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After Hours Interview: Riot Act’s John X

After spending 12 years with the DC Improv, a club on the brink of closing before he came in as manager, John Xereas has opened the only other comedy club in the city: Riot Act. Xereas hopes Riot Act will give amateurs a place to brush up on their skills

Name: John Xereas
Hometown: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
How long you’ve lived in the area: I attended American University, so about 20 years.
Occupation: Owner of Riot Act Comedy Club and part owner of the DC Improv

After Hours previously blogged about Riot Act Comedy Club here.

How long have you been in the comedy business? How did you get started?
I was going to school at American University. I started work at DC Improv as a food runner, then became a waiter, then a manager, then part owner.

Were you in improv groups at school?
No, I just thought it’d be a cool place to work at the time.  I was in a band at AU.

What was the name of the band?
I’d rather not say.  My mom would be upset.

What kind of music?
It was on the heavier side. Like heavy metal.

How were you able to turn DC Improv around [20 years ago, before Xereas took over as a manager, the club was close to closing]?
We got stronger acts.  We got to know the media people better: radio, television, and print.  We worked a lot harder.

How long did it take you to turn it around?
A year, maybe.  Once again it was just making it a fun place for people to come.  That’s what we’re trying to do with the new place [Riot Act Comedy Club].  The other thing too with the new club is we’re going to have a lot of different kinds of acts and shows.  I just did an all-Muslim show with all-Muslim comedians.  It’s interesting because those people don’t have a lot of choices.  It really brings people together.  A lot of people get to learn about culture they wouldn’t have known a lot about.  It’s good for everyone.  And just having the jazz club upstairs is great.  Jazz and comedy are similar because the artists have so much range and perspective to do what they want.

Read below for more with Xereas. 

Do you do any stand-up?
No, I just steer the ship.

Who is your favorite local comedian?
Big Al Goodwin, Tony Woods,  Dave Chapell, Wanda Sykes.

What can we expect from Riot Act in the future?  Any big events coming up?
I have a bunch of shows that I’m working on.  Right now I’ve been concentrating on the room.  I want it to be a place that’s very cozy, a place where local guys can come.  We’ll still have the big acts, too, but a combination of the both.  I have a TV show that’s going to come out in a month or two with bands, comedy, interviews and sketches. We’ve already filmed at two different spots.  It’s a cross between Conan O’Brien and Saturday Night Live.  You can see a lot of it on youtube.com. It’s a part of Local Point TV, a subsidiary of ABC.

How is the DC comedy scene different from other cities?
There’s a lot of talented comics here they just don’t have the outlet that a lot of other cities do.  Even Montreal has more comedy clubs than us.  DC Improv was the only comedy club in town.  We’re so professional at the Improv.  This gives other people a chance to get on stage.  There are no other clubs devoted to comedy.  I also want to do a lot of PR.  We’re going to have a Latino night and a gay night. I just booked the Geeks Comedy Tour.

What’s the best advice for a new comedian who wants to break into the comedy business?
Write everything down and get on stage as much as possible. It takes so much time to get all those experiences.  Comics only get famous in their late 20s and 30s, because it takes so long. You look at Jon Stewart, Drew Carey, Rodney Dangerfield..it takes a while for people to become comfortable with themselves.  Only when that happens are people comfortable with them on stage.

Favorite spot for drinks after a show other than HR-57?
I guess Bourbon.  I like dive bars.

Favorite neighborhood?
Glover Park.  That’s where I live and I’ve lived there a long time.

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