Normally, there’s more than enough work and not enough personal transportation in New York to keep most comics, especially the openly gay ones, bouncing around the many, many stages in the bustling metropolis. But luckily, two of the Big Apple’s rising gay comedic talents, Paul Case and Shawn Hollenbach, are breaking out to liven things up in New Hope when they take the stage March 14 at Harlans Cabaret, 6426 Lower York Road.
So is the sleepy hamlet of New Hope really that much more appealing than the bright lights of the big city?
“I really like New Hope,” said Case, 28. “I was there over Christmas. Shawn and I had talked about trying to do stuff outside of New York a little bit this spring, and it seemed to make sense.”
Hollenbach, who freely admits to lying about his age — which is, for press purposes, “28” — was more to the point with his reasons.
“They pay,” he said.
Case added that the refined atmosphere of a cabaret stage is a welcome change from the more aggressive environs comedians are used to.
“It’s nice sometimes to get people who are just out for a good evening and not necessarily for being in a comedy club, so to speak,” he said.
Hollenbach said that even though the audiences are a little more civilized, there isn’t much that separates a comedy club from a cabaret room.
“The only difference is one has a brick wall and the other one doesn’t,” he said. “We perform in cabarets in the city. It works just as well as a comedy club. A lot of times on a cabaret stage, the audience is treated more like human beings by the staff. The audience also doesn’t feel licensed to heckle, but I love hecklers.”
Not surprising, considering that both agree Hollenbach’s comedy style is the more in-your-face of the two.
“His is a little more energetic and upbeat,” Case said. “Mine is a little more dry and sarcastic.”
Whatever happens at Harlans, the quiet calm of New Hope won’t be too much of a culture shock for Case and Hollenbach, as they both grew up in less-than-cosmopolitan parts of Pennsylvania: Erie and Lebanon, respectively. Both of them admit to knowing early on in their lives that they wanted to make a beeline for New York.
“I knew that I wanted to work in entertainment and I knew that wasn’t going to happen in Erie,” Case said. “I went to college in Pittsburgh and just planned the whole four years I was there that, when I graduate, I’m out of here and going to New York.”
“I was in the middle of nowhere,” Hollenbach said of his I’ve-got-to-get-the-hell-out-of-Pennsylvania epiphany. “I went to college in Virginia and, once I left, the spell wore off and I realized it was not for me.”
Now the two comics and friends are movers and shakers in New York’s thriving gay comedy scene and produce their own weekly gay comedy show, “The Back Room,” at Ochi’s Lounge, 353 W. 14th St.
Hollenbach said producing your own show is almost a necessity for anyone trying to make a mark in New York.
“I hate waiting for opportunities,” he said. “I’d rather make them myself.”
Case said that while the comedy scene is competitive in New York, it’s not always cutthroat, at least among the gay comics.
“The competition it creates makes it hard to book people,” he said. “But, it really fosters a good community. There’s a lot more positive that comes out of it than the negative aspects that can come with it.”
Case and Hollenbach will perform at 8:30 p.m. March 14 at Harlans Cabaret, 6426 Lower York Road, New Hope. For more information, visit www.harlanscabaret.com or call (215) 862-5225.
Larry Nichols can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.