Goodbye, Home Club
Over the course of this pandemic, thousands of venues were hit hard to the point of closing. I knew it was inevitable, but you always hope that the places you love will survive, that that piece of you that they hold will remain. Sadly, not this time.
The Kingston Absolute meant so much to me for varied reasons.
Firstly, it was my hometown club. I grew up in Gananoque and Kingston was where we went to find fun things to do once we played all the video games in the arcade and had rented every movie at 501 Video.
[Kids: Ask your parents to ask their parents to explain what arcades were and what renting a movie was like.]
I had eaten at the Kelsey’s where Absolute eventually found its home. When I first walked into the comedy club, it had this surreal feeling like a dream where you’ve been somewhere before, but you haven’t? And you know where everything is but it’s your first time in there? And your grade twelve English teacher is there to collect the homework that you didn’t do and you’re panicking and standing in your underwear in front of the entire class? Like that except for the last bit. It was my hometown club.
It was a club that my friends from back home could come out and see me. When I was starting out in comedy I was performing solely in Waterloo, Ottawa and Toronto because, and you’ll find this hard to imagine, Gananoque’s open-mic scene was sparse. With Kingston having a club, I had a place to perform and feel at home. I could see family and friends while doing the thing I loved.
It was the place that I recorded both my albums “Really?” and “Butterflies”. This is hugely important for me. Growing up in Gan, I had a dream that I’d perform comedy at some point. As part of that dream, there are points along the way that you never picture happening. In high school as I watched all the stand-up comedy that I could record on the family VCR [Kids: Again…your parents to ask their parents] I never imagined that I’d have albums. I never thought I’d have ‘album’ let alone two. Let alone still recording them at my home. It’s what makes the creation of both those albums magical for me. I got to return home to do them.
I have tons of great memories there as well. At the house where the comics stayed, there was a huge games “room” that used to be an indoor swimming pool. Every act on the weekend’s shows would eventually find their way to the games room late one night to play snooker on an official sized table that doubled for a soccer pitch. Games would last three hours due to ineptitude and a complete ignorance of the rules.
I was reminded at my first show in Kingston that as much as I love my 613 People, some of them don’t have a great ‘inside voice’. I’d be on stage about to roll into a punchline for a joke only to have someone in the audience whisper very delicately to their server “I’LL HAVE A KEITH’S!!!” delivered like Howard Beale in ‘Network’.
I remember the guy that yelled at me, offended by an Old Testament joke I did, saying I made fun of Jesus (remember…OLD Testament) and stormed out. A year later, he returned when I was performing. I purposely did the exact same joke in front of him and at the end of the night, he bought my album for his wife. Guess it took a year to finally get the joke.
Also, last Thanksgiving, in the heat of the pandemic when Kingston was doing really well, Toronto and Ottawa had to close their weekend shows, making me performing at Kingston the only comedy show in the province. It was a sad honour.
What made Kingston a fantastic club was the people: audience, performers, and staff. I’ve met so many great audience members after shows, friends from school, people that you talk to like you just saw them last week even though it’s been twenty years.
I hope the local acts working on their craft can find a new place to perform. The Kingston comics are funny and need a place to perform. Keep working.
Finally, the staff were what made that club what it was. They were professional, fun, and made you feel at home. Allison, I can’t thank you enough for all your demanding work there. I feel truly blessed to have known you. Derek, yours was the first face people saw entering the club. You were a true ambassador for Absolute Kingston.
Kingston, I hope you get a comedy club again soon. I hope it’s another Absolute or something else in another form. You’ve proved that not only can you have a club, but you deserve one. And I would be honoured to return there to try my Old Testament joke again for that guy a third time.
Let me know if you have plans for the snooker table.
Love to you all.