Legendary Raleigh Comedy Club Goodnights Goes Underground - INDY Week (2023)

GRAMSOodnights Comedy Club, a cornerstone of the Raleigh stand-up scene for more than 30 years, will go underground.

The descent into the legendary club's new Village District location is reminiscent of a Friday night in college: stumbling down a narrow flight of stairs into a small black box theater, where you weave your way through the crowd only to find yourself squashed. in a corner

Isnew space good night, at 401 Woodburn Road, is far more spacious than Chicago's infamous makeshift stages that are often found in dingy basements. But on a Friday night, you still have to push your way through the crowd to get to the chunky wood bar or find a seat in the tiered performance space.

“When we found this underground space, it was the moment where we thought: 'Yeah, this is what we have to do. Go underground where people can just laugh and forget about life on Main Street,'” says Goodnights owner Brad Grossman.

Grossman worked hard to finish the new space after moving from the old location to a historic ice cream factory on West Morgan Street in July 2022. The move to Woodburn Road in January of this year was an opportunity to finally emulate the underground layout of his first business venture, the Helium Comedy Club in Philadelphia, a crowd favorite, Grossman says.

“The way [Goodnights] was built 40 years ago didn't meet the needs of a comedy aficionado,” he says. "Sometimes you want to go underground and learn and talk and laugh at the most ridiculous things in life."

After the seriousness of the past few years, "now is the time" to relearn how to laugh, Grossman says.

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“That's what Goodnights and comedy bring to the community,” he says. “It's an opportunity to sit down and take a break from everyday life. Have a drink and have fun laughing. This is very important.

A comedian enters the stage...

The Goodnights entrance, camouflaged around a corner a few yards to the right of Flying Biscuit, was easy to spot two weeks ago, on January 20, during the club's opening weekend. Dozens of people spilled onto the sidewalk, lining up to see the first of many headliners in the new space, podcaster and Comedy Central regular Anthony Jeselnik.

“We actually live in South Carolina; we came for the show,” says George May, who made the four-hour trip with his old college friend Michael Almonte. “We love Jeselnik. We just saw that he was on tour and this was one of the closest places.”

May and Almonte had never been on Goodnights before, but they were thrilled when they learned they could pick one of their favorite comics here, May says. She likes Jeselnik's dark humor and distractions. As for space, "it's too much," says Almonte.

On Friday night the crowd is boisterous, chatting and laughing before the show even starts. It's a packed house, with couples and groups of friends sitting at every table, sipping wine and sipping beer along the exposed brick walls. The underground space is dimly lit, creating an intimate atmosphere even with an audience of over 300 people.

Opener Jason Seabrooks comes in on a blast of music so loud you can feel the bass vibes. As soon as he walks in, there's nothing but the spotlight and the microphone, and of course, the guy on stage, talking about how messy life is and somehow making you laugh about it.

Seabrooks has plenty of inside jokes for North Carolina natives, taking the Johnston County digs with one breath and the audience itself the next. The next comedian, Blair Socci, crosses the line, making scathing comments about abortion restrictions and demeaning North Carolina's anti-abortion stance. He's saying things that a lot of people might think but never say out loud. He is relief and catharsis, all wrapped up in a surprisingly raspy voice.

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continuing a tradition

In the old days, the Village had a thriving underground complex, thousands of square feet of nightclubs, music venues, and quirky shops. From the early 1970s to the mid-1980s, the Village underworld was known for its live music scene, hosting local legends and nationally known bands like R.E.M., the Ramones, Pat Benatar, Bette Midler, and even Duke. ellington.

Now, Goodnights stands across from where that once-bustling hot spot used to live. That was big, says Grossman.

“I sort of reinvigorated what the community remembered about this area, which was the basement of the Village,” he says. "Seeing people walk by opening night and just nodding and smiling, you know you did something right."

The bosses agree. Ruth Seiler, who attended the club's opening weekend with her husband Colin de ella, speaks fondly of the Village's old underground scene.

“I remember when it was a Bargain Box here when I was a retailer. My mom knew that for the underground club scene,” says Seiler. “[Good Night] is the perfect complement to this area. It feels like it's been here forever."

growing talent

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Many popular comedians are slated to appear on Goodnights in the coming months, including Matt Rife, Rachel Feinstein, and Adam Carolla, among others, but getting familiar faces from HBO and Netflix is ​​just part of what Grossman is trying to do. catch up on Goodnights and its next chapter, he says.

A few days before opening weekend, there was Helen Wildy onstage, a local comedian who had moved to Raleigh from Seattle after starting her comedy career in Pittsburgh. In mid-January she recorded her first album, thanks to the support of Grossman and her recording studio, Helium Comedy Records.

It's "the biggest thing that's happened in my comedy career so far," Wildy says, adding that she's excited to see other comedians also set to record their debut albums in the new space.

Wildy also performed at Goodnights' old venue and pop-up in the Village, earning his "Goodnights hat trick," he laughs.

The new club “felt like an instant classic,” Wildy adds. “I have been to many comedy clubs across the United States and the atmosphere is perfect. A clandestine club is always better. [It has] lower ceilings, laugh traps, it just [makes] better shows."

Wildy is also a big fan of the Raleigh comedy scene, which she calls "wonderful."

“The amount of talent here is wild. It surprises me all the time,” says Wildy. “Everyone has been very welcoming and friendly to the new people coming to the place. And Goodnights has been great at spotlighting local artists and really giving them a platform. It's great to have a club that is so supportive...as well as bringing out all this amazing national talent."

In addition to the expansive main stage, Goodnights also has a small performance space, Room 861, named after the club's former location.

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“It really gives up-and-coming local comedians a chance to perform, when you would otherwise only get a big name on Saturday nights,” says Grossman. “Possibly the show here will be funnier because maybe [the comedians] are working a lot harder. It's a raffle.

Grossman and his brother Marc want to grow the local comedy industry, he says. They're using their recording studio to record specials for "people you've never heard of," says Grossman.

“We need more people to come into this space [Room 861] to understand that…it's just a different experience,” Grossman says. “If we can develop talent, whether on our stages or online, the industry will grow and it will be good for everyone.”

Follow writer Jasmine Gallup onGoreor send an email tojgallup@indyweek.com.Comment this story onbacktalk@indyweek.com.

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