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 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.
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
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.
A mock Donald Trump vs. Bernie Sanders “comedy debate” will take place at the Arlington Cinema Drafthouse (2903 Columbia Pike) next week.
“Trump vs. Bernie: The Debate Tour 2016” is scheduled Thursday, Friday and Saturday night, Feb. 18-20. Tickets are $20.
The show stars comedians Anthony Atamanuik as Trump and James Adomian as Sanders.
“It’s Republican Billionaire vs. Democratic Socialist fighting over the issues before the 2016 presidential election,” trumpets the Drafthouse website. Arlington is the second to last stop for the “unsanctioned debate” on a multi-city tour.
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.
Chester’s Billiards Bar & Grill at 2620 S. Shirlington Road is hosting the first Pink Friday Comedy Showcase on Jan. 22.
As the name suggests, the show is produced by women and will feature up-and-coming female comics in the greater metro area.
Hosted by D.C. Improv and Broadway Comedy Club alums Eryca Nolan and Alexx Starr, the lineup currently includes three comedians and additional, unnamed guest performers. However, the lineup is subject to change.
Tickets are available online for $10 (not including fees), but the first 25 people to reserve tickets will get them free.
On show night, doors will open at 8 p.m. and the show will start around 8:30.
A man dressed as a green dragon will take the stage with a Chihuahua at Arlington Cinema & Drafthouse (2903 Columbia Pike) next month.
That man is Piff the Magic Dragon and the Chihuahua is Mr. Piffles, his trusty sidekick. Together, the duo’s oddball blend of comedy and stage magic propelled them to the finals in the latest season of “America’s Got Talent.”
Fresh off of a six-month stint at The Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas, Piff and Piffles will perform four shows in two nights on Friday, Jan. 1 and Saturday, Jan. 2, with performances at 7:00 and 10:00 p.m. each night. Tickets are $20.
Piff — who goes by the name John van der Put out of the costume — said he’s ready to show his audiences things they’ve likely never seen.
“Ever wanted to see a chihuahua escape from a straitjacket?” Piff said via e-mail. “Come to the show and cross that off the bucket list.”
Piff added that he’ll showcase some new tricks during his Arlington show, such as teaching his dog, Mr. Piffles, “how to punch a shark in the nose” and something from “the golden age of magic dragons.”
Photo by Virginia Sherwood/NBC
What do jello, lava, Britney Spears and a bunch of words from Urban Dictionary have in common?
They are all words that audience members may shout out during a Porkchop Volcano improv show at the Arlington Drafthouse. Jon Milstein, Seth Alcorn, Conor O’Rourke and Matt Stephan, the four members of the Arlington-based troupe, then have to take these suggestions and turn each into a scene or character, all in the hopes of a good laugh from the audience.
“My favorite part of improv is the thrill, is the rush of a real audience you’ve never met before, you don’t know them, blowing them away, and having them laugh, a good and hearted, genuine laughter,” Milstein said.
While their group does not perform any single “typical” show, each performance will consist of a combination of guessing or scene improv games. The show starts at 9 p.m. in the Arlington Drafthouse’s Green Room — its side bar — and begins with a game that will interact with the audience.
“It’s usually packed by the end of the first game,” Stephan said.
By the time the game is done, the members will also know what the audience will like, and whether their suggestions will be more along the lines of kittens or sex positions, Alcorn said.
A favorite finale is “Dating Game,” where the troupe pulls an audience member up to play a bachelorette or a bachelor hoping to find his or her perfect match. The catch is that each of three improv members involved in the game are in characters suggested by the audience and the bachelor(ette) has to guess what the character is. O’Rourke plays host.
“It’s a high risk, high reward game,” Stephan said. “If we can hit a home run with that one, that’s been a good day.”
Suggestions can get wild. One of the members once had to play someone missing a chunk of his body after a tragic swordfish accident. Ideas also range from family friendly to adult only and even uncomfortable.
“I had a couple of friends who would basically go on Urban Dictionary and the come to the show,” Alcorn said. “So they would shout out all kinds of very disgusting sex acts that nobody actually performs, and then I would have to then explain to the audience what they meant and then work it into a scene.”
