhar this weekend and W. Kamau Bell next weekend, followed by Chris Gethard, Gary Gulman, Kevin Barnett, Alex Moffat, Jade Catta-Preta, and Piff the Magic Dragon.
Photo via Arlington Cinema Drafthouse
The proprietor of a food truck that would park near the now-closed Food Star grocery store is set to take over the former Green Room next to the Arlington Cinema & Drafthouse.
The truck, Tortas Y Tacos La Chiquita, sold Mexican food like tacos, quesadillas and tortas from the parking lot at the corner of Columbia Pike and S. George Mason Drive.
Owner David Villalobos said on the eatery’s official Facebook page that their new digs at 2911 Columbia Pike will be open in the first or second week of June. He also said that customers can expect “new cakes and tacos” after the grand opening.
The restaurant replaces “The Green Room,” which hosted stand-up comedy and other events adjacent to the main theater. It closed earlier this year as owner Greg Godbout looked for a new tenant.
Homeless Population on the Rise in Arlington — “Most jurisdictions saw declines in homelessness from 2016, though the population… increased by 33 percent in Arlington County. Kathleen Sibert, the president and chief executive of the Arlington Street People’s Assistance Network, noted that because Arlington has a relatively small homeless population, modest fluctuations can create dramatic-looking percentage increases or decreases.” [Washington Post]
More on New Rosslyn McDonald’s — The new state-of-the-art McDonald’s in Rosslyn has some food offerings not available elsewhere in D.C. It has an in-house bakery that serves fresh pastries; the other closest McDonald’s with a bakery is in New York City. Also, the restaurant will soon offer two special ice cream sundaes: turtle brownie and strawberry shortcake. [Rosslyn BID]
County Seeks Volunteers for ‘BioBlitz’ — “Arlington County is seeking dedicated volunteers to support its May 20 ‘BioBlitz,’ a quick-but-intense wilderness exploration that will produce a catalog of our natural holdings spotted within a 24-hour window. Think of it as a snapshot of the common-to-rare wildlife that can be found hiding in plain sight within our borders.” [Arlington County]
Drafthouse Continues to Critique Kennedy Center — Arlington Cinema Drafthouse owner Greg Godbout has penned another letter to customers that makes the case for why the Kennedy Center is competing unfairly for comedy acts. The letter also accuses the center of “lying” and a “cover up” after Godbout went public with his initial criticism. [Drafthouse Comedy]
Flickr pool photo by Dennis Dimick
The iconic local business at 2903 Columbia Pike is about to shift to playing movies on a first-run basis, meaning it has quicker access to films. Owner Greg Godbout has said previously that showing mainstream movies several months after the initial release has hurt business given the rise of video on-demand services.
But to show first-run films, the Drafthouse will need to increase its ticket prices to meet the requirements of its film distributors. In an email sent to customers Tuesday, Godbout said tickets will now cost $8 for matinee screenings, and for students and other discounted groups like children and seniors, and $10 for screenings after 6 p.m.
The Drafthouse will also no longer offer $2 discount films on Mondays and Tuesdays. Instead, Mondays will be a “discount day,” with $8 evening showings, while Tuesdays will be the full $10 price.
“While this is a low price considering the average ticket prices in our area ($12 – $16), it is still a significant increase for our customers,” Godbout wrote. “By agreeing to the studio’s terms on pricing we will get access to films earlier than normal. We are doing this because the ‘Second Run; market has vanished — and we are struggling to compete with streaming at home released, before we get access to films.”
But the cinema will also receive several upgrades. The outside marquee will be revamped at some point in the future, while “The Green Room” — adjacent to the cinema entrance — has been closed to make way for a soon-to-be-announced new tenant. A new food menu will also be introduced, as well as some new furniture over time.
In the email, Godbout also criticized the Kennedy Center for establishing itself as a “commercial entertainment entity and local competitor” that now has stand-up comics. He said the center’s “unfair advantage” of being underwritten by federal taxes will cost the Drafthouse at least $150,000 in revenue this year.
More from Godbout on competition with the Kennedy Center, after the jump.
A record number of people turned out for last night’s Democratic Party straw poll, where County Board candidate Erik Gutshall and School Board candidate Monique O’Grady were some of the victors.
