During the day, Polly’s Gourmet Coffee at 4606 E. Second St., is a beloved neighborhood coffee shop that has been serving locals since 1976. It’s a place of beach charm with wooden walls decorated with photographs of Long Beach, and antique coffee machinery. Toward the back of the cafe, there is a 15-kilo 1920’s German Probat coffee roaster churning freshly roasted coffee beans and a wonderful aroma into the air.
On Friday nights, Polly’s takes on a different appearance. Its roaster hums to sleep, its stained glass lights warm the room, and the cafe transforms into a stage for comedy. Since Second Street’s Apostrophe Bookstore closed its doors (click here to read more), Casual Comedy, the free weekly Friday night standup comedy show has moved to Polly’s. The first show was , February. 26.
Leanne Linsky, founder and host of Casual Comedy, greeted regular guests and walk-ins as they filled the room. She started her career in comedy and acting after her second divorce, which she uses for material in her standup.
“The reason I got into comedy was because I found it to be a healthy coping mechanism,” she says. “You know, tragedy plus times equals comedy! That’s what makes comedy funny. There’s truth in it, or there’s pain in it somewhere . . . It’s a fun way to put things in a new perspective.”
To give you a bit of her sense of humor, her one-woman show is called, “Lady Luck is a Whore.” She has studied and performed all across the country, from Vegas, to Chicago, and New York and has experience ranging from improv, sketches, acting, and standup.
When she first moved to Long Beach in 2014, she was on a walk on Second Street when she noticed a flyer in Apostrophe Books that said “Poetry/Open Mic Night.” After spending seven years hosting an Open Mic Standup in New York, the flyer caught her eye. When she presented the idea of a night for standup to the owners, they were excited to give her weekly Friday night slots. Since then, she has been organizing sets of comics from all over the nation to come and do local shows.
To put on this weekly event, Linsky works with several ponsors: Polly’s Gourmet Coffee, Legends Restaurant and Sports Bar, Fern’s Garden, The Beach on Second Street, and the law office of Edward J. O’Reily, all of whom donate raffle gifts. Additionally, Legends has a pre-show party, inviting people before 7 p.m. to enjoy dinner and drinks.
The comics also donate their time and humor simply for the laughs and to bring people together.It’s like coffee – you can’t get enough comedy,” Linsky says. She plans each set meticulously to best pair the comics with the audience. “I try to keep in mind who my audience is. . . I want to make sure the right people are there so everyone has a great night.”
She hosts a wide range of comics she has met over the course of her career, as well as the ones who send her their comic reels.
“I try to diversify the lineup so I don’t have five guys telling college humor,” she says. “I break it up, whether it’s age or race, because everybody talks about where they’re coming from. . . Sometimes it’s new people because new people need to have a place to try out their stuff and get their chops too. I try to put a variety of experience level in the show.”
Over the course of the 90 minutes at the opening show at Polly’s, Linsky hosted four different comics. Each comic had their own genre of humor, ranging from the trials and tribulations of being a woman, to drugs and jail, sex, politics, and race.
Her first guest was Ella James, who recently featured on Conan. The second, Curtis Rambo, was a comic from Alabama. The feature for the week was Brendan Cooney, a comic who performs in Orange County. The headliner was Gayla Johnson, a Los Angeles comic who recently won the round of Las Vegas World Series of Comedy last week.
The show was filled with a range of emotions and reactions from howls of laughter, gasps, and shakes of heads. Leanne ended the show with a raffle, and closed with the line, “If you liked it, tell a friend – if not, an enemy so we can waste 90 minutes of their time.”
Showtime is at 7 p.m. on Fridays at Polly’s Gourmet Cafe at 4606 E. Second St.. For more information and lineups, check the website: http://www.casualcomedy.com/home.html.