I've always suspected DC of having a lot of stand up comedy but for some reason have never really found much, other than at DC Improv and occasionally at Sixth and I. Usually the comedy I go to turns out to be improv in disguise. That changed when Brightest Young Things published its extensive January comedy guide and I resolved to get out and see what I could find. On Friday I went to Comedy on the Table at the Velvet Lounge. This semi-annual event is an all-woman stand-up night benefiting various local charities. I really liked the concept, and I enjoyed the show. There was some funny stuff. Including from a disturbingly talented 14 year old, LizaBanks. A cool night. But I was a bit disappointed to find so many of the comediennes were embracing the age-old comedic themes of dating, sex, drugs, and periods. Any suggestions for where I can find stand-up that diversifies to other topics in DC?
On a very different comedic note, I had a surprisingly excellent time down in the rather hidden auditorium of the National Gallery of Art this weekend, watching restored Max Linder silent films, complete with live piano accompaniment, all for free. This so-named cine-concert, which I attended on a whim, was a real delight - completely funny, charming, cool, quirky - and an audience pretty much entirely composed of older people. It's odd - I go to quite a few events at Smithsonian museums, and those run by the Smithsonian Associates, and they always seem to be dominated by a fairly staid older crowd. Granted it's lovely to feel like a young lass, but I'm not quite sure why young (and indeed middle aged) Washington is collectively missing out on these events, and allowing themselves to be somehow confined to the cool yet weirdly segregated Smithsonian At 8 series. Take a look at the NGA's film series coming up - there may be something to tempt you. And the Smithsonian Associates events are here. (I'm currently feeling sad that their cool six-part science series I've been attending is cancelled tonight due to the snow. But that probably means it'll be postponed so there are still three left to attend, if you like that sort of thing).
Finally, despite my complaining last week about the hassle of getting to Politics and Prose for their events, this weekend I was tempted up the hill - Washington City Paper have just published their second annual fiction issue and they had three of the featured authors reading from their Washington-set short stories in the bookstore on Sunday afternoon. In a city skewed to non-fiction writing, it was really quite lovely to sit back and listen to a gay noir story set near Dupont Circle, a tale of a ball game at Meridian Hill Park... They were quite good too. You can read the full stories here. As to how I got there, I walked from Georgetown, most of the way walking along the Glover Archbold trail, which is probably my favorite 3 mile walk/leisurely hike in DC and much recommended for scenic lovely woodsy walking that feels far from the city. As soon as there's a sunny day, I always get tempted to walk this trail.
In terms of new-ish bars and restaurants, I tried out a couple this week. After the guy working at the Velvet Lounge was very rude to me about how they weren't open at 7pm on Friday (the advertised time for the comedy show), I popped next door to pass half an hour at El Rey. This new bar/Mexican food place is constructed out of containers, ie the things ships use to transport stuff. It's also weirdly partly outside, with a retractable roof and vigorous heaters. And it feels really cool (in a vibe rather than a temperature way). This will clearly be a popular, relaxed and fashionable U Street hang out spot for beers and a few tacos - I really liked the decor and ambience.
I'm less convinced about Flight Wine Bar in Chinatown - I went there on opening night this weekend and while I really liked the look of the place, there were enough irritants that I won't be returning. First, I think it's misleading to call it a wine bar: everyone there was eating a full meal and I'd have looked awkward going there just for wine. It's clearly a restaurant. Secondly, one hour into opening night, they reported they had "run out" of one of the menu items. Between 5 and 6pm on their first night? Particularly annoying as they didn't tell us til we ordered it, and as vegetarians, there aren't too many alternative options on most menus! Also, $7 for the breadbasket was excessive. It was nice, yes, but it was a breadbasket. But all these issues were tolerable - their main problem was extremely slow, inattentive service. Yes, teething problems perhaps, but every table in the place featured an irritated set of diners, casting each other looks in solidarity as we all worked to get the attention of the waitress. Getting our water refilled was an impossible dream. One item of food took nearly an hour to appear after our order, making us late for a party we were headed to. The manager deducted its cost but otherwise was weirdly unapologetic. For me, service is the key to a good experience. Teething problems are forgivable, especially on opening night, but an unconcerned attitude is a bad sign... So essentially, great look, great wine, good food, but I know I can have a better overall experience in plenty of other places just round the corner... Sorry, Flight Wine Bar. Hopefully they'll improve, but they've already lost this customer.
What I'm looking forward to in the coming week
Thursday 23rd Jan: Capital Pride's Pride Reveal event at the W - I failed to get tickets in advance last year and couldn't get in and bitterly watched Twitter telling me how cool it was. This year I have my tickets in hand and looking forward to a gay time!
Saturday 25th Jan: Tonight is Burns Night, celebrating Scotland's favorite poet, Robert Burns. It's an excuse for donning tartan (plaid), drinking Scotch whisky and drunkenly singing one of his most famous songs, Auld Lang Syne. I can't fit you all in to my house, alas. But as a Scot, I'd be remiss to not tell you get in on a Scottish friend's festivities... If you don't know a friendly Scot, the owner of Shaw's cool new whisky bar Southern Efficiency went to college in Scotland and assures me they are all set for Burns Night fun. They have 8 Scotch whiskies plus more on order specially for the night - and a special cocktail called the Bobby Burns! Fingers crossed they'll invest in some haggis too. (I see there are also various formal-sounding Burns Night events you could get in on, mostly in Alexandria, like these here and here.)
Monday 27th Jan: Of the comedy improv nights I've been to, one of my favourites is probably Appletini, free downstairs at Larry's Lounge on 18th and T.