Johnston County

Comedy series to be filmed live at the Clayton Center

Sinbad will be one of the hosts for a stand-up comedy series filming this week in Clayton.
Sinbad will be one of the hosts for a stand-up comedy series filming this week in Clayton. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Of all the comedy clubs and theaters in the region, state and country, Tommy Blaze picked the Clayton Center for his 12-episode stand-up showcase. It doesn’t hurt that he’s a local.

Blaze and co-producer Brad Reeder will film their clean comedy series “Pure Flix Presents: Comedy All Stars” over three nights this week. As nightly hosts, the show snagged some of the great all-time clean comics: Sinbad for the Dec. 1 show, Christian comic Jeff Allen for Dec. 2 and Emmy-winning Louie Anderson for Dec. 3.

Each night, four half-hour episodes will be filmed, with 12 comics doing 10-minute sets. The episodes will appear early next year on the Pure Flix streaming app, a Netflix-like platform for faith-based and family-oriented programing.

Blaze, who has lived in Clayton for eight years, said he cobbled together the roster of comics through 30 years of making friends in the industry. He said audiences aren’t going to see lineups like these outside of New York and Los Angeles.

“There’s not a clunker in the whole show,” Blaze said. “There’s not a single comedian for which this will be their television debut. They’ve all done something, Letterman, ‘The Tonight Show,’ ‘Last Comic Standing,’ ‘Star Search.’ Typically, showcases have a celebrity anchor and fill the show with unknowns. We’re a little different in that we didn’t have to do that. This is not their first rodeo.”

Those comics include “Star Search” winner Chase Anthony, Mary Ellen Hooper, Karen Rontowski and Dauphne Springs. Blaze said he’s contractually restricted from revealing certain acts of the show but promises surprising acts.

“When they come out, people will pull out their phones and start posting on Twitter,” Blaze said.

Both Blaze and Reeder identify as clean comics and say working without the four-letter toolkit many comics use is just another way of doing things.

“There really is no big difference between working clean and working ‘blue,’ ” Blaze said. “The audience doesn’t care how many times you use the F word, all they want to do is laugh. But if you’re not funny, then that’s a different story. Then it’s he or she is too dirty, when there’s no reason to use those words.”

Reeder, the former owner of Goodnights Comedy Club in Raleigh, said working clean helps many comics get seen, often on late-night shows where no one wants a bleep in the middle of the punchline.

“It takes a little bit more skill; you have to be a better writer,” Reeder said. “You can’t get the easy cheap laugh or go for shock value.”

A production company from Tennessee will film the episodes in high definition using five cameras, and Blaze said those in attendance have a chance of appearing in the shows. Reeder said the Clayton Center fit the bill for the look they wanted for the show.

“We wanted a live show of a certain size, a smaller theater but not a comedy club,” Reeder said. “We wanted that intimate feeling, and we’re both located in the area, so it was a good fit.”

Blaze said that the heyday for stand-up comedy was the 1980s and it might never be topped, especially as tastes grow more and more narrow. But he’s encouraged in what he sees as a renewed interest in comedy and thought the time was right for a showcase.

“It’s on the rise again, you see clubs opening again,” Blaze said. “There are so many comedians with different voices and you’ll soon be able to pull up a comedian who speaks to your sensibilities. We’re just honing into one subsection of comedy, featuring clean comics for people who like their comedy on the cleaner side.”

Tickets for the shows are $25 per night and can be purchased online at theclaytoncenter.com or at the box office downtown.

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