Myke Herlihy, a bartender turned stand-up comedian, drove from Orlando to Key West last week to tell a crowd a little about his life, including his two little boys. The 5-year-old he adores, the comic pointed out.
“I have a 2-year-old I don’t like,” Herlihy said as laughter burst from the audience. “He’s the [expletive] devil.”
Later, he performed a brief fire-eating act and showed off his wristwatch and wallet, both of which burst into small flames upon command. He also cheered on the Key West couple that brought him down for the gig, headlining a Thursday night show that started off with a half-dozen locals.
“They’re supporting live comedy here,” Herlihy said, applauding Joe Madaus and Anne Walters who, with a few pals, have launched a weekly comedy showcase that is turning heads, attracting scores of fans and leaving everyone laughing.
Two of the stand-up comics had never been on stage before. Both won laughs with some irreverent bits, including one about getting fooled into sharing a hotel room bed with her new boss.
“When she booked the room...,” Amanda Anderson said as one of the punchlines.
Stephanie Kaple, another local, commiserated with the crowd about Key West’s small and often oddball dating pool.
“It’s like ‘Survivor: Dating’ on this island,” Kaple said.
Madaus, 34, moved to Key West six years ago after doing comedy in Boston after college only to wonder where the island’s scene was hiding.
“I heard a lot that regular comedy doesn’t work down here,” Madaus said. “When I came here there was nowhere to do it.”
Madaus can laugh off naysayers today. The Downward Dog Comedy Showcase he and girlfriend Walters created brings 60 to 90 people each Thursday to the Blue Room, 1128 Simonton St., where first-time comics share the stage with professional wisecrackers.
“I asked a lot of people who had never thought of doing stand-up,” said Madaus. “It’s like jumping out of an airplane for the first time.”
The Key West show has been almost heckler-free. Instead of insults, the crowds have been attentive and supportive. “It’s a completely open environment,” he said. “We want to build a community.”
Downward Dog logged its sixth show last week and on Friday will produce its first full-blown big-time gig, bringing the nationally known stoner stand-up comic Esther Ku, who’s done NBC’s Last Comic Standing and has appeared on Comedy Central, to the Key West Theater, 512 Eaton St.
Key West locals Shaun Griffin, Chad Newman, Vic Lopez and Dan Schwab will take turns warming up the crowd before Ku takes the stage. Madaus and Walters will host.
Even such success is reason for laughs.
“Nope, definitely not terrified,” Griffin posted on the Facebook publicity photo for Ku’s show.
Gwen Filosa: @KeyWestGwen