Jessica Cotton and her wife, Kimberly Wilson, founded Shenanigans Comedy Theatre in 2019 with one goal in mind: to make the arts accessible for all.
How have they done that? Along with third cofounder Jesse Pollard, Cotton and Wilson have prioritized the following:
- accessibility to local talent
- affordable ticket prices + free tickets regularly available
- inexpensive concessions
- no purchase minimums
- offering free space for other local nonprofits
Read on for the story of Shenanigans and to find out five ways to get involved with one of Huntsville’s “hidden gems.”
1. Comedy shows
What would a comedy theatre be without regular stand up shows? Shenanigans showcases local comics regularly. The theatre also works with local talent to develop and produce shows at little cost to the artist—often, the club will agree to split ticket profits 50/50 with the artist. This makes it easier for local talent to perform and be seen, an issue Cotton and Wilson know all too well.
“There’s not really anywhere else in Huntsville that does that, that we’re aware of at least—you pretty much have to rent the stage or rent the space to do something. So, it was really important for us. [Wilson] is a stand up comedian also, and that’s kind of what our struggle was in the beginning.”Jessica Cotton, Cofounder, Shenanigans Comedy Theatre
Giving local artists an accessible way to showcase their talent is one of the ways that Shenanigans serves the local arts community. Likewise, inexpensive ticket prices make the theatre an inviting space for audiences as well.
Cotton recommended one of the theatre’s newest shows for anyone looking for an entry-level comedy experience. The show, Rocket City Tonight, is a late-night show concept that Wilson hosts live on Saturday nights. The first show will be this Saturday, March 19, and you can grab tickets here.
2. Improv shows
Stand up comedy isn’t the only thing you’ll find at Shenanigans. Improv enthusiasts will be excited to learn that the theatre also offers regular improv shows. From performances by improv classes to improv competitions, comedians of all skill levels have the opportunity to test their chops on the Shenanigans stage.
Maybe sitting in the audience isn’t enough for you. Some people just need to be on stage. Sound like you? An improv comedy class might be right up your alley.
Shenanigans offers beginner and intermediate improv classes for aspiring performers ages 16 and up. The classes are two hours long and last for six weeks at a time. Plus, improv classes aren’t only for performing—the skills you learn there can help your general communications skills, creativity, public speaking and listening.
4. “Weird Kid Meetups”
The cause dearest to Cotton’s heart, “Weird Kid Meetups” exist to connect area kids and teens that don’t quite fit in.
“We have LGBTQ kids, we have kids who are on the spectrum, we have D&D kids, the LARPers, the nerds, the creative souls, the goth kids—everybody. They come and do events here, but then we also meet up around the area.”Jessica Cotton, Cofounder, Shenanigans Comedy Theatre
Meetups are organized through a private Facebook group to protect the safety of the children involved. You can find more information on the Shenanigans website.
5. Volunteer opportunities
Shenanigans is a nonprofit and is always looking for volunteers to help operations run smoothly. Volunteers do the following jobs:
- Clean up after shows
- Cook + serve food at concessions
- Take tickets at the door
- Work the bar (if over 21)
Volunteer shifts are about three hours, and all volunteers get discounted food and drinks + get to see a free show. Sign up online.