Upon entering the Porter, it is easy to recognize the local stand-up comedians in the small crowd. They check their watches and have black notebooks open on the restaurant’s sticky tables. They scribble last-minute thoughts in hopes to crack the magic joke that will make the audience laugh.
That joke, it turns out, is difficult to find.
“It was my first time going so I wasn’t expecting much. There were a few good comedians, but overall, it was okay,” audience member Janey Shimp said.
Waitress Darian Santiago has worked at the Porter for two years. Her schedule alternates Tuesdays and Thursdays, which are for Trivia and Comedy Nights, respectively. She said the nights are usually busy.
“Yeah, some [stand-up comedians] are funny, but others are just difficult to get through, and I feel embarrassed for them,” she said as she cleared the plates from the table.
Jokes of the night included Sherlock Holmes, school shooters, cat killers, sex with koalas and robot girlfriends. The stand-up comedians at the Porter force the audience to ask the age-old question: Are misogynist, crude and perverted jokes still funny?
Comedian Scottie Corley hosts the event along with fellow comedian Carolyn Lucas. Corley began practicing stand-up comedy in 2014. He said that the comedy scene—the people, the restaurants—has changed since then, but not the jokes.
“One of the few times I quit… As a gay comedian, you don’t see a lot of diversity. You see a lot of straight white male comedians doing straight white male sets, unfortunately. I would really like to see a plethora of things,” Corley said. “That’s why it’s so great to have a diverse set of comedians. Because you may not like that one person for saying that joke, but you might like the person who comes on after.”
Corley also commented on political correctness and how it affects comedy.
“Comedians don’t do [take risks] anymore, because we’re afraid of offending people, especially in a small town like Hattiesburg, Mississippi. We want to make people laugh, but let’s be honest. We comedians want to be heard. This is our one opportunity to do it.”
The outrageous jokes, such as the risk of being killed on the first date, are the local comedians trying to be heard. The easiest way to accomplish that is to be sensational and potentially offensive.
As a seasoned comedian, Corley offered advice for those wanting to get into performing stand-up comedy.
“You have to be thrown under the bus to learn what to do and not to do. . .If you have your favorite comedians, then start watching them, and find out your own signature style,” Corley said. “Also comedic timing is very important, so if you don’t have it, you’re not funny.”
Open Mic Comedy Night at the Porter is hosted by Hub City Comedy and occurs every Thursday at 9 p.m. Signups begin at 8:45 p.m.