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Open Circus is worth a peek


Open Circus crowd favorite Bryan Baker entertains with a musical act.

Open Circus crowd favorite Bryan Baker entertains with a musical act.

Let’s face it. Not everyone in Des Moines is destined to be rich and famous like Iowa natives Ashton Kutcher, Brandon Routh, Corey Taylor, Nate Ruess and Elijah Wood. But that doesn’t mean you can’t have your moment in the spotlight to show off what you’ve got — or sometimes what you lack.

Every Thursday night, the Des Moines Social Club holds an “Open Circus” from 9 p.m. to midnight at the Fourth Street Theater located in downtown coffee joint, Java Joes. The event claims to be “Des Moines’ best open variety show!” If that’s true, I will be shying away from local open mics in the future.

The night consisted primarily of wannabe comedians taking to the stage to present their jokes. Sparse laughs came from the crowd, and it was hard to tell whether the audience members gave pity, were being supportive or were just easily amused. Many jokes flopped hard enough that you could faintly hear Joey Slotnick saying, “These are the jokes folks, these are the jokes.” But the presenters stuck by them, leaning on their rocky deliveries. One performer could not finish a joke to save his life, despite having them written down for reference. Shaking his head, he laughed, admitting to the crowed, “Man, I smoked too much today.”

But you can’t cater to everyone’s humor. Some people enjoy lines about flatulence, blonde women and Rabbis walking into bars. It’s hard to figure out everyone’s threshold of funny, but it takes guts, that’s for sure. To stand up in front of a crowd, nerves coming undone and not knowing exactly what it is that is coming out of your mouth or whether the audience will even get it — I can appreciate the courage.

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One element of Open Circus that appeared to be a hit was Bryan Baker. Keeping rhythm on his tuned-up six string, he played out a beautiful melody expressing “there’s a method to the way I am.” This “method” undoubtedly led him to his zombie bride hit, encouraging the audience to use their best “zombie” voice to accompany him during his lyrical chorus: “If anyone eats my brains, I want it to be you.”

Looking around the room, I could see what may draw others to Open Circus. Performers reached out to their audience members calling them by name, their friends laughing at their triumphs and, for some, their failures. They stuck together like weird high school drama kids (don’t pretend that doesn’t make sense). The loyalty was pure, and, all in all, they’re just having fun.

At the very least, show up once and decide if it’s something you’d like to see again. If you decide it’s not your scene, downtown has plenty of other entertainment offerings. CV

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