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Laughter grows in Astoria

Astoria's newest comedy venue.Astoria comedian Matt Taylor and Andrew Moesel, communications director for City Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria), have been hosting a comedy night once a week for the past five months on the second floor of Mezzo Mezzo Restaurant, a popular Greek restaurant on Ditmars Boulevard in Astoria.On March 7, the venue will begin to add a second night of hilarity per week, and the duo is in the process of expanding their show into a seven-day comedy club."We're trying to make this more of a venue than an open mic," Moesel said.The tentatively titled Astoria Comedy Club has hosted Tuesday night comedy shows, featuring five to six stand-up acts, for the past five months and will add a second night of comedy on Fridays beginning this week. On March 20, the club will kick off its improvisational comedy nights on Thursdays."We're the only comedy club in Astoria right now," said Taylor. "There are open mic nights, but that doesn't really count. There's no other place around that offers improv at this level."Taylor said the neighborhood has become an enclave not only for young artists, filmmakers and writers to live, but also for comedians. He said he draws from a roster of nearly 100 Astoria-based comedians for his show, including established performers such as Comedy Central's Tom Shillue, Jon Fisch and Jesse Joyce.Taylor was previously hosting a comedy night at the Waltz Astoria cafe, but moved to Mezzo Mezzo last fall. He and Moesel teamed up after Astoria residents complained to Vallone's office about his methods of advertising."He was getting hassled about writing in chalk on the sidewalk," Moesel said. Taylor eventually worked out an agreement with several local merchants that he could write out details for his comedy night in chalk in front of their businesses. During that process, he acquired a partner in Moesel, who also began to write his own material and perform."I tend to find most of my best material during conversations with friends," said Moesel, who does not include political humor in his act despite his daily exposure to city government. "I don't like political humor - it's not my forte. And I don't think most people would find jokes about [City Council] Speaker Christine Quinn or [Councilman] Charles Barron that funny. Plus, it keeps me out of trouble."Taylor said he intends to expand the three-day per week open mic show into a seven-day venue this summer. He said his shows incorporate local comedians with three to four established performers each night. He said his comedy show caters to the culturally aware community of Astoria."This is not a tourist club, so we don't have to dumb down our act," he said. "We operate under the assumption that the crowd has read a certain amount of books, so we can make political and cultural jokes. I want my comedians to do smart material."For now, Tuesday nights do not have a cover charge and Friday performances cost $10. Both nights require a two-drink minimum."Have you ever seen anyone laugh without a few drinks in them?" Taylor said. "I originally wanted a five-drink minimum, so we could really have them rolling."Reach reporter Nathan Duke by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 156.

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