Kingston comedy club set to open its doors this month

Thanks to a partnership with Nawabz Indian Sports Bar and Restaurant, Kingston will once again have a dedicated comedy club for the first time in years.

With Kingston's Absolute Comedy Club location closing its doors in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, Kingston comedians have had to find locations throughout town willing to host stand-up comedy.

In a town where so many options are already spoken for by Kingston's busy music scene, that can sometimes be easier said than done.

While the local community has been making it work and becoming more and more active at local bars and restaurants, the newly announced return of "Time To Laugh Comedy" will be a welcome addition for comedians in the area, as well as touring comedians with an eye on finding new places to perform.

"Time To Laugh" is no stranger to Kingston, having previously occupied multiple locations in the city, but previously the club has existed in a space all to itself.

Ryan Dennee, a local comedian who has been orchestrating this partnership with Nawabz, thinks that the high rents paid by clubs that have previously existed in Kingston are the main reason they have struggled to keep above water.

He says collaborating with a local business to occupy a smaller room is a deliberate choice that he believes could help the long term sustainability of the club.

"It's just too much rent... So I was looking for just the right equation in order to keep it open," Dennee said.

"I've seen it done a couple of times where there's a side room in a restaurant that could work, like a separate room."

After visiting Nawabz Sports Bar and Restaurant, Dennee started talking to the restaurant's owner Ankit Srivastava about a side room that was available within the restaurant.

While Dennee floated the idea of occasionally using the room for stand-up, Srivastava saw potential for a bigger partnership.

"You cannot use it for some time, you can have it," Srivastava said of his dealings with Dennee.

"I love stand-up comedy... I have been in Kingston for 15 years so I will always have support for local people."

After getting the go ahead from Srivastava, Dennee and fellow comedian Luke Bawn took to work on the 60 to 70 person room in order to better outfit it for shows.

He said Srivastava was willing to see whatever changes to the room were needed, as he also believes in the potential the room could have.

The club is nearing ready to open, and Dennee says he thinks it will be a perfect fit for hosting intimate shows.

"It's just like this tunnel of energy... The whole room is soundproof, the whole room is blacked out, the ceilings are low, but high enough to have a stage," Dennee said.

"When I broached the topic to him [Srivastava], he was all about it... Literally anything that we asked of him, painting, putting in electrical, putting the lights... there's been nothing but positive reassurances."

The restaurant and bar has been busy since March on the corner of Princess and Portsmouth, but both Srivastava and Dennee see potential for both the club and restaurant to benefit from the partnership.

Time To Laugh will host shows on one weekend a month throughout the summer, along with weekday events like Family Feud and Trivia night, before ramping up to every weekend in the fall.

It could provide a great opportunity for local comics to work on their craft on a more consistent basis, but also for attracting some bigger names in the comedy scene to Kingston.

"I'm friends with a lot of big name comedians and they already are messaging me," Dennee said.

"If Kingston shows up... It's going to turn into a room where comics' word spreads like wildfire."

Al Babcock, another local comedian who runs AB3 Comedy, said having a space with consistent opportunities for comics will have a big impact on building up the local scene.

"This is huge for the community to have a dedicated spot where comedy can be the main focus and appreciated properly," Babcock said.

"This is also great for the up and coming locals to have a dedicated room to not only perform themselves but watch the pros do what they do best."

For Srivastava, as a fan of comedy himself, he says his restaurant now being home to Kingston's only comedy club is a point of pride, and a partnership that he can only see benefitting his business.

"It feels great," Srivastava said.

"Just being the only thing the only comedy club in Kingston that will open up a lot of business opportunities for me and for Ryan as well."

Time To Laugh Kingston will host its grand opening to the public on July 12 & 13, tickets are on sale now.

Owen Fullerton, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, YGK News