Let’s face it — Long Island City is just way cooler than your typical go-to trendy neighborhoods in New York City. It’s got that great combo of not-yet-too-gentrified, still-a-safe-place-to-chill, not-as-hipster-as-Williamsburg, and very-friggin’-close-to-Manhattan-AND-Brooklyn.
At the heart of this growing Queens neighborhood — where strip clubs are NOT welcome! — is a comedy joint on the rise. The Creek and the Cave, a multi-level restaurant and bar with nonstop comedy, is a gem that nicely epitomizes the little-neighborhood-that-could. The clubhouse features affordable Mexican food and drinks, the comedy shows are free, and it’s a homegrown effort run by a Long Island City resident. And just like the fast-paced development of its surrounding neighborhood, the Creek and the Cave is also growing rapidly — now, with the help of the ever-popular Kickstarter.
Today, Runnin’ Scared caught up with the comedy-loving, former underwear-saleswoman owner of Creek and the Cave to hear about the clubhouse’s latest expansion goals with the Kickstarter project.
Rebecca Trent, 34, said she’s getting serious about comedy in Queens.
“We are the funniest neighborhood in Queens,” she said. “The Creek and the Cave has paved the way for comedy in the neighborhood.”
Through Kickstarter, an online funding organization that solicits donations for projects on deadlines with an all-or-nothing model, Trent hopes to raise $20,000 by March 1st. As of today, the project was nearing $14,000 with a week left to go.
The funding will go to renovations of the space and new efforts to reach more comedians and wider audiences. What makes the club, located at 10-93 Jackson Ave., unique is that the comedy shows are free and frequent (not even a drink minimum — Trent said she despises those). She wants to maintain that financial model, but still expand and improve the comedy.
Trent is renovating the space to add everything from drapes, new lighting, and a marquee (and a redesign of the club’s entrance, which she said was a “strange Willy Wonka-esque experience” for arriving audience members). She also wants to use the funds to increase advertising and promotions. Right now, she runs the place, which includes typical owner duties, programming performances, curating the restaurant, and planning the calendar. And more.
The Creek is a special place in the city’s comedy scene, Trent said, because, along with having no covers (and no annoying barkers on street corners), it’s run completely independently, giving the club and the performers a ton of artistic freedom.
“People tell me, ‘There’s a formula to it. There’s comedy clubs out there, Rebecca. People know how to do it,’…But I just don’t like the way that it’s done. I want it to feel different. I want it to feel good,” she said, recalling being haggled at comedy clubs in the city for expensive covers or drink minimums, even when ads online said performances were free.
“It’s just an uncomfortable experience. They have their hands in your pocket as soon as you walk in the door. I want that to just not be an element to comedy,” she said, admitting that she’s a bit of a “dorky, hippie,” why-can’t-we-all-get-along kinda gal. “It doesn’t need to feel so hustle-y.”
Trent, who studied theater in college and who was formerly a general manager of lingerie store in SoHo, bought the Queens space in 2006 and has been growing the comedy scene there ever since. Now, the club is home to two shows a night and nine open-mic events a week. Thousands of performers have passed through since she brought comedy to Long Island City.
Trent said she also wants to help bring more revenue to the comedians directly. She’s expanded a merchandise center in the clubhouse and she also plans on implementing an automatic recording system that would give comedians copies of their shows the same night as their performances. For high-profile comedians or bigger shows, she may add small covers at the door, if that’s what the performers want. They would keep 100 percent of the commission.
“First and foremost, I want the comedy to get better,” she said.
And though the Kickstarter deadline can be stressful (“It’s a lot of nail-biting, which…I thought I’d quit doing in the 4th grade!”), the donations have been overwhelming, she said, sometimes moving her to tears.
“The amount of support that we’ve gotten has just been touching and heartwarming,” she said.