About half an hour before showtime, a crowd begins to gather outside of the Satori (3003 Locust Street). Most everyone knows someone, and when the doors open it's nothing but smiles and courteous shuffling through the door, into a room split matter-of-factly by a cement support pillar right in the middle. The seats fill quickly, and a gleeful buzz hovers in the air. STL Up Late, St. Louis' only late-night talk show, is about to begin, featuring guest Brian Cohen, founder of LouFest, and musical guest Pretty Little Empire. The crowd is excited.
A few days before that show, RFT Music sat down with co-producers Eric Christensen and Josh McNew to get a better idea of exactly what goes in to each STL Up Late production. On "off weekends," Christensen explains, the crew assembles for video shoots and for writing meetings leading up to "show week," when the crew re-assembles for re-writes and rehearsals, to prepare media and to "get everything ready for the show." The last time he counted, Christensen said, it took 33 people, from "ticket-takers all the way to backstage, to monologue writers, video guys...everybody that has some hand in the show" for a single night's event.
Well into its third season, STL Up Late recently celebrated its one-year anniversary and continues to barrel full-steam ahead. It is an entertainment anomaly not just in the comedy scene at large but especially in our fair city. It's an independent force, fueled by many.
Just as if you flipped on your TV to The Tonight Show, you'd recognize the format in an instant. And while STL Up Late was born from and inspired by the talk-show mold, the apple is far from the shade of the tree.
The show opens traditionally, with Christensen taking to the floor, but during the monologue he veers off the classic track. For this particular show, comedian/writer Rafe Williams acts as his monologue hypeman, only to be interrupted by "Merv Lancaster," a confused and possibly senile character who is said to have once had his very own late-night show in the same space, eons ago.
Around every corner and between every break is a completely original video or live sketch (all of which are conveniently available on STL Up Late's YouTube page). There is an interview segment with LouFest's Brian Cohen, and the team even pulls in St. Louis' hottest bands to close out the night's proceedings -- this particular "taping" features Pretty Little Empire.
The show runs every other week over the course of sixteen weeks during the current season. This Saturday, November 1, STL Up Late features yet another installment of live sketches and video shorts. The show welcomes musical guestBruiser Queen, which just returned from a fall tour, and the GateKeepers Roller Derby Team for an interview that will undoubtedly be amusing. Advance tickets are available for $10 via STL Up Late's website. And fair warning: Tickets are available the night of the show for $15, but they almost always sell out.
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