This small south Arkansas city was once one of the top oil producers in the nation.
The Joint in North Little Rock is Central Arkansas's newest comedy club, and from the looks of it, owners Steve and Vicki Farrell and the rest of the gang will be around for quite a while.
The Joint is not just a comedy club. It's a coffee shop and a beer and wine bar. Customers wander in to grab a drink or sandwich, use the free wi-fi and soak up the sun in the small alleyway seating area.
On Wednesday nights, customers can pay $5 to see The Joint Venture — a live comedy improv show featuring local comedians. Thursday nights offer a change of pace, with live music starting around 9 p.m. and Big Dam Beer Night (with beer specials that change weekly) running until 1 a.m.
On Friday and Saturday nights, The Joint hosts The Main Thing, an original comedy show starring the Farrells and Brett Ihler. Written in-house, The Main Thing is a "full two-act storyline that you simply watch and enjoy," Steve Farrell said.
The Joint's first production, "Little Rock & A Hard Place," was an Arkansas-centric tale of a man killed near the intersection of Interstates 30 and 40 who is sent by St. Peter to purgatory, a.k.a. North Little Rock, to earn his wings with good deeds. The spot-on gibes and commentary about Little Rock and North Little Rock showed that the Farrells — who came to Arkansas from Texas — did their research.
While out-of-towners would likely need an explanation for many of "Hard Place" jokes, the next Main Thing play will be easily appreciated by anyone. "Electile Dysfunction" — also set in Little Rock — opened Sept. 7 and runs through Nov. 10. The play follows three groups of characters, including a local TV news team ("a parody of all the local news teams we have grown to love," Steve said). While talking to citizens about the election at a local mall, the news team finds a uniquely divided family: parents on opposite sides of the political spectrum and their teen-age anarchist, all of whom become local celebrities after their appearances on the local news.
The Farrells have a long history in the comedy business. The duo helped create one of Houston's first comedy clubs, The Comedy Workshop, in the 1970s and then went on to found Radio Music Theatre, a cabaret-style comedy/musical venue, in 1984. Their writing has been featured in two off-Broadway productions of Radio Music Theatre, "Saturday Night Live," MTV, NPR's "All Things Considered," Dick Clark's United Stations Radio Network and other radio and television outlets. After working with Radio Music Theatre for more than 25 years, the pair was ready to hit the road and leave the congestion of Houston behind.
After several visits to Little Rock, they decided that they'd found the place they were looking for. "We fell in love with Little Rock and chose to move here," Steve said. "We were ready for a place with friendly people and without daily gridlock. After that, we found out what a cool thing was happening in Argenta with the revitalization of the area and the arts district."
While this is the sixth theater that Steve and Vicki have opened, they said the community they have joined here is something special. "We saw a lot of cities that needed comedy, and found a population that seemed like it would support that in Little Rock," said Steve.
The move to Arkansas was a big one. They brought with them quite a few people to work in the new venue, including Steve's parents and the couple's son, Adam, and daughter, Erika. Adam and his wife, Sarah, run the retail side of the business, and Erika and husband, Ross Peters, do the marketing for the venue. Charlie Kendrick, described on The Joint's website as the "multi-talented wonder who rules from his lofty perch in the tech booth," also moved with the Farrells, bringing his soon-to-be-wife, Candice.
Not all the folks involved with The Joint are Texas transplants, however. Ihler has been a comedy presence in Arkansas for quite a while. His participation in Improv Little Rock was what got him noticed by the Farrells, and now he directs The Joint Venture improv company. Every Wednesday, Ihler and his comedian wife, Ashley, perform alongside other area comedians to prompts and suggestions from the audience. Ihler also hosts Rock in The Joint, a weekly show typically featuring local bands, on Thursdays.