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Post Tagged with: Tyler Sonnichsen

My Freshman Year of Producing

My Freshman Year of Producing

Booked Comics - First Year, Part 1This post is a belated thank you, posted after I let an anniversary slip by unacknowledged. As usual, I had the best of intentions, but you know how that goes. In January of 2016, I marked the first year of my life as a producer of live comedy shows in Knoxville. Like so much of the path I’ve been on these past couple of years, it was not a skill I would have imagined I’d be developing at this point in my life if you had asked me three or four years ago. And, yet, here we are.

While my stand-up comedy pursuits were initially fueled by a need to explore new ways of expressing myself and gaining a bit of control over my topsy-turvy world at the time, the role of producer seems to have come from a different place. I guess I liken it to nesting. Once I began to feel comfortable as a part of the Knoxville or “Scruffy City” comedy scene, I began to seek out opportunities to put my other vocational skills to use, such as my 25 years in public relations and marketing.

I was fortunate in that I formed a friendship and comedy alliance with some great people in the Knoxville comedy scene, namely at the beginning: Matt Ward, Matt Chadourne, Eliot Rahal, and Tyler Sonnichsen. When an opportunity opened up for me to produce a weekly comedy showcase in downtown Knoxville, Matt Ward graciously agreed to mentor me. If you know Matt, you know what good fortune I had as he is a tireless promoter and producer of comedy shows and festivals (including the Scruffy City Comedy Festival right here in Knoxville). Matt Ward doesn’t always like the recognition, but it is not an understatement to say that he practically built the Knoxville comedy scene single-handedly, helping to launch and run open mics, booking indie shows, and- most importantly- mentoring other comics in town.

I was also fortunate in knowing that Matt Chadourne, Eliot, and Tyler were also quite interested in seeing the local scene develop a new kind of comedy showcase show beyond the regular open mics. In their respective scenes of Seattle, Chicago, and Washington DC, where they had lived and performed before life relocated them to Knoxville, as well as here in Knoxville, they had experience in creating and managing shows. Together, we formed a cooperative team to figure out how to take the opportunity for a new weekly show at a new venue and turn it into something special and helpful to the scene. We met and drew out ideas on napkins and scrap pages from our joke notebooks, we emailed thoughts to one another, texted, and discussed possibilities and logistics. We bought a domain and set up a Tumblr site, Twitter feed, and Facebook page. From these guys, I was able to get a crash course in creating and producing a comedy show.

And that is how The Station Comedy Showcase at the Blue Slip Winery was born. It was an ambitious plan. We would launch a weekly comedy showcase with a rotating “cast” of local comics and the best traveling comics our limited budget (courtesy of the generous folks at the winery) could afford. It was an intimate room with a seating capacity of about 50 people. We set it up with small votives on the table, borrowed Victor Agreda’s lighting system and Matt Ward’s PA system and tried our very best to create a swanky nightclub vibe. A local food truck even participated each week (this was the winery’s cool idea) that allowed guests to text their order from the show and have it delivered to their table.  It was certainly something different than the traditional open mic and I like to think it made a good impression on the audience and visiting comics alike on the potential for the Knoxville comedy scene. A combination of factors, not the least of which included a winter weather season that forced the cancellation of the show three consecutive weeks, eventually doomed the ambitious little show after only nine weeks of performances. But, we learned a lot in those nine weeks. That first show was January 14, 2015. That’s the anniversary I meant to observe a while ago and am only just now getting around to acknowledging.

Booked Comics - First Year, part 2I can tell you that the first show at The Station was co-headlined by Craig Holcombe and Andy Cummins from South Carolina. In a nice nod to completing the cycle, Craig returned to Knoxville in January of 2016 to co-headline the show that had become the next generation of what we tried to create at The Station.

About the time The Station was shutting down as a weekly comedy showcase, we also had to deal with the sadness of our friend and comedy partner Eliot Rahal moving to Minneapolis with his lovely bride for her job as a television reporter. Eliot was such a great help in the days of The Station. I can’t say enough great things about him. I strongly urge you to see him perform when you can and, if you can’t, you should at least buy one of the amazing comic books he writes these days. My favorite is the Dark Horse series The Paybacks, but the new The Doorman series at Heavy Metal has been getting a lot of good press, too.

