Debbie Millwater was an “OK” open micer, but she found her true talent was in producing comedy shows.
Twenty years ago, Debbie Millwater dated her now-husband Johnny, who won a comedy contest at their college. His prize was emceeing at The Comedy Zone Orlando. Now they have two small children, a dog, and a great recipe for Cuba libres (1 part rum to 3 parts Coke, add lime).
After traveling the entire country (the 48 states, the real ones as she puts it), Debbie and husband settled in Charlotte to be close to the national headquarters of The Comedy Zone, the largest chain of comedy clubs. There are only so many comedy shows that a person can attend before wanting to try the stage themselves, so she took some classes. Turns out, there are hundreds of people that are way funnier than her, like everyone she meets, and that her real talent is producing comedy shows.
The Comedy Zone opened up at their current location in the AvidXChange Music Factory five years ago and Debbie has been producing their open mic nights through her company, called CrowdPlay.Events. She also produces her weekly show in Greensboro and Greenville, S.C.
With three comedy nights in three different cities throughout the week, Debbie is able to attract comics from across the country. She is contacted from about 200 guys a year, so she is constantly on-boarding new talent to round out the guys who are having success.Debbie has many success stories in her line of work.
Debbie has produced more than 1,500 comedy shows. She’s no longer counting. The first question she asks the guys is, “Do you feel that you can hold the stage for 3 minutes or do you need help organizing your thoughts.” If they need help, she directs them to the comedy class. That’s a different story. For the most part, she throws them in the spotlight and sees how it goes.
She’s built each show format to train different skill sets into the guys. For example, a show format “Clap It Up!” the comics are only guaranteed 1 minute on stage. If the audience likes them, then they’re applauded to perform longer. This teaches the guys that they have to be likable up front, open strong, and win the audience over right away.
Two reasons why Tuesday nights at the Comedy Zone are unique.
Tuesday nights are called CrowdPlay.Events for two reasons. One, you might not know what event is going on on a Tuesday night at The Comedy Zone, but in a way that doesn’t matter.
What you do know is that whatever the Tuesday night show is, it’s going to be a hilarious comedy show that was worth leaving the house for. Debbie and team mix up the Tuesday night formats to keep it fresh for the audience and the comics alike.
Second, and more importantly, it’s called CrowdPlay.Events because the shows are highly dependent on the crowd to operate. The audience really does shape how the comics develop.