Walk into the dimly lit Landing Lounge at the Radisson Hotel in Grand Rapids on a Sunday evening and you will likely be confronted with a shimmering disco ball and amateur karaoke. But order yourself a cheap pitcher of beer, sit in one of the comfortable chairs, and hunker down because the real show begins at 8:30. The lights are dimmed, the disco ball ceases to spin, and Brian Borbot takes the stage. Borbot launches into his act, providing topical humor and an introduction to the remainder of the show. This is the Sunday Night Funnies; a free, weekly standup comedy show.
Brian Borbot began performing standup comedy at open mics in the early 1990s. After quitting for nearly ten years, he began performing again. However, it wasn’t until 2008 that Borbot’s greatest accomplishment was established; when the first incarnation of Sunday Night Funnies began at a bar and restaurant in Douglas, Michigan. After only two weeks, personal issues led Borbot to search for a new home for Funnies. After creating a list of possible venues in Grand Rapids, his hometown, Borbot approached Bob Sullivan, the owner of the Radisson. Sullivan, who had a background in entertainment, welcomed Borbot and the Sunday Night Funnies into his hotel; though he initially wanted to make it a Friday night event. But Borbot stuck to his guns and also fought to keep the Funnies a free event, believing a cover charge would “be the kiss of death.” There is however, a two drink minimum and is an 18+ event.
Amateur comedy shows often get a bad reputation, as it takes a uniquely talented person to entertain a crowd for an extended period of time. However, the format of Sunday Night Funnies makes it easy for the comedian to hold its audience members attention for the length of the show. Each performer is given a short time slot –-five minutes for newer comics and eight minutes for more established performers. It is much easier for a person to be funny for eight minutes than to compile enough material for an entire set. “I think our show is just as funny and as entertaining as any show you’ll see out there,” said Borbot.
While existing in its current location only since November of 2008, Sunday Night Funnies has provided a stage for over 200 different comics to perform. Providing entertainment to the Grand Rapids population and giving “comics a venue where they can get up fairly often and work on their craft” is something that Borbot takes pride in. Borbot does acknowledge that “there are a lot of funny people out there” in Grand Rapids, but admits that “there are also comics who think they are funnier than they actually are.” Don’t fret however, because according to Borbot, “half the fun is the ones who bomb badly.”
On any given Sunday, there will be twelve different comics performing. Twelve comics “seems to be the magic number,” Borbot said. The show runs roughly one and a half hours, to ensure that the audience “leaves wanting more.” Though there was once a time when comics were allowed to perform even if they weren’t on the schedule, Borbot now schedules the Funnies at least two weeks in advance.
While not everyone performing at Sunday Night Funnies can compete with the Bill Cosby’s or Jerry Seinfeld’s of the world, you can come confident that you will find a comic that suits your particular fancy. What’s better than a night full of drinking a cheap pitcher of beer, hanging out with friends, and laughing up a storm? Plus, as Borbot put so eloquently, “The price is right.” ~Chad Cramblet, Regional Director
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