R.I.P. Craig Smith (July 15, 1975 – November 5, 2015)

Craig Smith. Photo courtesy Christine Hall.
Craig Smith. Photo courtesy Christine Hall.
Photo courtesy Christine Hall.

Craig Tyler Smith jumped to his death from the Parthenon Towers building in Nashville, Tennessee the evening of November 5th, 2015. He was a comedian, an arborist, an artist, a father and a friend. Debbie Smith, Craig’s mother, says he had been to a doctor because he has been coughing up blood for months and had severe chest and back pain for the last week. Craig believed he had terminal lung cancer and, we assume, didn’t want to be a burden to his family while he withered away, suffering.

The intros for Craig Smith from emcees that knew him varied from “Satan’s favorite comic” to “a very special person.” One of the darkest and most prolific writers on the Nashville comedy scene during the early 2000’s, Craig’s persistent honesty and tales of absurdist reality set audiences up for something they didn’t see coming – laughter, even if in spite. He closed every show with the line, “See you in the future,” and you got the feeling he meant it.

L-R: Craig Smith, Ryan Williams, Jesse Perry, Chad Riden at The Cantina / Bar Car, circa 2003-4. Photo credit: Candice Self-Perry.
L-R: Craig Smith, Ryan Williams, Jesse Perry, Chad Riden at The Cantina / Bar Car, circa 2004. Photo credit: Candice Self-Perry.

After months of working out material as an active regular at The Bar Car open mic nights in Cummins Station, Craig’s first paid gig as a comic was on September 25, 2003 at Christopher Pizza on Demonbreun where he performed with Mary Mack and Chad Riden. Within a few more months he had opened for Neil Hamberger at The End, and began organizing and hosting two monthly events, the Native Engine Comedy Show at The End and NashvilleStandUp.com Presents at Hair of the Dog.

Smith also booked shows at Springwater, Edge Hill Studios, Radio Cafe (which was where Mad Donna’s is now located) and Exit/In. Craig’s contribution to Nashville StandUp can not be overstated. He created opportunities for comics while understanding the importance of promoting the community as a whole – always mentioning NashvilleStandUp.com from the stage and on his show fliers. Not only was Craig a pro-active leader within the DIY indie comedy show scene, he also got work within the comedy club circuit. He performed at Zanies Comedy Showplace in Nashville and worked as a house emcee at the Knoxville Comedy Zone, often booking and hosting his own shows there as well.

Native Engine was a well loved showcase style show where comics could do 10-15 minute sets in a punk rock environment, whereas most other comedy shows in town at the time were open mics where comics performed for 3-5 minutes. The Hair of the Dog shows from 2004-2005 were also important because of the show format. Craig hosted, doing time up front before introducing one of two comics booked for the night, who could then do whatever amount of time they wanted. Other than the ‘Truth Beauty and Goodness Coffee House’ shows in Ashland City, this was the only show comics could learn to pace themselves over a longer set and structure a half-hour or hour-long act.

Craig Smith at The Bar Car in Nashville November 4, 2003
Craig Smith at The Bar Car in Nashville, November 4, 2003. Photo credit: Candice Self-Perry.

On January 29, 2005, Craig recorded his Hair of the Dog performance and self-released a 50 minute album called, “Craig Smith’s Pre-Apocalypse Comedy.” Chad Riden introduced him that night saying, “I’m always excited to see this guy do time. He’s incredible. He’s one of my favorite comics. Honestly, he’s one of the most prolific and introspective and perceptive.. and funny.. just raw, funny guys I know.” Craig’s topics ranged from crack whores to Friedrich Nietzsche, touching on his marriage, his father’s death, racism, politics and a lot of silly stuff. Here’s a few excerpts:

“You know how people have those angels and devils sitting on their shoulders? My devil is a really, really fucking bad one. He got my angel strung out on hard drugs and he doesn’t come into work any more. So now, it’s just me and my devil hanging out, shooting dice, writin’ comedy.”

“I had a brainstorm the other day. Large areas of my brain were devastated. Hundreds of thoughts were left homeless. Motor skills were severely disrupted.”

“I was walking home the other night and it was so cold my right testicle actually had to slaughter a Tauntaun and take shelter in it until a search party could arrive. If you get that joke, by the way, you might be a little bit of a geek. For those of you who don’t know the Star Wars reference, a Tauntaun is like a space yak.”

“‘Accelerate your life, join the Navy.’ You think by ‘accelerate’ they mean ‘fast forward to the fucking end?’ ‘If anybody wrote a book about your life would anyone want to read it?’ Maybe not so much like Mr. Navy Seal over there but I’ll bet mine’s going to have a few more fucking chapters and some pages you might want to jack off to.”