Hosted at the Arlington Cinema & Drafthouse by Del. Alfonso Lopez (D), more than 120 people cast ballots for Democratic candidates for Arlington County Board, Arlington School Board, lieutenant governor and governor. The attendance set a record for the event, now in its third year.
Lopez said the event raised around $12,500 from ticket sales, which he said will be funneled to Democratic candidates in other House of Delegates races across the commonwealth. Lopez added that getting people excited about the upcoming races was a big point of emphasis, as opposed to focusing purely on the straw poll results from a limited voter pool.
“I think what’s wonderful about it is people are so fired up,” he said in an interview. “They’re coming into the room fired up, excited about the campaigns, they’re excited about the candidacies, they’re excited about their friends running for office.”
Gutshall won the County Board poll with 38 percent of the vote, ahead of Vivek Patil with 30 percent, Peter Fallon with 22 percent and Kim Klingler with 10 percent.
Gutshall, who won the straw poll last year in his unsuccessful bid for a County Board seat, said creative thinking is required to solve problems like school overcrowding and housing affordability.
“We’ve got a wonderful county here that I’m proud to be a part of,” he said. “But we can’t stay the same.”
In her remarks, O’Grady cited her “experience keeping our school system strong,” as well as being co-chair of last year’s successful $138.83 million school bond campaign.
O’Grady won the School Board straw poll with 46 percent of the vote, ahead of incumbent James Lander with 36 percent and Maura McMahon with 18 percent.
In the statewide races, current Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam won the straw poll for the governor’s race against former Rep. Tom Perriello with 67.5 percent of the vote. Speaking on Northam’s behalf, state Sen. Adam Ebbin (D) said Northam is a “fighter for our progressive values” and has advocated tirelessly for women, children and ethnic minorities.
“We can count on Ralph to be with us as the 73rd governor of Virginia,” Ebbin said.
Justin Fairfax took victory in the straw poll for lieutenant governor with 64 percent of the vote, ahead of Susan Platt with 20 percent and Gene Rossi with 16 percent. County Board member Christian Dorsey, who spoke on Fairfax’s behalf, praised his grueling campaign schedule and his long-term view on solving problems.
“The question is, who has the skill and the will and will fight for you?” Dorsey said. “In this regard, I am so impressed with Justin Fairfax.”
The Arlington County Democratic Committee holds its caucus for County Board nominee and School Board endorsement on May 9, 11 and 13. Statewide primary elections will be held on June 13.
The Arlington Cinema and Drafthouse (2903 Columbia Pike) will shift to an art-house movie model and away from showing mainstream films several months after their initial release.
The change will be formally announced in an email to customers this afternoon, Drafthouse owner Greg Godbout said.
The announcement comes three weeks after the Drafthouse began surveying customers on proposed changes to the theater’s business model, floating the idea of showing first-run movies during the summer, at a time when live comedy audiences — the Drafthouse’s bread and butter — are down.
Otherwise, when comedy acts and special events are not booked, the Drafthouse has been showing “sub-run” movies, which are movies that have been playing at the multiplexes for several months and which are, typically, close to being released to home viewers via Video on Demand.
Earlier VOD release dates have been cutting into the audience for sub-run movies, Godbout said, so he was thinking of showing blockbuster movies for a week at a time over the summer — a model many other single-screen theaters adopt (studio rules prohibit showing multiple first-run films on the same screen).
The feedback from customers, however, pointed him to indie and art-house style films rather than the typical big-budget mainstream popcorn flick.
Starting with certain movies in January, until the change is complete in May, the Drafthouse will begin showing sub-run art-house films in winter, spring and fall, while the Drafthouse continues to focus on hosting big-name national comedy acts on weekends. Then, in the summer, the Drafthouse will switch to a three week cycle of two weeks of first-run art-house and indie films and one week of older art-house films or film festivals.
The theater will continue to offer family-friendly movies and entertainment, particularly during matinee times, but the $2 discount movies on Monday and Tuesday nights will either go away completely or the price will be raised, said Godbout.
Another change in the works: the replacement of the Drafthouse’s aging seats with new office chairs.