In May of 2015, opportunity knocked and we took the bait. New York City comedians Kenny DeForest and Clark Jones were traveling through Knoxville and wondered if we knew of a place where they might put on a show. We didn’t, but Tyler and I set out to look for a place. Eventually, we met with the owner of Saw Works Brewing Company in downtown Knoxville (just blocks away from the train station/winery that hosted our original show, as fate would have it) and he and his team somehow agreed with us that it was worth a shot. And, so, in June of 2015, First Friday Comedy at Saw Works Brewing launched with Kenny and Clark. It has been playing each month since then, often to standing-room only crowds. With this series, we added a new friend to the team: Sean Simoneau. Sean also had an interest in learning about producing and promoting shows and he has been a great team member to have.

Success breeds success and a brewer at Saw Works recommended us to her other bosses at a craft beer market and bar on the other side of town when they started talking about the prospect of a live comedy night. Before we knew it, in November we added a monthly showcase on the first Tuesday of each month at The Casual Pint in Hardin Valley. In keeping with our naming tradition of branding the venue’s name into the show’s name, this show became Casual Comedy.

Both First Friday Comedy at Saw Works and Casual Comedy follow a similar formula with local performers invited to have stage time along with visiting headliners and features. One of the four of us (Matt C., Sean, Tyler, or me) serves as the host each month. We didn’t invent anything here. That’s a tried-and-true formula for comedy showcases everywhere. But we keep tweaking things to make each show reveal its own particular personality. The Saw Works show has a seating capacity of 75-100 (and we have topped the century mark with standing room only crowds), while Casual Comedy has a seating capacity of 40. Saw Works provides a theater-style vibe, while Casual Comedy feels at times like watching a comedy show in your den. Both shows are usually only two hours in length (sometimes less) and both start early– 7 pm– providing patrons with the ability to get home at a decent hour if they have to work the next day or the ability to move the party along to a show or venue elsewhere in town once ours has said goodnight. The bar at Saw Works is a constant buzz of activity in the back of the performance hall, while the Casual Comedy show includes a brief intermission to allow patrons to slip out of the performance room to refill their beer glasses without missing any of the show.

I have to say, I’ve had a lot of fun learning how to plan and promote shows, how to network and book with traveling comics, how to help bar owners market their business and grow their customer base, and more. It has been especially fun to have the luxury to create shows where performers get paid for their work every time and to see them perform for audiences eager to laugh and have fun. My goal, all of the team’s goal, is to develop shows that can be signature representations of our own scene to locals and visitors alike. When I hear that out-of-town comics encourage other comics to perform on one of our shows, I feel a sense of pride not just in the team’s effort to create a successful show, but also pride in how it reflects on Knoxville’s comedy scene as a whole.

Success breeds success, as I’ve said. And, we have new opportunities already lining up in 2016. I’ll save all that for another post, though.

What I want to do right now is something very simple. I want to say thank you to the businesses that gave us a chance in 2015 to give live comedy a home in Knoxville: Blue Slip Winery, Saw Works Brewing Company, and Casual Pint-Hardin Valley. I want to say thank you to Matt Ward for being such a good friend and mentor in helping us nurture and grow the scene he first planted seeds for years ago. Thanks, also, in this first year to Victor Agreda, Jr. for the constant loan of equipment. I swear to him we’re about to have completed our acquisition of all our own necessary things so we can leave him alone sometime in 2016. Thanks, of course, to my pals who have worked alongside me in my freshman year of producing: Matt Chadourne, Eliot Rahal, Sean Simoneau, and Tyler Sonnichsen. And thanks, of course, to all of you who have braved wind and rain, snow and ice, heat, and inertia to get out of the house, to come to one of our shows, and to buy things from the venues that host us. You are why we get to keep doing it.

And finally, I want to say thanks to every comic who has agreed to perform on one of our stages and brought their best material each time for our audience– whether it was just a few people willing to brave a snowy, rainy night or noisy standing-room only crowd on a hot August night.

I have included in the attached photo collages, images of each of the comedians I had the privilege of bringing to one (or more) of our stages between January 2015 and January 2016. These are my yearbook pages for my freshman year of producing. Each of these performers were hilarious.

