Over The Blackheart: Unleashing the Weapon of Laughter at Market Street Social Club

Over The Blackheart: Unleashing the Weapon of Laughter at Market Street Social Club

Published by: David Cate
June 14, 2024
"The human race has one really effective weapon: laughter." Mark Twain had it right, and where better to unleash this perfect weapon than at Kingsport's Market Street Social Club?

It's been a few weeks, and I'm starting to settle into downtown life over the Blackheart. Downtown living has been a cornucopia of delights so far! There's so much happening here; there's a new story for most every night of the week. From my perch on Broad Street, I've also discovered a hidden treasure that has quickly become one of my new go-tos for good music and laughs.

Market Street Social Club has been a local treasure for a couple of years, and it's hosted more acts than all the stages in Kingsport combined. One night, you might stumble upon music, another trivia, and an open mic or build-a-band night. Got an act? Market Street is the perfect place to start in Kingsport!

Picture a cozy room with enough chairs and standing room for about 75 people. The stage? Just inside the door, what used to be a shop window, wide enough for two or three chairs. But don't let the size fool you—this place is a volcanic vent of creativity, just waiting to erupt with talent.

Now, before we get too deep into the hilarity, let me share a little secret. You can learn a lot about a city from its Chamber of Commerce, the official city website, newspapers, and social media, but if you really want to understand the soul of a place, head to a local comedy club. It's like getting the unfiltered, behind-the-scenes director's cut of the town. The jokes, the stories, the people—they give you a raw, unvarnished insight into the community. Plus, you get to laugh at all the quirky, lovable idiosyncrasies that make the place tick.

Enter Soup Line Man. A text from him on Friday had me strolling around the corner to experience this alter-ego of my friend Tom Bettini. This act returns like the cicadas of summer, breathing a fiery collection of platinum-level stories into an unusually addictive voice. The best way to describe it is that it's part Gene Simmons, part Puddles the Clown, and a dash of Leonard Bernstein. His act is a bombastic mix of sarcasm and sentimentality, and I had to be there.

As the sun set on the roundabout at Market and Broad, I spotted the Soup Line Man and a colorful tribe of nomads gathered outside. Inside, the venue was buzzing. Despite its size, the room is big on heart and creativity, always ready to give anyone a chance on stage.

Before we go further, let me confess: I'm not the "funny guy." Oh, I love to let go and laugh 'til I cry, but my humor is as random as a ferret on a sugar high, my jokes rare, and many accuse me of being too deep. But why paddle in the shallows when you can swim at the deep end of a conversation?

Over the past few weeks, there have been two comedy showcases at Market Street. One was hosted by Robby Taylor, and another by Jared Hazen. Robby and Jared are like many other performers who are flocking comedy talent together and performing at local stages across the Tri-Cities. These tribe of comedians flock to venues from all over. Some are from right here in Kingsport, while others flock in from Knoxville, Roanoke, and Southwest Virginia.. Bristol already has a comedy club, and local comedians are working their band of gypsies across stages in Johnson City and Kingsport.

One Saturday, I arrived at Market Street just in time to watch performers devour pizzas like piranhas in the back of the room. Jared, the organizer of tonight's showcase and one of the comedians, had a bit where he'd strip off a piece of clothing every time a joke bombed. Thankfully, a loose muumuu spared us all from embarrassment.

Another night featured John Pruett, dressed in overalls with a down-home demeanor. Critics call him the most "woke" hillbilly ever. A militant ally of the LGBTQIA+ community from a bi-racial family, his comedy offers fresh perspectives with a positive backwoods attitude. His stories about his transgender household are insightful, hilarious, and proud.

And then there was Greg Payne in a tee shirt emblazoned with his name, Meredith Kerr with her fiery red hair and action-ready shoes, and Mytee Mouz in his Long Horn Steakhouse shirt, fresh from work. Each brought their unique flair to the stage, adding to the rich tapestry of local comedy.

The Tri-Cities comedy scene is blooming, and I urge you to dive in. Small stages like Market Street might seem insignificant, but they're bursting with creative voices and passionate performances.

Laughter is contagious, and I don't know about you, but with things the way they are, it's like my old friend Lonnie Carrier used to say, "Sometimes you gotta laugh to keep from crying." We all know that's good medicine and sometimes good entertainment; it's just what we need.

So, venture out beyond your routine. Embrace the unexpected. Head to Market Street Social Club, laugh until your sides ache, and discover the magic of our local comedy scene. After all, laughter is humanity's perfect weapon—let's wield it well!