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Wednesday, October 03, 2012 11:06 PM

Comedians coming to Plaza theater, more live shows to follow

By DOUG CARDER, Herald Senior Writer

The Fryman invites Ottawa residents to bring their funny bones Friday night, but check their brains at the door.

Emil “The Fryman” Fry, a veteran comedian with more than 20 years’ experience, will headline the Plaza Grill and Cinema’s first-ever comedy show 8 p.m. Friday at the theater, 209 S. Main St., Ottawa.

“I’m not a comedian with an agenda — I don’t preach and teach,” the St. Louis-based comedian said. “If you learn anything from my show, you weren’t paying attention.”

The Fryman, a national recording artist with Laughing Hyena Records, has appeared on NBC and regularly can be heard on Sirius/XM satellite radio. A former U.S. Marine, he has performed three military comedy tours for U.S. troops overseas.

While The Fryman said he has performed to audiences of 1,200 people, he prefers the smaller-scale settings comedy clubs and theaters like the Plaza Grill and Cinema provides.

“I like the intimate settings because you get to interact more with the audience,” The Fryman, who has performed in 250 cities and more than 40 states, said. “Some of the best comedy clubs [in the U.S.] hold 175 to 200 people. Of course, you don’t get the roar you hear when an audience of 1,200 likes your joke, but I think some of my best shows over the past 20 years have been in front of audiences of 50 to 60 people.”

The Plaza Grill and Cinema comedy show will seat 80 people. Tickets still are available and can be reserved for Friday’s show with a credit card by calling the theater at (785) 242-5555, Peach Madl, Plaza owner, said.

“We would like to host a comedy show once a month through December,” Madl said. “We joined a comedy circuit where we can book traveling comedians.”

Chris Smith, another St. Louis comedian, will be the opening act for the show.

“Chris is great; he has more than 20 years of experience too,” The Fryman said. “Together, you are getting two comedians with about 50 years of experience between them. You’re getting a great show.”

Madl said area businessman Bill Harmon, of A&H Air Conditioning Heating & Plumbing, will be the show’s emcee.

“This is our first comedy show,” Madl said. “I just thought it would be fun to go some place and laugh for awhile. I’m looking forward to it.

Madl said children will not be admitted without parental supervision, but she said the show’s content will not be too adult in nature.

“It will be kept at a PG-13 rating,” Madl said.

The business is planning a happy hour at 7 p.m. before the show, featuring half-price drinks and beverages, she said.

If the comedy run through December proves successful, Madl said, she would consider bringing more comedy shows in 2013.

“We’d also like to bring in some music acts,” she said.

Cutting his teeth in the business as a lounge performer, The Fryman said comedians have to learn to adjust their acts in intimate settings to engage their audience. He said he and opening act Chris Smith are good at reading audiences.

“You have to be able to think quick on your feet,” The Fryman said.

The Fryman said he would be making his first trip to Ottawa this week.

“I’ve played all over Kansas City and Wichita, but this will be my first time in-between,” he said.

While The Fryman said he usually opens his act with a couple of current events jokes, he shuns political one-liners.

“I don’t do a lot of political jokes — that’s the quickest way to divide a room,” he said. “I like to focus on my life experiences. I like to talk about relationships and how my lifestyle has changed through the years. I keep it light. You know the funny guy at the bar? That’s me — with a microphone in my hand.”

Doug Carder is senior writer at The Herald. Email him at dcarder@ottwaherald.com

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