It’s Saturday night and opportunities are few to see professional stand-up comedy in Montgomery County, and so VisArts in Rockville is doing something about it.
The nonprofit arts center will present a night of laughs Saturday, Jan. 26, featuring three comedians — Jeff Maurer from New York and Tyler Richardson and Rahmein Mostafavi from the Washington, D.C., area.
“It’s comedy for grownups — it’s rated R for 18 and up,” said Mostafavi, who is also producing the show through his company, Cool Cow Comedy.
“It’s exactly what you’d see at any comedy club,” he said.
But à la Rodney Dangerfield, comedians sometimes don’t get the respect they deserve for their work from some clubs, which is why Mostafavi also lights and stages the shows he produces.
A professional stage actor for 15 years, Mostafavi, who lives in northern Virginia, was at one time performing eight shows a week as a cast member in the comedy “Shear Madness” at the Kennedy Center.
“That was a master class in what beats to take,” he said about the importance of timing in humor.
But as his family grew, he decided to shift direction.
“When I had kids ... I started dabbling with stand-up,” said Mostafavi, who noted the transition wasn’t as scary as it is for some because of his previous stage experience.
“In the theater you’ve got a support cast, rehearsals, a director, a script, but with stand-up, all you’ve got is a microphone and a light,” he said.
“There’s a lot more personal pressure, but after acting, you get to the point where you feel bulletproof, but you’re still polishing,” he said.
Mostafavi jokes he recently started producing shows in northern Virginia because venues such as the Workhouse Arts Center in Lorton, the Old Still Mill in Fredericksburg and the Arlington Cinema and Draft House in Arlington were close to home and saved driving time.
But he’s happy to expand his territory at VisArts’ request because comedians need more places to perform.
“There are more funny people than there are clubs to work in,” he said. “They can’t work every weekend.”
VisArts will play host to the Saturday show in its Buchanan Room overlooking Rockville Town Center.
The room, which accommodates up to 200 people, will be equipped with chairs and different-sized tables, and food, beer, wine, sodas and sparkling water will be available for sale, said Karen Askin, VisArts’ director of outreach and special programs.
Mostafavi said he puts together a range of comedians for a show, and each has a different style.
A one-time Arlington, Va., resident, Maurer now lives in New York.
“He makes a lot of political and social observations,” said Mostafavi about Maurer’s humor.
Richardson is a regular performer at D.C. Improv and also produces a monthly show at the State Theatre in Falls Church, Va.
“He’s more of a story teller,” Mostafavi said about his style. “He’s a charmer, with a ready smile. He’s engaging.”
And Mostafavi describes himself as “high-energy” and a comedian who touches on some of the absurdities of family and political life.
“It can be edgy,” he says about his act.
One of the comedians he admires, for example, is Don Rickles.
“Rickles was able to tease people about things they were most sensitive about, but he’d be endearing enough that they’d laugh along with him,” he said.
Mostafavi says interest in comedy is spiking with the success of performers such as Steve Carell, Jon Stewart, Eddie Murphy and Chris Rock.
“Laughter is so important,” he said about the ability of comedians to surprise, delight and entertain people as well as offer some astute observations about human nature and human societies.
“(Cool Cow Comedy) provides a very sophisticated and proven program,” Askin said.
“And what is art but all about making you think.”