When brothers Cassidy and Mickey Henehan host their “Think You’re Funny?” show in Carrollton Station on Wednesday nights, La Cocinita food truck sells customizable tacos outside.
Cassidy also hosts a show on Tuesday nights at the Lost Love Lounge, where the in-house Vietnamese kitchen creates fresh spring rolls, banh mi po-boys and steaming bowls of pho.
Good food and good humor go together, and local comics are telling jokes while audiences enjoy the output of on-site pop-ups, food trucks and kitchens.
According to Chris Lane, the host and producer of the “Comic Strip” show at Siberia, New Orleans is in the midst of a comedy boom, with comedians performing open mic events in a variety of venues like bars and nightclubs several nights a week.
“The scene has expanded and has a nice strong base,” said Lane, explaining that comedians are moving to New Orleans for a number of reasons and searching for places to practice their material.
“New Orleans is such a big food town, so it sort of happened naturally that people found venues that had food options,” Lane said. Many of these venues already have in-house kitchens, but others welcome pop-up restaurants and food trucks. As a result, the collection of food offerings on the comedy scene remains diverse.
On a recent Sunday night at the Hi-Ho Lounge, Andrew Polk, host of the NOLA Comedy Hour, stood in the middle of a small stage, deftly delivering one witticism after the next. He was among several comedians performing short sketches in front of people perched on bar stools and huddled around tables.
Meanwhile, in the lounge’s courtyard, illuminated by colorful twinkle lights, chef Nick Gile prepared gourmet French fry dishes and elaborate personal pies for the hungry patrons ordering food in between acts. His restaurant Fry and Pie is stationed at the Hi-Ho Lounge from Wednesdays through Mondays and presents creative takes on two basic but beloved food items.
The menu is updated on a biweekly basis and has listed such options as “The Orange Dream” custard pie and “The Curryflower,” which features fries resting under chunks of curried cauliflower, caramelized onions, a melted medley of feta and sharp cheddar cheeses and bits of juicy tomatoes.
“We’re taking international flavors and putting them on top of fresh cut French fries,” said Gile, who worked as a chef at the Bombay Club for more than a decade. He opened Fry and Pie at the Hi-Ho Lounge as a pop-up restaurant nearly six months ago. “I have a lot of fine dining experience, so I’m bringing that to a more casual level.”
The comedians at the Hi-Ho Lounge consistently promote Fry and Pie, weaving the restaurant into their prepared acts. Guests who are there to watch the show will often wander into the courtyard and order food. Some sit at patio tables, enjoying the fresh air, while others head back inside and have their food delivered to them.
“The response has been fantastic … and the Hi-Ho Lounge has been great at helping with that,” Gile said.
During Lane’s Monday night show at Siberia, restaurant Kukhnya serves Slavic fare, including kielbasa sausage, braised beef Stroganoff and sizzling pierogies topped with sweet sautéed onions and plated with a generous dollop of sour cream, dusted with herbs.
The Big Cheezy now offers its fancy grilled cheese sandwiches at Dragon’s Den in the French Quarter. The venue is packed on Friday nights when Vincent Zambone and Mary-Devon Dupuy host the “Comedy F#$@ Yeah!” show.
“There are always fun people coming to the comedy shows, looking to have a good time,” said Adam York, owner of The Big Cheezy. “It brings a different crowd than a band or a DJ would.”
The “Mac & Cheezy,” featuring bacon, macaroni and cheddar cheese served on crisp white bread, is a hot-seller. York says it pairs well with the tomato basil soup. He also recommends the peppery “Hot Sausage” sandwich.
Even desserts have emerged onto the comedy scene. The “Local Uproar” and “Night Church” shows are sponsored by New Orleans Ice Cream Company, which contributes self-serve ice cream to each event. Lane revealed that the toasted coconut ice cream is especially delicious and so are the ice cream po-boys.
“What I really like about the comedy and food partnership in New Orleans is that it gives people this nice, affordable alternative for going out,” he said.
Admission to the club is often free. The sizeable entrees typically run less than $10, and premium drinks can be purchased at the bar. Lane hopes the combination attracts newcomers to the comedy scene.
“I’d like to see more audience members come out, who may have shied away from comedy for whatever reason,” he said. “Not only are there lots of food options out there, there are comedy options.”