Although Craig had booked shows at Springwater as early as June 2003 using the show name “Standup Commanche,” the first “Dive Laughing” comedy show was on Thursday, September 15, 2005 and featured Craig with Justin T (“Spice J”), Robert Reeves, Chad Riden, Joel T Wilson, and Jesse Perry. Craig ran several more booked “Dive Laughing” shows through the first half of 2006, which led up to him performing on Doug Stanhope’s “See Me Before I’m Dead Tour” show there May 4th, 2006 with Brett Erickson. Craig booked and hosted random other dates until Wednesday, July 7, 2010 when “Dive Laughing” was re-launched as an open mic recurring the first Wednesday of every month.

Craig once had a lineup for a Friday show he had booked at Springwater fall through at the last minute and he wanted to do something special to fill the date. He arranged for Nashville’s Utopian Suicide Suspension Crew to suspend him from hooks inserted into his back for 33-minutes as he performed a standup comedy set while hanging from chains. Craig sent the full video out to comedy club bookers. This short promo video was produced by Joel T Wilson:

For years now, we’ve been promoting the Springwater shows by saying, “There’s always an element of danger with comedy shows at Springwater. Several things can be rough: the crowds, the language, and finding a seat in the packed house. You never know what’s going to happen, but you can bet it’ll be funny and exciting.” The reality was you kinda knew what was going to happen: it was going to be smoky, comics would sign up and do their best (or their worst), Dave Cloud would get up and do his thing (possibly exposing himself), and Craig Smith would be there drinking and smoking and telling jokes.

Craig appeared as himself in Todd Snider’s 2013 film “East Nashville Tonight,” telling jokes and credited on screen only as “Comedian t.b.a.” In April 2015, Craig performed at The East Room as part of the Guinness World Record breaking #BrokenRecordShow. Over the last four or five years or so your best chance of seeing Craig onstage or off was by dropping in at Springwater. Regardless, his presence has continued to loom large throughout the Nashville comedy scene.

Craig Smith's last performance - Springwater, November 4, 2015
Craig Smith’s last performance – Springwater, November 4, 2015

Craig often worked as an Arborist, tending to trees. In 2012, Chad Riden was being sued by his Homeowner’s Association because his awful neighbor wanted him to cut down a beautiful Cedar tree in his back yard. Craig and his son came to Riden’s house – on Father’s Day even – to help his friend and fellow comic by climbing up the tree to prune it and make sure it was in good health. Later, Craig’s testimony in court was the nail in the coffin that won the case for Riden. Chad and Craig always joked that it was the only time either ever walked out of a courtroom victorious.

Nashville StandUp will be soon re-releasing Craig’s 2005 album, “Craig Smith’s Pre-Apocalypse Comedy” with the proceeds going to Craig’s 16-year-old son, Tyler Chance. Christine Hall, Craig’s ex-wife and the mother of his son, says that he wanted to be cremated and have his ashes scattered as they did with his father about 15 years ago.

Rest in peace, Craig. See you in the future.

11/8 UPDATE: Official service for Craig Smith will be held Tuesday November 10th from 4pm to 6pm at the pavillion in Centennial Park by Springwater followed by an unofficial celebration of his life from 6pm-8pm at Springwater (115 27th Ave N, Nashville, TN 37203).

12/4 UPDATE: “Craig Smith’s Pre-Apocalypse Comedy” is now available to download from iTunes and Amazon but if you buy it right here from Nashville StandUp, a larger percentage of the money will go to Craig’s son, TC. THANK YOU for all of the support! It’s been a very difficult month.

Dive Laughing @ Springwater – 1st & 3rd Wed of Every Month

Dive Laughing open mic at Springwater - 1st & 3rd Wed every month

Dive Laughing open mic at Springwater - 1st & 3rd Wed every month

Open mic stand-up comedy show hosted by Sean Parrott the 1st & 3rd Wednesday of every month. Sign-up at 9p, show starts at 9:30. All are welcome. No cover.

There’s always an element of danger with comedy shows at Springwater. Several things can be rough: the crowds, the language, and finding a seat in the packed house. You never know what’s going to happen, but you can bet it’ll be funny and exciting.

