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"Last Comic Standing" winner comes to IC

BY MADISON BENNETT | SEPTEMBER 20, 2011 7:20 AM

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The First Avenue Club has been one of Iowa City's musical concert venues for the past 17 years.

And this fall, the club will bring in well-known comedians such as Josh Blue to add to its entertainment repertoire.

"We've been here since 1994, and we've done a lot of national rock and country acts," said Ned Mendenhall, the owner of the club. "This year, we're getting into comedy series."

Blue, the Season 4 winner of NBC's "Last Comic Standing," is the first performer in a slew of upcoming comedy shows. He will perform at 7 p.m. on Thursday at the First Avenue Club, 1550 S. First Ave. Admission is $18.

"I think that's really exciting that they chose me to kick it off," Blue said. "I just love making people laugh. Hopefully, I won't screw it up."

Blue was diagnosed with cerebral palsy, and his self-deprecating humor gave him an edge over the competition on "Last Comic Standing."

"Obviously, I have a disability, so everything I talk about comes from the perspective of a disabled person," he said.

But his comedy routine doesn't just focus on his disability. Much of his bits have to do with being a husband, a father, and day-to-day random activities, Blue said.

"My comedy is ever evolving," the 32-year-old said. "I usually don't even know what I'm going to say."

In addition to reality television, Blue has appeared on "Mind of Mencia," "Comedy Central Presents," "Regis and Kelly Live," and was the first comedian to perform a standup act on "Ellen DeGeneres."

For Blue, his reality television following has remained strong and he is continuing to grow his fanbase.

"The audience that came with 'Last Comic Standing' branching out and doing shows across the country," he said.

Tom Garland, one of the opening comedy acts for Blue, said he looks forward to performing with a comedian whose work he knows and likes.

"Blue is going to be a blowout act to get comedy started for [the First Avenue Club]," Garland said.

There's a novelty to the club's series because presenting comedy shows on a large scale is something no other Iowa City venue attempts.

"Nobody in this area is doing this," Mendenhall said. "So it's something we've been interested in for a while."

The First Avenue Club has not nailed down the exact schedule for the upcoming year, but the people there are excited about the possibilities of the comedy circuit, Mendenhall said. The club has a goal of putting on a comedy act every month.

"Looking back like two years ago, other than what the [UI] brought in, there wasn't really comedy in Iowa City," said Garland, a Cedar Rapids native. "So, for being a local guy who does comedy, it's great."

The next show in the series, which will take place on Nov. 1, will feature Alonzo Bodden, who was runner-up on Season 2 of "Last Comic Standing."

Blue was chosen as the first act because everything just fell into place, Mendenhall said.

He said he anticipates 250 to 300 people will attend the all-ages event. All seating is general admission and will be an "up-close and intimate setting."

This show won't be Blue's first visit to Iowa. The Minnesota native said he's a Midwest guy at heart despite living in Denver.

"I've been to Iowa a bunch," he said and laughed. "[My family] did a lot of road trips, and anytime I wanted to see some corn or pigs, we'd go to Iowa."


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