What happens when you take four comedy-club headliners, lock them in a room together, and tell them they have to come up with an entirely new set of material? We'll soon find out.
The premise is simple: Four headliners -- Tim Slagle, Mike Lukas, Tim Harmston, and Emily Galati -- will work together throughout the week, creating a brand-new 20-minute set that they'll present onstage each night, completely untested. The concept was launched last spring by Slagle, who says he first had the idea during Acme's 20 year anniversary event back in 2011.
"I talked to Louis [Lee, owner of Acme] back at the 20 year anniversary show, and he loved the idea," says Slagle. "When Robin Williams came to Acme a few years back, Louis said he was fascinated with watching him craft his set in front of the audience, and I suggested we try that with four headliners in a similar fashion."
Last year's Crash & Burn, which featured Slagle alongside three different Acme headliners, was met with overwhelmingly positive reviews, both from fans and the comics alike. Lee liked the idea so much that Slagle says he's actually discussed the possibility of doing the experiment twice a year.
"All three of the comics from last year were disappointed that they couldn't come back this year, but there were so many comics who wanted to do this that I thought it was important to mix things up."
But with so much risk of failure involved, why would any established comedian sign up for this trial-by-fire type of event?
"It's a great sabbatical," says Slagle. "It's rare that you get the chance to work on 20 minutes of new material. At best, when you go to other clubs, you can sneak in a new minute here or there, but you have to be good in order to get booked there again. Louis sees this event as an investment, allowing us comics to provide a completely new, unique set for the audience."
While the idea is for the comics to begin developing their material at the beginning of the week, and hopefully have a mostly polished 20 minutes by the weekend, Slagle says that the progression is anything but a guarantee.
"Last year some people came every night just to see how the jokes would develop," he says. "You may see a completely different show on Wednesday than you will on Saturday."
While the concept could potential kill in any comedy club across the country, Slagle is quick to point out why Acme is the perfect venue for the all-or-nothing comedy experiment.
"Acme is unique in that they care more about audience satisfaction and providing a unique experience than other clubs," Slagle explains. "It's not the most lucrative week of the year, but it's something that no one else is doing."
As for the value of seeing four headliners onstage in one night, Slagle says this in and of itself is worth the price of admission.
"The only time you see other headliners is at comedy festivals, so this is sort of like the world's smallest comedy festival."
IF YOU GO:
Crash & Burn 2
8 p.m. through Saturday; 10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday
Acme Comedy Co.
708 N. 1st St., Minneapolis, MN