What: Comedy Underground's Chuckles for Charity
When: Feb. 22 9-11 p.m. Karaoke to follow
Where: Be Here Now
Upon entering Be Here Now, the musty smell of wood greets you. To the right is the bar, and across from it a snooker table and digital jukebox.
At the back, there is a welcome sign with Garfield on it, dozens of posters and lighted signs and owls — lots of them, from accessories on sale to wooden decorations.
Smack in the middle, strings of blue lights snake from the ceiling and hover above a square opening. A retro painting of black and coffee-colored owls hang beside the stairs leading down to it.
Underneath is a dim room where comedians in Comedy Underground’s weekly show will be lighting up the night.
Wednesday’s show, however, will be a bit different than the weekly laugh-filled event.
This week, Comedy Underground’s Chuckles for Charity will take place from 9-11 p.m. All the proceeds from the show will go to Muncie OUTreach, a non-governmental organization helping LGBTQ youth find support and resources.
Tennah McDonald, the co-organizer of the show, has done two charity events for Muncie OUTreach in the last two years.
“They need the extra cash just to do special events for these kids who feel ostracized by their peers and their high school,” she said.
Muncie OUTreach is a part of the Unitarian Universal Church of Muncie, where LGBTQ youth are free to express themselves, play games or talk about various topics such as school, how to get a job and suicide awareness.
“The adults that are involved in the program are fantastic with the kids,” McDonald said. “Because you know, you’re a teenager, you’re angsty and you’re not understanding life. And so they work really well with [the youth].”
Muncie OUTreach is funded purely by donations, which pay for resources and activities such as counseling sessions at Ball State Counseling Practicum Clinic, meals at meetings and field trips.
Laura Janney, a co-founder of Muncie OUTreach, finds Comedy Underground’s support crucial to the organization.
“I just think it’s awesome that they support us. What we do is so vital in giving young people who feel isolated a place to be,” she said. “Without Comedy Underground and other people supporting us, we wouldn’t be here.”
On Wednesday, six comedians will be taking the stage. They are Brandi Ball, Kurt Messick, Shannon Rostin, Katlin McFee, Rachelle Renee and Evanne Offenbacker.
For Renee, being able to perform and contribute to Muncie OUTreach ties into her own experience.
“These are my favorite shows to do because it is such a personal issue,” she said.
Renee came out ten years ago, at age 20, while she was studying at Indiana University.
It was during one of her spring break trips to Colorado when she embraced a try at stand-up comedy. Last October, she met McDonald and did her first show with Comedy Underground.
“I love doing [the shows] because it’s a way for me to be a positive role model to LGBTQ youth,” she said. “It shows them that you can be outspoken, opinionated and stand up for yourself. And you can do it with humor and a grin.”
Offenbacker feels a similar personal connection in being able to support Muncie OUTreach through her comedy.
When she was younger, she thought being gay was simply a secret she would have to keep for the rest of her life.
“I actually really give it up to comedy for helping me come out of the closet,” she said. "Because I was having to write almost like a character of this straight woman in Indianapolis. I would tell these stories and would have to get into character before the show. I actually came out on stage one night. It was kind of one those [moments] when you’re like, ‘I can’t take it anymore!’”
To her, comedy can also be a place to find common ground with each other.
“There’s someone in the audience who’s bi, or trans, or straight, a grandmother, or a father. Everyone is so different,” she said. “But you could be telling a story about ketchup on stage, and everyone together has something in common all of a sudden. We’re not all different anymore by laughing at something.”
Maybe in the dim space of Be Here Now on Wednesday, where the white hollow eyes of the owls greet you at the stairs, this sense of unity and hoots of laughter will be present throughout the night of comedy.