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Vermont Comedy Club Gives a Fresh Take on Stand-Up

By Marina I. Jokic

For husband and wife Nathan Hartswick and Natalie Miller, improv comedy has always been a way of life. What initially started in 2010 as a labor of love, has given rise to a thriving artistic community in Burlington. The pair of comedians produced thousands of shows throughout New England. Bowling alleys, bars, restaurants, church basements and living rooms were their usual venues. They taught classes in a small studio in the South End and produced the state's largest comedy events, the Green Mountain Comedy Festival and Vermont's Funniest Comedian contest.

Hartswick and Miller started their stand-up careers about seven years ago, and at the time, there wasn't a lot of opportunity in Vermont. As a result, they started producing shows of their own, which culminated in 2015 with founding of Vermont Comedy Club. A brick and mortar venue nestled at the heart of Burlington, it changed the comedy scene forever. It's become a thriving venue for the performing community.

"[The club] grew organically, [and] eventually we started producing a comedy festival, a weekly open mic, opened a studio space and offered comedy classes," Miller said. "We're originally from Vermont, [and] we always wanted to put down roots and open a dedicated home for comedy in Burlington."

One very popular event organized by the two comedians, Vermont's Funniest Comedian contest, surfaced for the first time about six years ago. It today features 60 local comedians competing for over $5000 in cash and prizes. The contest is a great way for residents to discover some of the up-and-coming local talent and keep a pulse on the comedy scene. There are also industry judges serving as talent agents, club owners, and show producers, an ideal environment for aspiring professionals.

"The really exciting thing is that the word is getting out among national comedians that Vermont has a first-rate club, and attracting high-level talent to play here is getting easier," Hartswick said. "To be a good standup comedian takes strong writing and presentation skills, confidence, and a clear point of view."

This year's lineup of acts included Dave Attell in October, Michael Ian Black in November, and upcoming in 2018, Tom Green in April. Miller and Hartswick love assembling a diversity of styles and are personally looking forward to acts such as Chris Fleming, Roy Wood, Jr., and Emma Willmann.

"A [memorable] improv team, because [it is] creating comedy spontaneously, needs to be good at listening, communication, creative thinking," Miller said. "Our comedy students hone these skills so they can improve as performers; we also offer workshops tailored to the business community, because the skills required for successful comedy are [just as] valuable to professional development."

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About The Author

Marina Jokic holds a bachelor's degree from Connecticut College in Russian and East...

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