Here are their names: Victor Agreda Jr., Carrie Adams, Mo Arora, Lauren Bencaz, Keith Bergman, Lisa Berry, Jeff Blank, John-Michael Bond, Paige Bowman, Matt Chadourne, Aaron Chasteen, Trae Crowder, Andy Cummins, Kenny DeForest, Scott Eason, Ian Ferguson, Max Fine, Corey Forrester, Angela Garrone, Karen George, Jake Head, Riki Higgins, Minori Hinds, Craig Holcombe, Clark Jones, Jay Kendrick, Alex Kumin, Chris Ledford, Joe Leeper, Todd Lewis, Dave Losso, Holly Lynnea, Boston McCown, Dustin Meadows, Andrew Michael, John Miller, Blayr Nias, Eliot Rahal, Grady Ray, Jasper Redd, Hunter Roberts, Samm Severin, Sean Simoneau, Dulce Sloan, Tyler Sonnichsen, Alex Stokes, Sumukh Torgalkar, and Matt Ward.

March 3, 2016Comments are DisabledRead More
Ready for My Close Up

Ready for My Close Up

QED presents Save It for Later - Feb 15, 2016

I’ve slowly started to get brave enough to apply to comedy festivals. My early success rate is about what I’d expect, but I’ll keep plugging away at it. One thing that will help as I move forward with the festival submission process is to have a good quality video of one of my sets.

It’s a problem most comedians have. How to get a good video of a set when there are so many variables at play. You might have a great set with a great audience, but your friend forgot to push record or his thumb is over the lens for half the set. Or, there is someone talking close to the camera’s mic throughout the set, so you end up with a great video of you performing to a soundtrack of someone else’s discussion of last night’s dinner date. Or the whole thing is out of focus. Or you just were landing the punchlines. Or the audience was seated so far way from the stage that it looks like you’re alone in the bar. Or, even though the few people in the audience seem to enjoy the set, the volume of laughter makes it seem as if you are in an empty room. Or, you had a really bad set. Or, you had a really good set but had decided not to try to record tonight’s set because you just knew it wouldn’t go well. Or… Or… Or…

So, while chatting over drinks at an open mic a few weeks earlier, several of us had an idea. Why not put together a showcase of local comics for the express purpose of getting a good high quality video? My friend Matt Chadourne, host and producer of the weekly QED Comedy Laboratory, volunteered his weekly show at the Pilot Light as the site for this idea.

And, so, here we are. It’s the “Save It for Later” show at QED. This Monday night I get to create a video that is a little more festival submission friendly. Ten other East Tennessee comics will also be performing short (5-8 minute) sets, giving the audience a chance see some of the best local comics bring some of their best material to the stage in a single night. Even better, it’s free!

Come on out Monday night as my friends Jeff Blank, Matt Chadourne, Aaron Chasteen, Trae Crowder, Jay Kendrick, Joe Leeper, John Miller, Hunter Roberts, Sean Simoneau, Tyler Sonnichsen, and I perform for you. Matt Ward will be the host. It’s going to be fun!

February 13, 2016Comments are DisabledRead More
Casual Comedy Debuts Tomorrow

Casual Comedy Debuts Tomorrow

It’s the day after a highly successful Scruffy City Comedy Festival (more about that in a later post), but I still have great comedy shows on my mind, especially with the debut of a new monthly show I’m co-producing tomorrow (Tuesday, November 17).

Casual Comedy will kick off at 7 pm at The Casual Pint Craft Beer Market in Hardin Valley this week. I’ll be your host this month and my co-producers, Matt Chadourne, Tyler Sonnichsen, and Sean Simoneau will be our performers for this month.

The Casual Pint has more than 400 craft beers available for you to enjoy. And, if you’re hungry, the next door restaurants Don Gallo and Double Dogs will happily prepare you an order to-go.

We’ll be performing in the private event room, so feel free to bring your friends to the show and help us kick off a new comedy adventure in west Knoxville. There is no cover charge for this show.

For a more detailed background of the show and my co-producing friends, visit this earlier article.

Beginning in December, Casual Comedy will transition to its permanent home on the first Tuesday of the month. So, stay tuned for details soon about the show scheduled for December 1.