At the Drafthouse’s new D.C. location, meanwhile, more changes: local and national standup comedy acts will continue to perform, but there will be a new focus on hosting Esports competitions — live videogame tournaments, which are gaining in popularity.
The full letter from Godbout, after the jump.
The Arlington Cinema and Drafthouse, at 2903 Columbia Pike, sent an email to customers on Sunday night, seeking feedback on a proposal that would change the way it books entertainment options.
Currently, the Drafthouse hosts national comedy acts, periodic special events and “sub-run” movies year-round.
Historically, sub-run movies are movies that have been out a few months but are not yet on home video or on-demand. But that has been changing — now such movies make it to on-demand and home video faster, which has led to a slump in the sub-run movie model, says Drafthouse owner Greg Godbout.
Godbout, who runs the venue with his wife Colleen, said the business of showing sub-run movies for discounted prices has been in decline for years, with fewer people finding a reason to pay to go out to a movie that they can just watch at home.
“The studios have no interest in keeping the sub-run model alive,” he said. “This has been something that has been trending for some time and we now have to do something about it.”
The proposal, as presented to customers, would bring first-run movies to the Drafthouse, but only for part of the year. In the summer, when comedy attendance is down, the Drafthouse would exclusively show new Hollywood releases. The rest of the year, the same mix of comedy, events and sub-run movies would return.
Studio rules dictate that the Drafthouse can’t show new releases and other entertainment on the same screen or stage. So if the change were to be made the Drafthouse would, during the summer, follow roughly the same model as the Uptown Theater in D.C., showing one first-run movie exclusively for a couple of weeks before moving on to another.
“As we make this decision, it’s a significant change — trying to figure out how we change our model to fit the movie industry, so we can continue to do movies,” said Godbout. “We’ve had so many internal discussions about this, but we’ve never opened it up and said, ‘hey customers, what do you think about this?'”
He said the response to his email has been overwhelming: less than 24 hours after he sent it Sunday night, more than 1,600 people had already filled out a survey that he linked to in the email.
“We’re so fortunate, we have a very passionate fan base,” Godbout said. “This is the best type of market research you can imagine. People have also been emailing privately, I can barely keep up with it.”
Godbout said a final decision needs to be made by February, to give the Drafthouse enough time to book movies in advance for the summer. The decision, he hinted, may be different than what was proposed in the email, in response to feedback.
“That proposal, while still in tact, is changing significantly based on responses,” he said. “People are saying, remain unique, don’t be like everything else.”
But change is likely either way.
“When you run a small business, nothing is permanent, you have to adapt,” said Godbout.
The change took on a bit more urgency this year because so-called “disposable income venues” — entertainment venues, restaurants, etc. — in the area are experiencing a downturn that Godbout attributed to election anxiety.
Despite that, the Drafthouse is investing in its future with planned maintenance to its neon “ARLINGTON” sign and the replacement of its more worn-out chairs.
Godbout said certain things about the Drafthouse, which he and Colleen first took over in 2005, are not changing. The new chairs, for instance, will still be office chairs. And the shows will go on.
“We’re not shutting our doors,” he said. “This will still be the comfortable place to come to enjoy world class entertainment.”
The full email, after the jump.
Flickr pool photo by Brian MKA
You know comedian David Koechner as “Champ” from Anchorman, but you might not know that in addition to his film and TV work he still travels the world performing standup comedy.
David is in Arlington this weekend, performing a total of five shows on Thursday, Friday and Saturday at the Arlington Cinema Drafthouse on Columbia Pike. Tickets are $25 and are still available online.
We talked with David about his roles in Anchorman, Waiting, Thank You for Smoking and The Office, and also discussed whether he plans to see any the sights around Arlington during his visit. Taking advantage of being in the D.C. area, David weighed in on some of the issues he’s passionate about as well.
This week’s sponsor is Crystal City. Take advantage of the nice September weather and check out Crystal City’s last two Wine in the Waterpark events of the season this coming Friday and next Friday.
Photo courtesy Collin O’Brien
Jon Lovitz is set to take the stage at Arlington Drafthouse (2903 Columbia Pike) from Friday, Sept. 16., to Sunday, Sept. 18. He has Friday and Saturday shows at 10 p.m., as well as Saturday and Sunday performances at 7 p.m.
