Pinewood open mic attracts comedians, laughs

A performer at Pinewood Coffee Bar's stand-up comedy night draws a laugh from the crowd Saturday. Baylee VerSteeg | Multimedia Journalist

By JP Graham | Reporter

Comedians were given only five minutes to draw a laugh from an audience of more than 40 people on Saturday night at Pinewood Coffee Bar. Wacoans and Baylor students filled the enclosed courtyard in front of the raised wooden stage to support the 12 brave performers willing to step up to the microphone. From scarring parental encounters to joking about one’s own weight, nothing was off limits for these comedians.

Baylor graduate Mitchell Heffington hosted the stand-up comedy open mic night for the Waco community. Heffington frequently visits his friends in Waco, and during a recent visit, Heffington went to Pinewood Coffee Bar at 2223 Austin Avenue and organized a stand-up open mic night with co-owner Dylan Washington and venue manager Thomas Csorba. Heffington said Pinewood has hosted poetry readings and concerts before, so comedy seemed to be the logical next step.

Heffington graduated from Baylor in 2016 and works in the finance industry in Austin. When Heffington moved to Austin, he said he began performing at open mics across town and enjoying stand-up comedy as a hobby. As his passion for comedy grew, Heffington’s performances increased in frequency, but Heffington said he still feels somewhat nervous on stage.

“I enjoy being in front of a crowd, but it is still equally exciting and terrifying,” Heffington said. “There’s uncertainty with your jokes and with the audience, but there is the confidence that you’re funny, and those meet somewhere in the middle on stage.”

Heffington said most of his jokes come from some of his weird and random thoughts. During his act, he animates his delivery to mimic the emotions he felt as he experienced those thoughts. By the looks of the audience’s reactions, Heffington’s delivery made listeners feel as if they had just experienced similar thoughts.

Sugar Land junior Rabbnawaz Bhatti was one of the other comedians that signed up to perform Saturday night. Bhatti said his upbringing ultimately influenced his sense of humor.

“I’m the youngest of three children. Growing up, I was able to make my sisters and parents laugh, and I didn’t mind making fun of myself,” Bhatti said. “My parents and my sisters are all funny and made sure I grew up to have a good sense of humor.”

In high school, Bhatti said he frequently made his friends laugh, and they often told him he would be good at stand-up comedy. When Bhatti arrived at Baylor, he said he took advantage of an early opportunity to perform in a talent show hosted by his dorm. Bhatti said his jokes were well received, and the positive feedback motivated him to perform in the variety show “After Dark” during parents weekend that fall.

Since Bhatti’s first positive experience on stage, he said he has developed his own routine for coming up with material and preparing himself for performances.

“I always keep a yellow legal pad in my backpack, and I have a notes page on my phone where I jot down any ideas [that] I come up with,” Bhatti said. “Before I perform at an event, I’ll look over my notes and figure out what I want to use for material.”

As a Baylor student, Bhatti said he enjoyed networking with the other comedians and performing outside of the “Baylor Bubble.” Bhatti said he prefers an audience that doesn’t know what he is going to say before he performs, and that he appreciates Pinewood bringing people together through comedy.

“Waco doesn’t have a very large comedy scene, so it was great to see Pinewood host an event that brought together comedians and an audience that was made up of both Baylor students and the Waco community.”

Bhatti’s delivery Saturday night kept the crowd laughing, particularly because of the way he made ridiculous incidents sound like everyday life. His calm and comfortable demeanor created a relaxed atmosphere, as if each member of the audience had been friends with him for years.

Singer/songwriters Jaimee Harris and Brody Price are scheduled to perform on the Pinewood stage at its next event March 23.