When Vermont Comedy Club opened on Burlington’s Main Street in November 2015, some visitors weren’t sure what to expect. Would it be like the Comedy Zone, the weekend-only shows from over a decade ago in the former Radisson Hotel’s lounge? Or maybe it would resemble Levity, the 40-seat café and comedy spot that struggled for a year and a half on Center Street.
s VCC cofounder Nathan Hartswick says, “I get this backhanded compliment all the time. People will come to the show, and I hear, ‘I had no idea— it’s like a real comedy club.’” He adds that his cofounder, business partner, and wife Natalie Miller has overheard patrons exclaim, “Ooh, fancy!” when she personally seats each customer before the show begins. Since its opening weekend, which kicked off the “Vermont’s Funniest Comedian Contest,” the club has seen consistently sold-out performances on Saturday nights. Nathan and Natalie’s success in drawing crowds to VCC didn’t come overnight though. They have worked tirelessly, building the local comedy community one joke at a time.
Building the Business Nathan and Natalie were living in Burlington, she teaching voice lessons, he doing freelance marketing while dabbling in standup and teaching comedy. Realizing that consolidating their efforts would be more efficient, they rented a small space and began teaching classes. And that’s when creative incubator Spark Arts was born. “Our mission was to create a place to pull creative people together,” Nathan says. They offered a variety of workshops, from dance to music to comedy. In addition, they ran improv sessions, where like-minded comedians could “drop in and play games together,” Nathan says. As the comedy side of Spark Arts grew, Nathan and Natalie honed their focus on comedy education and created a booking agency called Vermont Comedy Club. “We started doing a standup open mic at Nectar’s Summer 2016 | Best of Burlington 29
Published on Jun 20, 2016
Read about Berry Picking, HealingWindsVermont, Farm to Ballet and more in the Summer 2016 edition of Best of Burlington Magazine.