1st & 3rd Wednesday of Every month
9:30pm show; 9pm sign-up
no cover

Springwater Supper Club & Lounge
115 27th Ave N.
Nashville, TN 37203
615-320-0345
SpringwaterSupperClub.com
Twitter.com/SpringwaterNash

(Facebook Event)

See tomorrow’s stars tonight at open mic stand-up comedy shows in Nashville

Shure microphone

Every comedian you’ve ever heard of – Louis CK, Sarah Silverman, Daniel Tosh – ALL of them got their start at an open mic somewhere. They went to some bar or a restaurant with a microphone set up in the corner of the room and put their name on a sign-up sheet. They waited for their turn and got up on stage and for the first time ever, told original jokes that they wrote to a room full of strangers. Some of them got laughs, some jokes fell flat. They learned from the experience, made some changes and went to the next open mic to try again.

Tim Northern onstage at The Fiddle & Steel Guitar Bar April 1, 2013There is no shortcut in comedy. There are no “one hit wonders” or overnight successes. It takes years to get great and all of your jokes have to be consistently funny before people really start paying attention. Even then there’s no rest. Once they’ve heard your jokes and remember them, it’s time to write more to replace the old act.

This process happens just about every night in cities all across the world. Open mic comics work on the jokes they wrote that week. Traveling, full time comics drop in and try out that new thing they thought of. Some random guy sits watching the show with a page of jokes folded up in his pocket, trying to get the nerve to sign up for the first time. Comedy fans fill the seats watching live comedy in it’s rawest, most unfiltered, most unadulterated form.

Imagine being in the room when a young David Letterman went on stage for the first time. Or being a part of the legendary Boston comedy scene when Steven Wright was completely unknown to anybody who wasn’t there, watching him develop for years. The super famous incredible “breakout” comics of 10-15 years from now are trying standup comedy for the first time ever this week and you could be there to see them.

Nashville’s local comedy scene has had regularly scheduled open mic nights for decades. The current crop of new comics are energetic, excited and pro-actively putting new shows together all around town. Sometimes they’re great, sometimes they’re not, but in general they’re a lot of fun. Here’s a list of the current recurring shows where you can show up and go up:


Sundays

Another F***ing East Nashville Mic at The Cobra

  • when: every Sunday
  • sign-up: 6:00 PM
  • show: 7:00 PM
  • hosted by: rotating hosts
  • set time: 4 minutes (depends on host)
  • cover charge: none
  • smoking: outside, patio
  • drinks: full bar
  • ages: 21+

This fun and sexy open mic runs every Sunday at The Cobra in East Nashville.

The Cobra Nashville
2511 Gallatin Ave.
Nashville, TN 32706

http://twitter.com/cobraNashville
http://facebook.com/sweepthelegjohnny
629-800-2515


Mondays

Bobby’s Idle Hour Comedy Night OPEN MIC

  • when: every Monday
  • sign-up: 6:30 PM
  • show: 7:00 PM
  • hosted by: Chad Riden & Friends
  • set time: 4 minutes
  • cover charge: none
  • smoking: outside
  • food: chicken pot pies, bbq sandwiches, pizza, more
  • drinks: beer
  • ages: 18+

Show up and go up stand-up comedy open mic at the ONLY live music venue on Nashville’s legendary Music Row, Bobby’s Idle Hour is America’s quintessential dive bar, serving as the “official” home for several of the music industry’s die-hard veterans: hit songwriters, recording studio guns, and emerging talent.

“…the walls of this joint bleed with 30+ years of beer, cigarette smoke, and the vibrant echoes of thousands hit songs written on these very bar stools by Nashville’s top songwriters. If you want a taste of REAL MUSIC ROW HISTORY stop in Bobby’s Idle Hour and ask for Jonathan the bar keeper..”

Bobby’s Idle Hour Tavern
1028 16th Ave. S
Nashville, TN 37212
(Historic Music Row @ 16th Ave. S & Tremont)

http://bobbysidlehour.com
http://twitter.com/bobbysidlehour
http://facebook.com/officialbobbysidlehour
http://nashvillestandup.com/bobbys

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Roast the Host OPEN MIC at Third Coast Comedy Club

  • when: every Monday
  • sign-up: 9:30 PM
  • show: 10:00 PM
  • hosted by: Sean Parrott
  • set time: 4 minutes
  • cover charge: none
  • smoking: outside
  • food: hotdogs, snacks
  • drinks: full bar
  • ages: 21+

At most comedy open mics you see the same thing over and over: a bunch of people trying out new jokes. At our open mic, a bunch of people will try out new jokes OR, if they are feeling especially vicious, they can ROAST THE HOST! Unpredictable Comedy meets Brutal Insults for a night of hurt feelings and FUN! Also, it’s only an hour show so not a ton of people will get to go up. Maybe ten!

