One of Philadelphia’s monthly comedy showcases is celebrating a key anniversary in one of the most important months of the year.
Black History Monthly is a diversity-focused show that is held every second Friday at Philly Improv Theater in Rittenhouse Square. February 2018 marks the show’s one year anniversary in Philadelphia. To mark the occasion, founders and co-hosts Ronald Metellus, Brandon Mitchell and Keane Cobb have decided to bring it to one of the most visible comedy stages in the city: Helium Comedy Club.
“An audience that attends a Black History Monthly show can expect to see a very diverse show and see that people of color can provide multiple ways to entertain a crowd,” Mitchell said.
Each month, Black History Monthly features a rotating cast of not only comedians, but also improvisers, sketch performers, poets, dancers, visual artists, and even fire-breathers. Its goal is to consistently assemble an entertaining—and varied—set of performers that typically would not share the same stage. Since its founding in 2017, the show has enjoyed immense success, going as far as even being highlighted at Hell Yes Fest in New Orleans.
The February 2018 anniversary show, which will be held on February 28, will feature acts by local stand-up comics Setoiyo, Chanel Ali, Kyle Harris, Erik Terrell, Brian Six and Ryan Shaner, in addition to performances by Sister Prophet Halle Lujah (Rebekah Rickards and Marcely Jean-Pierre) and Alli & Darryl (Alli Soowal and Darryl Charles).
For a show that celebrates the diversity of the local comedy scene, its anniversary showcase falling during Black History Month has extra special meaning.
“It means we kept the show alive for a whole year,” Metellus joked. “I think one of the tenets of the show is that POC performers deserve recognition every month and not just the one(s) that are designated by some third party.”
Metellus also touched upon the two comedy communities within Philadelphia: the “urban” and “non-urban” camps, and how a former South Street comedy club factored into things.
“Urban comedy and non-urban (either “mainstream” or “alternative” comedy) don’t often overlap in Philadelphia,” Metellus said. “The Laff House predates my time in the scene, but when it was functioning comedy club that felt like a bridge between those scenes: a room run by POCs with roots in the urban scene that could attract audiences and comedians of all stripes.”
While Metellus would like to see more of an effort from bookers to scout “urban” rooms for comics, as they provide a different perspective for audiences, he is happy to see the state of comedy—in all its forms—in Philadelphia.
“I do think we’re experiencing a comedy boom as a city because of the hard work of comics and producers (the labels mostly overlap) so I’m generally optimistic,” he said.
While fans of all kinds are encouraged to attend the anniversary show—as well as all of the subsequent monthly showcases—Metellus would like to see at least two very specific people in the audience on February 28.
“I’d like to formally invite [Philadelphia D.A.] Larry Krasner,” Metellus said. “I heard he’s been to a few house parties recently, so I think we have a shot. Plus, the show is walking distance from his office.”
And Metellus’ second request?
“I’d also like to invite [Philadelphia Eagles safety] Malcolm Jenkins. Come through, guys!”
If you go:
8 p.m; $16
Helium Comedy Club
2031 Sansom St.