Casual Comedy November 17 show


November 16, 2015Comments are DisabledRead More
Find Me at the 2015 Scruffy City Comedy Festival

Find Me at the 2015 Scruffy City Comedy Festival

Scruffy City Comedy Festival 2015

At long last, the Scruffy City Comedy Festival kicks off tomorrow (Friday, November 13) in downtown Knoxville. And, perhaps, you’re one of the handful of people wondering where you might be able to find me either performing or enjoying a show during the weekend. Well, it’s your lucky day, because I’ve included that info for you right here. There may be changes to the schedule here and there during the weekend as festival schedules tend to flex and amend themselves on the fly. So, feel free to follow me on Twitter at @shanerhyne for live updates to my own personal schedule or @scruffycomedy for general updates on the festival. The hashtag for the festival is #SCCF2015, by the way.


Andy Sandford8 pm – Andy Sandford headliner show (Scruffy City Hall, Market Square) – I am fortunate enough to host the first headliner show of the festival starring the hilarious Andy Sandford. Also on the schedule for tonight’s show are Lydia Popovich (San Francisco), Clark Jones (Brooklyn), Jeff Blank (Knoxville, TN), and Carmen Morales (Chicago). You can revisit where I had written about this show earlier on the blog.


10 am-5 pm – Podcast Brunch (The Pilot Light, Old City) – This was one of my favorite events of last year’s festival and I’m excited that it’s back again. I’m not a scheduled performer this year (or last, although I did make a cameo appearance as a Smokey and the Bandit II expert during one podcast), but you can certainly find me in the audience for many of the podcast recording sessions this year, while enjoying a free buffet of a variety of breakfast cereals. I’m especially looking forward to a return visit from Dustin Meadows’ “How Have You Not Seen This?” along with the acclaimed Golden Girls-themed podcast “Thank You for Being a Podcast” hosted by Genevieve Rice and Anthony Desamito. A full schedule of podcasts is on the Scruffy City Comedy brunch article.

(POST-EVENT EDIT: I was excited to learn that I was going to be a guest host of the “How Have You Not Seen This?” It was a lot of fun. A link will be posted when it is ready.)

6pm – The Blue Umbrella Walking Tour of Haunted Knoxville (starts on the stage at Market Square) – The notorious guerrilla comedy event staged by QED Comedy Lab earlier this year returns to downtown Knoxville. Join me and several local and visiting comedians from the festival, under the direction of QED Comedy Lab’s Matt Chadourne, as we lead you on a guided walking tour of downtown unlike any other you’ll ever have. Other comedians scheduled to participate include: Lauren Bencaz (Columbus, OH), Matt Chadourne (Knoxville, TN), Anthony Desamito (Tempe, AZ), Dustin Meadows (Columbus, OH), Lydia Popovich (San Francisco), Hunter Roberts (Johnson City, TN), and Sean Simoneau (Knoxville, TN). We’ll dispense fact-like information about Knoxville’s haunted past and paranormal activities that can’t be found on Wikipedia or any other reputable source of information. It’s free and should last about an hour, getting you back to Market Square in time for the 7 pm shows.


SCCF2015 Festival profile image7 pm – The Upstairs Underground Stand-Up Showcase (Preservation Pub’s 2nd Floor Speakeasy, Market Square) – Back in 2011, Matt Ward launched what would become Knoxville’s longest-running weekly comedy open mic at Preservation Pub’s 2nd floor speakeasy. Tonight, I am honored to host a stand-up comedy showcase for the festival during Upstairs Underground’s normal weekly hours. Join me as I bring to the stage a baker’s dozen of great comedians from around the nation. Scheduled to perform are: Jeff Blank (Knoxville, TN), Paige Bowman (Atlanta), Matt Chadourne (Knoxville,TN), Anthony Desamito (Tempe, AZ), Jon Durnell (Los Angeles), Scott Eason (Huntsville, AL), Tom Emmons (Greenville, SC), Travis Irvine (New York City), Katherine Jessup (Washington, DC), Dustin Meadows (Columbus, OH), J.C. Ratliff (Knoxville, TN), Genevieve Rice (Phoenix), and Tyler Sonnichsen (Knoxville, TN).

