Comics have a lot to compete with in this town– each other, for one– so it’s safe to assume that a stand-up can only be trying to realize some kind of suicide pact if they willingly join a lineup filled with pole dancers. But as Schtick a Pole In It– the monthly show at Drom that brings together comics and pole jockeys (unfortunately not pole dancing comics, yet anyway) whose third anniversary is happening in January– proves, the combination actually makes for a seriously titillating experience that benefits everyone involved.
Now that we know for sure the combo is at least a stable one– how does such a thing even work? Well first of all, as JoAnna Ross a standup comedian and former dancer, who organizes Schtick a Pole In It along with her fiancé, Dan Goodman, has found, is that you gotta recruit the best of the best. “We try to get the strongest comics, for sure,” JoAnna explained. “The pole dancers also, they’re there to see pole dancing but they love the comedy, but you have to be really good.”
Once you’ve got performers who are at “the top of their game” the rotation through alternating eight-minute comic routines and three-minute or so pole dancing performances just comes naturally.
Schtick a Pole In It started out as a one-off fundraising event for JoAnna’s friend who fell sick with breast cancer. “I worked at a pole dancing studio teaching yoga and one of our friends is a pole dancer,” she recalled. “We turned a ton of people away– like 50 or 60 people at the door– and raised a ton of money for her.” When people started asking JoAnna to bring the show back, she bet accurately that she could reproduce the success of the first show and, furthermore, she realized she’d found a niche.
“I think pole dancing is kind of underground. They’re hired for events or, you know, like IBM is having a huge Christmas party and they want aerial kind, and then dancers have competitions, but my comic brain was kind of like, ‘Well how do you guys prepare?’” JoAnna said. “Because I get to go up every night, even three times a night if I wanted to, to mics and shows and stuff like that. So we thought there was a need for them to be able to perform and not just in a competition-type setting.”
The pair eventually set up their monthly party at Schtick’s first home, R Bar. When the Lower East Side establishment closed, she and Dan moved the comic-dancer performance to Drom– a significantly larger venue, at that– where the show lives today. They eventually adopted strict themes to give the dancers both constraints and a challenge to come up with songs they’re really into and routines to match.
“It might not be the music they usually dance to, but they definitely enjoy being pushed out of their box,” JoAnna explained. The theme at Schtick’s December edition was, hilariously, Pearl Jam. And some of their more successful ones have included power ballads and hair bands. “We had a metal night with like Marilyn Manson and Pantera and it was packed,” JoAnna recalled. “People loved it.”
The question that’s gnawing at us though is: So, exactly how sexy do these pole routines get? Because no matter how athletic the pole performer, there’s still something of a lusty element to the whole thing. “It’s incredibly sexy to be on a pole and in stripper heels and stuff, but I would say that for our show it runs the gamut, for sure,” JoAnna said. “There are definitely girls who are more athletic and your mouth is open and it’s like, ‘I can’t believe that you can do that.’” But, she insisted, there’s a certain point where the sexiness ceases to matter. Awe simply takes over when a woman is holding herself at a perfect horizontal angle and slipping down that pole like honey down a jar. Like, hell no you can’t do that.
JoAnna said that even her “crazy religious” mother enjoys the show for this reason. “To me, all of those reservations go away as soon as you have a good performer,” she insisted. “And, let’s face it, when you’re trying to be sexy and you’re not really confident in being sexy, we’re all uncomfortable.”
But what about the comics and pole dancers themselves? After all, they seem to be diametrically opposed. “Comics are super depressed and they’re super shy,” JoAnna explained. “A lot of them are introverts and most of them are very socially awkward.” While stand-ups relish in being self-deprecating and cynical (or, some would say, embodying realness), pole dancing is predicated on physicality and a certain romantic idea about humans’ potential to capture perfection and beauty.
And yet, JoAnna pointed out the two have more in common than you think. “By the way, pole dancers are really shy too,” she said. “Actually, they get along great, because they’re both kind of shy and they’re getting attention, which they both like.”
But we think it’s best to check it out yourself. And, really, there’s never been a better time than the January iteration of Schtick a Pole In It when the show celebrates its third anniversary. There’s no theme, but the show will be focused on a best-of night lineup featuring a comic crew that includes both JoAnna and Dan as well as Tom Daddario and a secret special guest. The show will also include their top five pole dancing performers from over the years (Anna Grundstrom, Lara Michaels, Sam & the Lady Sams, Irmingard Mayer, and Wendy Traskos) in addition to an audience-selected sixth dancer. “That’s going to be based off of videos that we’ll post,” JoAnna explained. “So whoever gets the most views, we’ll do that number again.”