It’s showtime for a Highland Park church

Sean O'Connor, Beth Stelling, Brent Sullivan and Julian McCullough perform at The Church on York | Nathan Solis

Sean O’Connor, Beth Stelling, Brent Sullivan and Julian McCullough perform at The Church on York | Nathan Solis

By Nathan Solis

Sean O’Connor tells jokes for living. He also happened to film a music video at The Church on York, and something about the Highland Park venue must have struck his fancy  because now he’s hosting a bi-weekly comedy show on Mondays with his friends at the venue. Opening night of “Church” in January was standing room only with crowds who got a dose of comedy with live music between sets – not to mention a menu that featured beer and meatballs.

“It’s a great deal for a night out on the town. You can laugh, see some friends, some music and walk home with your neighbors,” said Graeme Flegenheimer, owner of The Church on York.

O’Connor, who hosts Church with three other comedians, loves the vibrant comedy and music landscape in Greater Los Angeles but admits that options are slim in North East Los Angeles. “I would love to bring them together to create the greatest art movement in the history of Los Angeles,” he says joking.

Currently, local coffee shop Cafe De Leche hosts its own monthly comedy show down the street from The Church on York, and over in Silver Lake, Akbar presents “Drunk on Stage.”

“I really pushed to have a music guest every time to make our show different than the 9,000 other shows in the Los Angeles area,” explains O’Connor.

At the first Church show, audience members wondered which band was going to play, and some argued about the drum kit on stage being part of a comedian’s set. All those questions were answered when garage band Upset took to the stage and performed between comedians; the venue’s powerful acoustics kept the audience awake as they sat in church pews nodding to the rhythm. The group played six quick songs that wafted over the audience like a wave of 90’s garage rock.

Co-host Beth Stelling opened the night with her version of “God is Great” in a dry approach that quickly turned into a belting joke, everyone laughing as she hammed it up. Comedy and loud music in a 1913 church is the elephant in the room, but after a few minutes of a raunchy, dirty, expletive filled set any presence of holy spirits quickly evaporates.

Comedian Anthony Jeselnik humiliated a heckler in the audience and the room lit up with the type of energy that’s typically reserved for a comedy club. Each comedian’s set felt personal and organic, as though they were working through new material and the $5 show at this old church was their practice. All in all, a great evening.

Nathan Solis is a Highland Park resident who writes about and photographs the L.A. music scene. You can find more of Solis stories, reviews and photos at Smashed Chair.

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