My First Breath of Helium – Stand Up Comedy

Last Wednesday I finally got a chance to visit St. Louis’s newest upscale comedy club – the Helium Comedy Club at the St. Louis Galleria. Helium is part of a chain of same-named venues, with locations in Pennsylvania, New York, North Carolina and Oregon, so though this venue is new, they have the concept down, with few of the growing pains you’d expect from a newly opened club.

©2016 OohStLou Helium Comedy Club
Helium Comedy Club, St. Louis ©2016 OohStLou

The location is divided into several bar/restaurant seating areas, in addition to the performance area.

©2016 OohStLou
Elements bar at Helium ©2016 OohStLou

Now, you know I hate to drag my carcass out of the house on a weeknight, especially since I am still suffering from the death-flauge of 2016. But I was there to see some friends compete in the first annual March Madness Comedy Competition, and I really was curious to see the club. So I took a shower, washed most of my parts, and threw on a dress. Interesting note: as this was somehow trying to compete with the sportsball, I got to fill out my first ever “bracket” for anything. After someone explained to me what a bracket was, and that we weren’t hanging shelves. Which, we were right next to Restoration Hardware, so who knows, but anyway.

The bar was lovely, if a little quiet on a weeknight (everyone else was at home playing the part of me for the evening.) and the bar staff were incredibly friendly as we all waited for the show to begin seating. Helium has a two-drink minimum in the performance area, BTW, but soda is fine, if you’re like me and have to drive yourself home after dosing up with Robitussin.

Bar staff at Helium ©2016 OohStLou
Bar staff at Helium ©2016 OohStLou

The show was hosted by this guy, who determined the winners of each bracket by some kind of sorcery:

©2016 OohStLou
Potentially hearing impaired Jeremy Essig ©2016 OohStLou

…and had eight comedians competing for the top spot – which boasted a $100 pot and an obligation to host next year’s show. Local favorite and sometimes Thor impersonator Jon Venegoni (@jonvenegoni) had the top seat. Or is it top seed? Or why are there seeds in a bracket anyway? I don’t know, he was apparently favored to win is the whole point. Top seat makes more sense. You sit up high looking down, from the top seat. Then you kick in the face anyone who tries to crawl up to where you are. I get it.

You may know Jon from his duties as host of Fitz’s Thursday night Open Mics, or from that one Pantene commercial.

Jon Venegoni and his magestic mane. ©2016 OohStLou
Jon Venegoni (@jonvenegoni) and his majestic mane. ©2016 OohStLou

Jon was up against (and defeated) Emily Hickner (@emilyhickner), who is co-hostess of Two Girls One Mic, every Sunday at Pat Connolly Tavern.

Emily Fitzer ©2016 OohStLou
Emily Hickner ©2016 OohStLou

Next up saw Chad Wallace (@CWallaceComedy) of Comedy Shipwreck square off against friend-of-the-blog Chris Cyr (@CDcyr) host of Wild Card Comedy and Impolite Company. Their match was close enough to be called by a follow up rock/paper/scissors battle, which Chris lost by predictably choosing rock.

Chad Wallace, Jeremy Hellwig (one day before his earwax extraction appointment, and Christ Cyr. .©2016 OohStLou
Chad Wallace, Jeremy Essig (one day before his earwax extraction appointment) and Chris Cyr. ©2016 OohStLou

80s villain-amalgam Rafe Williams (@RafeDean) defeated Jim Keith, who was just there to get laid.

Rafe ©2016 OohStLou
Rafe Williams was maybe in that thing you saw.  ©2016 OohStLou

 

Jim Keith ©2016 OohStLou
Jim Keith wants to wake up next to you. ©2016 OohStLou

Kenny Kinds (@steelyken) of Sorry, Please Continue put a hurting on Tina Dybal (@tinadybal) the second host of Two Girls One Mic we’d seen perform that night.

©2016 OohStLou
Kenny Kinds ©2016 OohStLou

 

Tina Dybal ©2016 OohStLou
Tina Dybal ©2016 OohStLou

That finished up the first set of brackets(?) competitions, whatever. Left standing were Kenny Kinds, Chad Wallace, Rafe Williams and Jon Venegoni. They kept going up and telling jokes until Rafe Williams eventually won, and the other comics started weeping bitter tears of anguish congratulated him heartily and with no ill will.

All I remember really is that I was laughing so hard at every set that I was afraid I sprained a rib, and then my mouth started hurting on the sides. Seriously people, our St. Lou comedy folks are hilarious. I don’t even like to have a good time and I had one accidentally.

I also had some tasty appetizers (beer battered shrimp and fries).  The full menu was available with very stealthy table service during the show.

©2016 OohStLou
Helium Menu – dinner available during performances. ©2016 OohStLou

I was dying to try one of their signature drinks, I saw a few being made at the bar before the show, and they looked delicious. But, I had to drive myself home, and I responsibly stuck to Dr. Pepper. Next time I will bring a designated driver who’s not me.

©2016 OohStLou
Helium Drinks Menu ©2016 OohStLou

So that’s it for the show – let’s talk more about the space. Honestly, I was quite impressed when I didn’t expect to be. Helium is located on the Clayton side of the Galleria, close to Restoration Hardware and the Weber Grill restaurant (Did you know there even was one of those? Me neither.) Parking directly outside the venue is quite limited, maybe 20 spaces, but visitors can park in the parking garage or on the opposite side of the venue close to Dillards. The door staff were incredibly friendly, and the entrance is wide and bright and easily handicapped accessible, with a roomy elevator in addition to the staircase down to the performance area.

©2016 OohStLou
Inside the performance space at Helium ©2016 OohStLou

In the performance venue there are a variety of table types, high tops, low tops and some bench seating. Again, easily handicapped accessible, with wide aisles and ramps. Very comfortable. Sound and lighting were excellent, and the staff were just SO NICE. Everyone from the security people to the bar staff to the servers and bussers, everyone was incredibly attentive, friendly and helpful. Do you think they’re all in good moods because they get to listen to jokes all the time? I’ve never encountered so many people who seemed to enjoy their jobs and their co-workers, or at least not hate life with a festering bitterness.

In any case, I left with a great feeling about the place, and again, remember I don’t really like very many things. It is more expensive than wandering into your local dive bar for an open mic ($35-$43 for upcoming Kevin Smith show + minimum drinks) but the experience is quite worth it. The space is great for the bigger-name touring acts that they host on the weekends, large enough to hold a good sized crowd while still being intimate.

Upcoming shows at Helium ©2016 OohStLou
Upcoming shows at Helium ©2016 OohStLou

I am going to go ahead and give Helium a great recommendation from me. I think it would be an awesome place to see a show – so if you can venture out as far as Brentwood Blvd and still feel you’re in St. Louis, give Helium Comedy Club a try.

*This post was not sponsored by Helium, but I did get a free pass to the show from a friend who was performing. No one sponsored this post. I made no money from it. Is this a good business model? I would definitely accept a sponsorship from Dr. Pepper, or even just some free product. A 2-liter? A six pack of those cute miniature cans? Throw me a bone, Dr. Pepper

What do YOU think?

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