The four guys have a couple tricks up their sleeves, though, as they don’t want to go for the gross out, which gets awkward, Stephan said. Even when audience members suggested something dirty, the performers could take it in a different direction that made it cleaner.
“Being able to take an inappropriate or a cliche suggestion and then do something with it that they weren’t expecting, but still works with the suggestion, is pretty great,” Alcorn said.
One example is “Twilight,” a series that both Alcorn and Milstein despise, Alcorn said. It turned into a scene of Milstein playing a human who wanted to be a vampire and Alcorn playing a very reluctant vampire.
“It was just Jon throwing himself at me saying, ‘I want to feel the night rushing through my veins, bite me,'” Alcorn said.
The group tries to keep the suggestions new and challenging, O’Rourke said. To prevent common suggestions, which can happen when they ask for B-list celebrities, the members will use one of the common ones as an example. Even with common suggestions the group can work together to take a boring suggestion and create a new, fun angle.
“What’s always a lot of fun is taking a suggestion, but not taking it too literally, and jumping off and doing something weird with it. Because just because you get the suggestion vampire does not mean you have to come out as a vampire,” O’Rourke said.
The chemistry the group may be its biggest strength, they said. The four men can create a funny scene even if they are not sure where the other is going right away.
Milstein and Alcorn were doing a scene with tweezers last week. It started out with Alcorn giving Milstein a haircut with tweezers.
“And then he came to me with with a bad tooth and I was going to pull it out with tweezers,” Alcorn said. “And the third time we came around in this game, he didn’t say anything, but I knew I was going to do surgery and he put his hand on his appendix, and that was it.”
Once they formed the group, and spitballed until they randomly came up with the name “Porkchop Volcano,” the troupe needed a place to perform. Milstein was friends with the owner of Arlington Drafthouse who offered them two Saturdays. They now are performing up to four shows a month at the bar.
“The Drafthouse is our place,” O’Rourke said. “It’s our home.
Comedian and writer Michael Ian Black is scheduled to perform live stand-up at the Arlington Cinema & Drafthouse (2903 Columbia Pike) later this month.
Black began his comedic career co-founding and performing in The State, a sketch-comedy group at NYU which was later featured on MTV. He’s since had roles in numerous TV series, along with movies like Ed, Wet Hot American Summer and This Is 40.
Black’s stand-up shows will take place the Friday, July 24 at 7:30 and 10:15 p.m. and Saturday, July 25 at 7:00 and 10:00 p.m. Tickets are on sale now for $25 and can be purchased at arlingtondrafthouse.com.
In addition to releasing his own comedy CDs “I Am a Wonderful Man” (2007) and “Very Famous,” (2011) Black has co-written and starred in a number of comedy sketches for both film and television.
According to the Drafthouse’s event page, “Black is currently co-host of a popular podcast with Tom Cavanagh, entitled ‘Mike and Tom Eat Snacks,’ and of a new podcast with Michael Showalter, ‘Topics.'” He’s also had roles this year on the Comedy Central series Inside Amy Schumer and Another Period, and the soon-to-be-released Netflix series Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp.
South African comedian Trevor Noah will succeed Jon Stewart as host of The Daily Show, and next week he’s coming to Arlington.
Noah, 31, is scheduled to perform seven shows at the Arlington Cinema and Drafthouse starting Thursday, April 9. He’s set to perform two shows apiece on Thursday, Friday and Saturday and one show on Sunday, April 12. As of this morning, all of the shows are sold out, according to the Drafthouse’s website.
Noah has been a Daily Show correspondent for two months on the show, but according to his biography on the Drafthouse’s website, he’s performed sold out shows across the globe, discussing everything from his upbringing in South Africa during Apartheid to the American “sports industrial complex.” It was announced this morning that Noah has been tapped as the Daily Show’s new host.
Noah is currently wrapping up a tour of the Middle East. He performs in Oman — the country bordering Saudi Arabia and Yemen — tomorrow.