by Sydney Moxley | photos courtesy Third Coast Comedy
Nashville has no shortage of venues to display local music talent. However, this isn’t the only talent that exists in Music City. Comedy is another source of entertainment for Nashvillians, and what better venue than Third Coast Comedy Club for local folks to perform. Since 2016, Third Coast, owned and operated by Luke Watson and Scott Field, has been the “epicenter for local comedy,” according to their Facebook page. Showcasing every type of comedy – from improv to stand-up to sketches and plays – and offering classes for aspiring comedians, Third Coast is an essential hub for all things – and people – funny in Nashville.
One such person is Sam Brewer. After moving to Nashville in 2017 and not knowing anyone, he found refuge in the community Third Coast offers. “I ended up taking some classes there and met some of the best people and had a great time,” says
Brewer. “The teachers, staff, performers, and everyone in-between just made it such a welcoming environment.” Brewer, who has participated in a number of shows at Third Coast, specializes in short-form improv.
Another Nashvillian who has found a home at Third Coast is Becca Groner, who also moved to Nashville in 2017. After seeing the Second Annual Pride Show, Groner and Focus contributor GK Gurley decided to find other members of the LGBT+ community interested in forming an improv troupe. Then, after performing at the 2018 Third Coast Improv Fest, they were offered a more permanent performance slot. Thus, Carol Improve, pictured above, Nashville’s one-and-only all LGBT+ improv
troupe, was born. Named for the iconically queer film starring Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara, Carol Improv is made up of Groner, Gurley, Brooks Alford, Mel Hyde, Pat Long, and Stevie Houtschilt.
Besides improv, Carol Improv is about “queer joy, resistance, and community,” and they show this sense of community by hosting workshops with Third Coast and GSAs (Gay-Straight Alliance or Genders and Sexualities Alliances) in order to foster a safe space for young people in the LGBT+ community to play and be themselves (or whatever character they want to explore in improv). “I think our shows also provide a needed space for queer folks to enjoy comedy and feel like they see themselves in us or in the games and scenes we perform onstage,” says Groner.
Carol Improv is only one of the several LGBT+ programs Third Coast Comedy Club has to offer. There is also SheHaw, advertised as “the most ridiculous drag show in town” and What Womxn Want, a show which Watson describes as “focused on empowering and encouraging womxn of all backgrounds, particularly LGBTQPIA-2S womxn and womxn of color, to use their voice to speak out about the issues important to them.”
What is little known about Third Coast is that it’s, essentially, an LGBT+ business. Not only is it queer-owned and operated (Watson is a member of the LGBT+ community), but it’s also a Safe Space, where all are welcomed and protected from harassment and discrimination. All who walk through Third Coast’s doors should feel safe and included.
But Third Coast doesn’t only extend its inclusiveness to Nashville’s LGBTQ+ community. “One of the best examples I’ve seen that shows just how important inclusivity is at Third Coast is during the open improv jams,” says Brewer.
“These events are open to the public, free of charge, and anyone can perform without ever having done a funny thing in their life, and still feel welcome and open during the experience.”
In addition to their open improv jams, Third Coast also partners with the non-profit group Unscripted, which helps different groups of people, such as teachers, youth of all ages, and those in recovery, “heal, connect, and empower through improv.” Through this, there is also the Unscripted Scholarship for those with financial need and/or from underrepresented groups.
Unfortunately, like many local businesses, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced Third Coast Comedy Club to close its doors for the foreseeable future. So how can Nashvillians help Third Coast until shows resume? Watson, Brewer, and Groner all say, “Donate and buy gift cards for future shows.” There’s also a t-shirt for sale by Friendly Arctic where all proceeds go to Third Coast. And, of course, see a show when possible to support one of Nashville’s most inclusive local businesses.