Third Coast Comedy Club
1310 Clinton Street
Suite 121
Nashville, TN 37203
615-745-1009

RoastTheHost’s Facebook Fan Page
http://thirdcoastcomedy.club
http://twitter.com/3rdcoastcomedy
http://facebook.com/thirdcoastcomedyclub


Tuesdays

AHHH!!!! Open Mic at Twin Kegs II

  • when: every Tuesday
  • sign-up: 7:30 PM
  • show: 8:00 PM
  • hosted by: Micah Dean
  • set time: 5 minutes
  • cover charge: none
  • smoking: outside, heated porch
  • food: full menu
  • drinks: full bar
  • ages: all ages

TWIN KEGS ll
327 Hermitage Ave,
Nashville, TN 37210
615-301-8675

http://twinkegs.com
http://facebook.com/twinkegs2

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Ultimate Comedy Open Mic at The East Room

  • when: every Tuesday
  • sign-up: 8:00 PM
  • show: 8:30 PM
  • hosted by: Josh Wagner
  • set time: 4 minutes
  • cover charge: none
  • smoking: outside
  • food: pizzas, pizza dogs
  • drinks: beer
  • ages: 18+

Ultimate Comedy is a loose, fun show where the is joined on stage by house band “The Grey Grays” featuring Sean Parrot on guitar/vocals and Gary Fletcher on drums/vocals, playing intro music for comics, randomly interacting with the performers and playing them off if they go too long. Each comic gets four minutes.

The East Room
2412 Gallatin Ave., Nashville, TN 37206
615-335-3137

Facebook.com/TheEastRoom
Twitter.com/TheEastRoom
CorporateJuggernaut.com
Twitter.com/CorporateJugger
NashvilleStandUp.com/ultimate-comedy-open-mic/

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Up Late Open Mic

  • when: every Tuesday
  • sign-up: 9:30 PM
  • show: 10:00 PM
  • hosted by: Matt Boyd
  • set time: 4 minutes
  • cover charge: none
  • smoking: none
  • food: none
  • drinks: BYOBeer (no wine or liquor allowed)
  • ages: 21+

Third Coast Comedy Club (Upstairs in the Loft)
1310 Clinton Street
Suite 121
Nashville, TN 37203
615-745-1009

http://thirdcoastcomedy.club
http://twitter.com/3rdcoastcomedy
http://facebook.com/thirdcoastcomedyclub


Wednesdays

Jokes In The Gulch (Open Mic)

  • when: every wednesday
  • sign-up: 8:30 PM
  • show: 9 PM
  • hosted by: Joshua Black
  • set time: 4 minutes
  • smoking: outside patio
  • food: yes
  • cover charge: none
  • drinks: full bar
  • ages: ??

Fun late night open mic show in the heart of Nashville every Wednesday at 9pm

Pour House: 730 8th ave. S. Nashville, Tn 37203


Thursdays

Comedy Night at Diskin Cider (Open Mic)

  • when: varies by week
  • sign-up: 6:00 PM
  • show: 6:30 PM
  • hosted by: Connor Larsen
  • set time: 4 minutes
  • smoking: outside
  • food: yes
  • cover charge: none
  • drinks: cider
  • ages: all

Diskin Cider
1235 Martin St, Nashville, TN 37203
305-469-1151

https://www.facebook.com/diskincider

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Turn & Burn Comedy Open Mic

  • when: every Thursday
  • sign-up: 8:30 PM
  • show: 9:00 PM
  • hosted by: Matt Boyd
  • set time: 4 minutes
  • cover charge: none
  • drinks: full bar
  • ages: 21+

Turn One
3208 Gallatin Pike, Nashville, TN 37216
615-432-2402

https://www.facebook.com/TurnOneBar

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Comedy At Kegs! at Twin Kegs II

  • when: 2nd Thursday of every month
  • sign-up: 6:30 PM
  • show: 7:00 PM
  • hosted by: Jessica Carter
  • set time: 5 minutes
  • cover charge: none
  • smoking: heated patio
  • food: full menu
  • drinks: full bar
  • ages: 21+

Twin Kegs II
327 Hermitage Ave, Nashville, TN 37210
615-301-8675

http://twitter.com/twinkegs
http://facebook.com/Twin.Kegs
http://twinkegs.wix.com/twinkegs


Go check out some of these shows. Pick out your favorite up and coming local comics. Tell them what you thought about their sets. Follow them on Facebook and Twitter and share their videos with your friends. Buy them a beer! Every famous comedian you’ve seen on tv started off the exact same way and they probably remember the first time they had a fan. Support your local comedy scene and you’re supporting tomorrow’s comedy superstars when they need your support the most.