There’s nothing new in entertainers doing private parties, especially when the money is too good to pass up. Not so many entertainers, however, do private shows at bargain rates. Then again, Johnny Taylor and Keith Lowell Jensen are not exactly by-the-book kind of guys.
The two Sacramento-based comedians have come up with a new way to make you laugh: comedy sets delivered straight to your home. You order it, and they deliver it at $20 for 20 minutes. That’s the introductory bargain rate; they hope that goes up some, if their idea catches on. They’ll be delivering the first sets Friday and Saturday nights, Nov. 6-7, in Sacramento. If all goes well – and maybe even it goes poorly – they hope to deliver more sets here and elsewhere.
The two, who have toured extensively separately and together, share the Stand Up Records label, which has decided to document the house tour. A video crew will follow the comedians on their adventures – whatever the venue. The set-up gives Taylor and Jensen plenty of opportunity to fall on their faces and bounce back up again.
“We were wanting to do something different,” Jensen said recently on the patio of a local coffee house. “I look at me and Johnny and say, ‘What are our strengths?’ Our ability to adjust to the weird situations we find ourselves in.”
They call the idea “Deliver (Comedy Fresh to You)” and it’s pretty much what it sounds like, or maybe a little more. Anyone can book the pair. It could be in a living room, a garage, a backyard, an office.
“When we’re on the road, we’re not only doing club tours,” Jensen said. “We played some little arts space in Seattle, and the next night we were in a clown-themed bar.”
There might be five people attending and there might be 50; they won’t know until they get there. They’ll bring lights, sound equipment, and wear matching logo shirts. The VIP option includes sport coats. They’ll also sell merchandise and schmooze before and after the show, but so far they’re tightly scheduling five bookings each night.
Taylor has been doing comedy professionally only for five years but has risen steadily through the ranks with a smart, acerbic style of personal observational humor. His first CD, “Tangled Up In Plaid,” was released last year to strong sales and positive reviews.
“I want to see what happens when things don’t go exactly as I planned them,” he said. “That’s where you kind of get the magic from.”
“This is a way to push us while letting us show off our chops with rolling with the punches,” Jensen said.
He recalled a time when he was working at the Crow’s Nest in Santa Cruz and his jokes weren’t working. He moved on to some personal stories and then finally telling arrest stories to a cop seated in the front row. This the crowd loved.
“It’s about shifting until you find out what works,” Jensen said. “Stay true to yourself but figure which of your stuff is going to work for them – other nights you do exactly what you planned and it works beautifully – that’s great – but to be able to flex like that is something Johnny and I have gotten really good at from several years of being road dogs.”
He and Taylor hope each set will be creative and funny before they even start doing their stand-up routines. How they break up the 20 minutes may depend on the crowd and the comics’ flow at the time, but they will start with splitting sets into 10-minutes segments. The video crew director Joe Hop may have some say in it as well while his three-person crew documents the performances from beginning to end.
“Joe’s not only directing the movie, he’s also kind of directing us,” Jensen said. “If one of us is onstage and really cooking, Joe might not want us to move on if we have that flexibility in our schedule.”
The “Deliver” tour is an alternative way for Jensen and Taylor to reach audiences; the film could push them out even further.
Taylor hopes they get a good film out of the effort and then “tour the concept instead of doing a traditional tour.” Because they both have strong bases in Portland, the Pacific Northwest seems like a probable next stop.
“We hope people will take chances on this they wouldn’t otherwise take because we’re so cheap,” Jensen said.
“We’ll raise the price when we take it on the road, but I don’t want to raise it too much. I never want to become just a traditional booking for a private party. I always want it to have a little bit of jankiness to it,” Jensen said.
Delivery (Comedy Fresh to You)
What: Comedians Johnny Taylor and Keith Lowell Jensen book 20-minute sets in private settings; reservations required
Where: Delivery zone includes the ZIP codes 95811, 95814, 95816, 95817, 95818 and 95819