Although Jaime Pappas has performed at Punch Line Philly before, she had never before visited the Northern Liberties comedy club.
Billy Penn was told by Pappas, “I’ve never been there either watching or performing for a completely packed out show. I’ve never seen it so crowded.
Due in part to the event’s sponsor, North Philly rapper Tierra Whack, the show’s 300+ seats were sold out in under an hour.
Whack has gained notoriety since the release of 2018’s “Whack World” for the wit that permeates the delivery of her raps and visuals. Therefore, even though it was a pleasant surprise for her admirers, her revelation that she would host a comedy show was not unexpected.
An comprehensible range of emotions gave rise to the concept for the event.
Sam Black, the show’s project manager, recalled her stating, “I’m tired of crying, I’m just going to laugh,” and added, “A lot of the issues that were surfacing in Philly, they were striking close to home for Whack.”
In order to spotlight “all the people that were already doing the task of making Philadelphia laugh,” Black added, a call for artists was issued in late October. Whack herself served as a judge while she oversaw the audition process.
A little more than a month later, The Whack A** Comedy Show took place. Funny Bul Quill, TaTa Sherise, John Phillips, Anthony Moore, Shanell Renee, Lawrence Owens, Jamie Pappas, and Jay Simpson were among the eight local comics who performed.
Sherise, a 31-year-old comic from Camden who’s been working the scene for the past five years, noticed a difference that night.
Growing up, she was “always thrown in the middle of the circle at the barbecues,” so she hopped at the rare chance to perform with a DJ and strutted onstage to the synth-laden Jersey club beat of Lil Uzi Vert’s “Just Wanna Rock.”
“From there, I just won them over and I was able to go to the jokes and have a good time,” Sherise said. “Tierra Whack’s fan base and her audience, they were just full of life.”
Moore, a West Philly native, started his career here but now does most of his performing in NYC. He offered an explanation for why the Whack show felt different than the average gig: the relatively young age of the audience.
Comedy shows are “a more grown type of event,” Moore said. “Just from the money standpoint, you’re spending real money just because you got to pay for the ticket, you got to pay for two menu items, then parking.”
Recognizing he was dealing with a younger crowd at the Whack A** Comedy Show, Moore adjusted his act.
The plan was to “hit them with the heavy hitters and get out of it,” he explained, adding, “I did make some references to stuff that I knew will only work in Philly.”
The whole night moved quickly. Each of the eight performers was allocated only 10 minutes on set, but it was enough time to make an impression. “I left there with probably 150 more followers,” Sherise said.
Whack wants to create more opportunities for local artists to shine going forward, according to Black, the project manager — through various mediums. But comedians may be especially grateful, since the city’s scene isn’t as strong as they think it could be.
“You can find a room every night in major cities except for Philadelphia,” said Sherise, referring to venues amenable to comedic gigging. She contributes with a monthly program called TaTa Tuesdays. “That’s something that needs to change for it to be a lucrative comedy scene here.”
Pappas, a Temple alum who started her standup career in NYC but has been gigging around Philly since 2019, said crowds as lively as the one at the Whack show are far from a guarantee.
Unlike a band performing in a Philadelphia bar, she said, “unless people are seeking [comedy] out, it’s a lot different.”
In the spirit of Whack’s show, Pappas, Sherise, and Moore shared other Philly comics who deserve some shine.
Moore paid tribute to local legend Tu Rae Gordon, who helped him out early on, letting Moore sharpen his sets during biweekly workshops he convened.
Co-performer Sherise was praised by Pappas, who also praised Blake Wexler. Drizz, Will Wright, and Shanell Renee, who all performed at Whack’s event, received praise from Sherise.
They said that nights like A Whack A** Comedy Show could be recreated. Sherise is optimistic that if it does, “we can have a booming scene like the rest of the cities, where there’s a room every day to go work out as a comic.”
For the time being, Pappas was content to participate. “I just really appreciated that Tierra was able to sort through all this comedy and actually put on a show for Philadelphia, by Philadelphia,” said the audience member.