Hansen: Meet the man at the center of Omaha's indie comedy scene - Omaha.com
Published Sunday, March 10, 2013 at 12:30 am / Updated at 7:10 am
Hansen: Meet the man at the center of Omaha's indie comedy scene

Ian Douglas Terry bounds onto the stage, grabs a can of nearby Red Bull and swigs.

"I feel like Christ!" he screams into a microphone as the 75 patrons of this decidedly non-Christ-like establishment — the dark and dingy O'Leaver's Pub — greet Ian's pronouncement with whoops and laughter.

The man at the center of Omaha's embryonic indie comedy scene springs out of the chute like an overcaffeinated Thoroughbred.

He riffs on David Bowie's fashion choices in the movie “Labyrinth.”

“Think about this. ... Jim Henson authorized those tights!”

He remembers a man he saw once with a neck tattoo that said, “ROYALTY.” The man worked behind the cash register at a fast-food joint called the Hot Dog Zone inside the Atlanta airport.

“I know how this works, I've seen 'Coming to America!'”

Speaking of caffeine: There's a Coca-Cola Museum. Why is there no Mountain Dew museum?

If there was, you should not enter this museum through a boring front door. Oh, no.

The entrance: A skateboarding half-pipe. “You need to half-pipe in!”

And the museum's curator?

Dan Cortese, host of MTV Sports. “Obviously,” Ian says to more cheers.

The 10-minute set is tailor-made for the people in the audience, mostly 30-somethings who grew up in the '90s and know and love every pop culture reference Ian sprinkles into his act.

And this set is just one brick in what Ian Douglas Terry hopes will soon be an entire wall of funny — one that is intensely local, specifically targeted and completely disconnected from the city's only established stand-up comedy club.

Ian and the group he co-founded, OK Party Comedy, are slowly but surely building a local comedy scene by and for the city's younger adults.

Comedy tournaments. Comedy festivals. Comedy albums. Laughter pouring out of Benson bars and north downtown music clubs and soon, Ian hopes, from spots all across the city.

“Our goal is to make Omaha a place known for comedy,” he says. “We want to do for comedy what Saddle Creek (Records) did for music.”

That's a pretty bold statement for a guy who first climbed onstage to do stand-up in 2010.

The first time, the audience was packed with friends and family. Ian thought he killed.

By the fifth time, the audience was mostly strangers. That's when Ian realized he stunk.

He didn't quit. He wrote and honed material about his fear of horses. About pro wrestling. About ghosts.


And, bitten by the stand-up bug, he searched around for spots to perform.

“Once you do this once, this is all you care about,” he says.

One problem: There were few spots to perform.

The Funny Bone, the city's only comedy club, features the kind of comedy that Ian and his friends don't think is funny. The comedy is broadly suitable for a large audience and thus tends to appeal to the lowest common denominator, he says.

“It's Applebee's with a stage,” he says.

When Ian started standup, the nearest regular open mic night was at Duffy's in Lincoln.

In Omaha there were no real alternatives to the Funny Bone — no crowds, no comic infrastructure in the city.

So Ian and his friends Zach Peterson and Mike Perry decided to change that. They picked a name, OK Party Comedy, and took over a floundering open mic night at The Waiting Room.

They tried a sketch show. This didn't work.

They tried a “Twitter show” where the audience tweeted joke topics. This didn't really work, either.

They showed, “Superman II,” with the sound off, and provided their own running commentary. They did this in front of an audience for two hours. This kind of worked.

“Amazingly, most people stayed,” he says.

And they started the OK Party Comedy's Battle Royale. It's 16 stand-up comedians, both veterans and beginners, in a tournament format. The contestants have to fashion their comedy around three pre-selected topics, like, say, social media, pirates and the Civil War.

You beat your opponent and move onto the next round based on the cheering of the crowd. The last man or woman standing gets a portion of the proceeds from the $5 cover.

The battle royale grew so popular they started having one every other month. It grew so popular that the upcoming April event is already filled with 16 comics, and there's a waiting list for future battles.

In the past year, the weirdest thing has started to happen. Booking agents of younger, up-and-coming comics have started calling Ian and The Waiting Room's Marc Leibowitz. Ian calls Leibowitz “the patron saint of local comedy.”

They say, “Hey, I have a guy who is coming through the Midwest. Can you host a show?”

A show sponsored by OK Party Comedy and featuring Rob Delaney (of Twitter fame) drew nearly 500 people.

Another show featuring Judah Friedlander (of “30 Rock” fame) did well, too.

The OK Party comedians opened for these guys, and they booked dozens of other shows for local comedians. They made friends with comedians from Denver and Atlanta. This month, Ian is flying to both cities to do shows.

He just recorded his first album, which should come out later this year.

And in May, OK Party Comedy is hosting its first-ever comedy festival.

Two nights. Four shows. Thirty-two comedians from both coasts and from right here in Omaha.

On this night at O'Leaver's, the headliner is a comic from Chicago, but Ian Douglas Terry, who is on second-to-last, steals the show.

He does his bit about dreams, a bit where he starts by saying, “I think it's weird to say 'Follow your dreams,'” and then launches into a story about how his dreams are weird.

He says he has a dream that he's being chased by crows. Except these aren't normal crows. These crows have Patrick Swayze's face.

“I don't want to follow that dream!” he bellows, and the laughter crescendos.

But don't let the man at the center of Omaha's embryonic indie comedy scene fool you. He has some dreams, actual dreams, and they involve neither birds nor the disembodied head of the deceased star of “Dirty Dancing.”

“I just want to have fun,” he says. “I want everyone to have fun. If I get paid, great.”

Contact the writer: 402-444-1064, matthew.hansen@owh.com; twitter.com/redcloud_scribe

Contact the writer: Matthew Hansen

matthew.hansen@owh.com    |   402-444-1064    |  

Matthew Hansen is a metro columnist who writes roughly three columns a week focusing on all things Omaha.

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