So, that’s where you’ll certainly find me as a performer or audience member. But, I’ll be in the audience, too, for plenty of other showcases and events over the course of the weekend. There’s no shortage of events to choose from this weekend with showcases for improv comedy, hilarious experimental audience participation shows like Chris Trew’s “Air Sex Championships,” late night standup showcases, and more. Visit for a full schedule of events and for Scruffy City Comedy Festival ticket information.

See you this weekend, friends! Let’s have fun. #SCCF2015

November 12, 2015Comments are DisabledRead More
Formally Announcing – Casual Comedy

Formally Announcing – Casual Comedy

Casual Comedy November 17 show

New Monthly Comedy Showcase for West Knoxville – First Tuesday of Every Month, Beginning December 1, 2015
Debut Show Introduces Casual Comedy Hosts and Producers to Casual Pint-Hardin Valley Patrons on November 17, 2015

If you are reading the Knoxville News Sentinel’s weekly downtown entertainment column from Randall Brown this week, then you already know the cat is out of the bag with a fun new announcement about comedy in Knoxville.

I am thrilled to let you know my partners in comedy crime (Matt Chadourne, Sean Simoneau, and Tyler Sonnichsen) and I are joining forces once again to launch a new monthly comedy showcase for Knoxville-area comedy fans. The show will follow much of the same style and format as our monthly First Friday Comedy Show at Saw Works Brewing in downtown Knoxville.

The new show, Casual Comedy, will be held on the first Tuesday of each month, beginning December 1, at The Casual Pint Craft Beer Market in Hardin Valley in west Knoxville. We’ll be hosting a trial run show on Tuesday, November 17, to introduce ourselves to the bar’s regulars and to set the stage for all the fun to come in December and beyond.

Here’s a description of the show for you:

Casual Comedy, a new monthly stand-up comedy showcase, debuts at The Casual Pint-Hardin Valley (10677 Hardin Valley Rd., Knoxville, TN 37932) on Tuesday, November 17, at 7 pm.

Each month the show will feature smart and inventive stand-up comedy from some of the best touring comedians in the region, as well as rising local stars in the Scruffy City Comedy scene.

The show is curated by a quartet of Knoxville’s leading comedians with an eye toward a quality night of entertainment. Perfect for date night or hanging out with friends, each show will deliver a full night of entertainment, but still not keep you out too late on a work night.

For the November show, our featured performers are the show’s producers. Shane Rhyne, our host for the night, is a regular performer on the Knoxville comedy scene. He is a producer of comedy shows in the area and was a runner-up as Knoxville’s Top Comedian in the 2015 Knoxville Mercury readers’ poll.

Tyler Sonnichsen brings more than a decade of stand-up comedy experience to Knoxville. He has performed at comedy festivals such as the Orlando Indie Comedy Festival and the North Carolina Comedy and Arts Festival. He has produced comedy shows in Washington, DC, as well as here in Knoxville.

Matt Chadourne is best-known in Knoxville as the producer and host of the weekly experimental comedy show QED Comedy Laboratory in Knoxville’s Old City. The QED Comedy Lab was a runner up in the Knoxville Mercury 2015 readers’ poll for best secret and best new entertainment in town. Matt has performed at comedy festivals in Chicago and New Orleans. He was the 2013 winner of the Rocky Top Comedy Contest for best comedian in Knoxville.

Sean Simoneau is a comedian, journalist, and one of the inventive personalities helping bring attention to the Scruffy City Comedy scene as he tours across the southeast. Locally, Sean produces a semi-regular improv/experimental comedy show called Hold the Rich for Ransom.

Sean, Tyler and Shane also co-produce the monthly First Friday Comedy Show at Saw Works Brewing in downtown Knoxville. All four comics are performing at the Scruffy City Comedy Festival in downtown Knoxville from November 13-15.

(EDIT: A food truck will not be available this evening, but you are welcome to BYOF. Don Gallo’s and Double Dogs are both next door to Casual Pint and will happily prepare a to-go order for you.) It’s All So Yummy will be here to nourish you and, of course, We’ll have 400+ of your favorite craft beers ready and waiting for you. There is no cover charge for this show.

Beginning in December, Casual Comedy will be presented at the Casual Pint-Hardin Valley on the first Tuesday of the month.

So, bring your friends on Tuesday, November 17, and get ready for a night of laughter as Casual Comedy comes to the Casual Pint.

November 5, 2015Comments are DisabledRead More