Lovitz, who also voiced the film reviewer in the animated TV show, “The Critic,” is a “versatile comedic actor instantly recognizable for his distinctive voice, acerbic wit, pear-shaped body, and hangdog eyes,” according to Arlington Drafthouse’s website.
Tickets are $30.
Photo via Flickr/Phil Konstantin
Saturday Night Live star Darrell Hammond will be performing live stand-up comedy in Arlington over Labor Day weekend.
Hammond, who had the longest tenure of any SNL cast member, was noted for his impressions of Bill Clinton, Al Gore, Sean Connery and, most recently, Donald Trump. Since 2014, he has been SNL’s announcer. Last year he played Colonel Sanders for a KFC ad campaign.
Hammond is performing at the Arlington Cinema Drafthouse (2903 Columbia Pike) on Friday, Sept. 2 and Saturday, Sept. 3. There are two show times per day: 7:30 p.m. and 10 p.m. Tickets are $32.
Ben Bailey, formerly the host of Discovery Channel’s “Cash Cab” and NBC’s “Who’s Still Standing,” now makes a living saying funny things onstage. Bailey has also appeared on such television shows as “30 Rock,” “Mad TV” and “Law and Order: Special Victims Unit.”
The host-turned-comedian is also apparently a talented impersonator:
Bailey will perform one show on Friday, July 15 and two shows on Saturday, July 16. Tickets are $25.
Photo via Facebook / Ben Bailey
If you typed that into a search engine, we have a simple answer: pretty much anywhere that serves beer and has a TV. It’s a safe bet that if you walk into any bar in Arlington County at 6:30 p.m. Sunday — the time that the Super Bowl festivities are scheduled to start — the big game will be on.
There are, however, a couple of options in Arlington for those who are looking for a more unique Super Bowl experience.
“Mad Rose graciously hosted a subset of fans during Snowzilla and would love to welcome us back!” the group wrote on its website. “They will feature happy hour food and drink specials and the famous blue Panthers Punch shot!”
Mad Rose will also be hosting Broncos fans, but in a different wing of the bar.
There is no official Denver Broncos gathering in Arlington that we’re aware of — the big Broncos events are both in the District — however, if you’re a fan of either team and want to watch the game on the biggest possible screen, the Arlington Cinema Drafthouse (2903 Columbia Pike) has an event for you.
The Drafthouse’s Super Bowl viewing event is free and begins at 4:30 p.m.
“We will be offering regular table side service offering a full restaurant menu with full bar service,” the Drafthouse said on its website. “And of course our huge digital sports screen!”
A Donald Trump impersonator will debate a Bernie Sanders impersonator at Arlington Cinema & Drafthouse (2903 Columbia Pike) next month.
Trump, played by comedian Anthony Atamanuik, and Sanders, played by comedian James Adomian, will pretend to butt heads over taxes, immigration and which candidate has the weirdest hairdo.
Though the debate is improvised, it’s peppered with each candidate’s mannerisms. Trump, of course, utters “yuge” and purses his lips while Sanders gesticulates wildly and mumbles.
The faux candidates take the stage on Feb. 18 at 8 p.m., and tickets are $20.
However, the lineup for early 2016 is looking similarly impressive.
It includes writer, producer and actor Tom Arnold, who’s scheduled to perform four shows during the second weekend of April. He’s most recently known for hosting CMT’s “My Big Redneck” show franchise. Arnold as also appeared alongside Robin Williams, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Dustin Hoffman in films including “Nine Months,” “True Lies” and “Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery.”
Other notable comedians — all of whom have appeared on Comedy Central — coming to the Drafthouse over the news few months are:
- Greg Fitzsimmons from “The Howard Stern Show” and “Louie” — Feb. 5-6
- Sarah Tiana from “Reno 911!” — Feb. 19-20
- Tone Bell from “Bad Judge” and “Whitney” — March 11-12
- Carlos Mencia from “The Heartbreak Kid” and “Mind of Mencia” — March 31-April 2
- Nick Di Paolo from “The Chris Rock Show” (writer) and “The Sopranos” — April 29-30
Tickets for all the comedy shows are now available online.
SNL cast member Pete Davidson is performing at the Drafthouse this weekend, but tickets are sold out.