At Berkshire Theatre Group's Garage, you can afford to laugh

PITTSFIELD — Myq (Mike) Kaplan hits the make-shift stage almost in high gear, immediately tickling the audience funny bones with witty, timely observations and one-liners.

The New York City-based comic touches on the current political climate in America, getting some laughs and chuckles, hoping for a bigger reaction.

Quickly realizing he's in the Berkshires in mid-February, he follows up with a funnier line suited for the winter.

"I know it snows here all the time, so the news doesn't always get through here," he quipped, drawing a bigger laugh.

Following an hour-long stand-up routine to at the Colonial Theatre on Feb. 16, Kaplan told The Eagle he was glad to make such a fast connection with the crowd; instant gratification once crucial to a successful act.

"In the beginning of my career, I needed to have a great opener to get the audience, now I rely on the whole hour as I am confident in my body of work," he said.

Kaplan was the first of four acclaimed comedians with impeccable resumes who are the verge of mainstream popularity to kick-off Berkshire Theatre Group's new $5 Comedy Garage series held in the cozy Colonial lounge. Tickets are indeed five bucks and is a partnership with Methuselah Bar & Lounge on North Street. The rest of the laugh out loud lineup has New York Times and Buzzfeed writer Kyle Ayers on Thursday; New York City funny lady Emma Willmann, April 27 and Comedy Central's Joel Zimmerman, May 25.

"We have upped the ante in the Comedy Garage by lower the prices. We want to make sure that there's an opportunity for everyone to come together and share a laugh, which feels really important these days," said BTG Artistic Director/CEO, Kate Maguire.

While the bargain basement cost was a factor in the opening night sell-out, several audience members came out expecting to have a good time.

"I saw [Kaplan] in Boston," said Phyllis Pierce of Pittsfield. "I just love comedy shows, especially now when we need to laugh."

Jennifer Grizey has enjoyed every comic she's seen perform, preferring to stay out of the line of comedic fire.

"I'm not sitting up close so I don't get picked on," she said from a high-top table farthest from the stage.

Add comedy to the local musical groups, cabaret and other entertainment genres to make the lounge, affectionately known as "The Garage," as popular as the Colonial's main stage attractions.

"Some of our most successful nights we've had have been there," said BTG programmer Simon Shaw.

Shaw finds the intimacy of the lounge creates a nightclub atmosphere that helped launch the careers of such greats as George Carlin, Robin Williams, Joan Rivers and Robert Klein. Klein is among the marquee comedians the Colonial has hosted in recent years.

"Nothing would give me great pleasure than to bring back someone to the main stage who performed at The Garage," Shaw said.

Kaplan, 38, has the pedigree to make it big. The Livingston, N.J. native was a finalist on NBC's "Last Comic Standing" in 2010, appeared on The Tonight Show, Late Night with David Letterman and Comedy Central.

He has the insight of a Carlin, rapid fire delivery of a Williams and the unpredictability of a Steven Wright and a commonality of all three.

"Every comedian must have a decent command of the English language. I'd like to think I have that too," he said in another Eagle interview prior to his Colonial appearance.

Although not a Boston guy, between 1996 and 2008 Kaplan attended Brandeis University in nearby Waltham and then honed his comedy routine in Boston-area clubs before relocating to New York nine years ago.

Nevertheless, he looks forward to future stardom he can trace back to Beantown.

"I'm next in line behind Jay Leno, Ben Affleck and Mark Wahlberg," he quipped.

Reach staff writer Dick Lindsay at 413-496-6233


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