A South Philly comedy quest

South Street’s Tattooed Mom presents Michael Kelly’s ‘Tattooed Momedy’

4 minute read
When you find the venue at Tattooed Mom, it’s like winning a scavenger hunt. (Photo by Ericson.)
When you find the venue at Tattooed Mom, it’s like winning a scavenger hunt. (Photo by Ericson.)

Founded in 2016 and gaining momentum, Tattooed Momedy, a monthly South Street comedy showcase, brings laughs to a one-of-a-kind venue.

“I envisioned Tattooed Momedy to be a show that featured a diverse lineup of different voices, styles, and walks of life,” says show creator and host Michael Kelly. “I wanted everyone who attended the show to see themselves in it.” Kelly builds a unique lineup every month of comics, burlesque dancers, and the occasional wild-card act that brings its own twist.

Accept the quest

Tattooed Mom is the ideal scene for a show like Kelly’s. A beautifully graffitied gem of South Street, this bar boasts a punk-rock-meets-Cirque-du-Soleil vibe. The venue is a frequent gathering spot for experimental theater festivals, arts and crafts events, and heavy metal performances. Ornate velvet couches are packed next to restored bumper cars, offering a unique front-row experience for Tattooed Momedy’s audience.

Attending this show is like accepting a comedy quest. Follow the laughter past the ground floor, up the stairs, past couches and pool tables, through another bar and down a mural-wrapped hallway. Emerging into the show space feels like winning a scavenger hunt. I recommend staking out a bumper-car seat early on—the popularity of the show can mean arriving to standing-room-only capacity. Kelly realized that the location of the performance encourages regular bar-goers to investigate the music and laughter.

Good vibes

“People wander in to see what's going on and end up staying for the whole show,” he explains. “Some have even approached me to say it was their first live comedy show and they look forward to coming back!” For Kelly, it’s one thing to create a free monthly showcase for comedy lovers to attend. It’s another, more meaningful matter to potentially bring new fans into the local scene.

"Tattooed Momedy is electric,” says Hannah Trav, host of comedy show Ur Mom is Funny. “The vibes are always good and the audience is always packed with people who are excited to watch comedy. I’ve always had fun sets.” Shows like Tattooed Momedy are vital for small comedy communities; they give comics a chance to see one another practice and improve in front of a great crowd. Kelly books shows with both veteran comics and new faces in mind; he makes a point to pay attention to open-mic performances for green talent.

Three years in

As the show approaches its three-year mark, Kelly reflects on what it means to produce, host, and promote a dozen shows per year. For example, he employs a different graphic designer each month to create a unique poster, making the full collection of promotions a gallery all their own. And he now teams with co-host Molly Hanulec, host of comedy show Scarred for Life.

Get that man a cake: Michael Kelly hosting ‘Tattooed Momedy.’ (Photo by Ericson.)
Get that man a cake: Michael Kelly hosting ‘Tattooed Momedy.’ (Photo by Ericson.)

Kelly remembers laying the groundwork for the first shows in 2016. “I tried to be as prepared as possible by doing simple things like talking to friends [and] fellow show runners about how they went about running their shows and followed their example,” he recalls. “I think a lot of challenges can be headed off at the pass if you take the time to observe how other people are doing things and listening to those who have experience.” Kelly’s thoughtful approach to producing has resulted in lineups that keep audiences laughing and eager for the next show.

“The first time I got off stage, I remember thinking, 'I have to shoot my special here and maybe bury my children,'" says Lucas Connolly, of Comedy Central's New York and South Beach Comedy Festivals. Connolly describes the feeling of performing for “an oasis… an audience that truly understands, appreciates and supports you. For me the attractive neon-leather spiked ‘queerdos’ of Tattooed Momedy are my chosen audience.”

The cake incident

The room does surge with a unique energy during each show. There is a sense of intimacy, grit, and truth-telling at Tattooed Moms. Kelly’s favorite onstage moment so far was the one-year anniversary show: “I brought a sheet cake for the audience and cast, and Tattooed Mom surprised us with a second sheet cake. Two sheet cakes can easily turn any moment (on or off stage) into my favorite.”

You can catch the next Tattooed Momedy on Tuesday, June 25, 2019, at 8pm. The show is free, with $1 tacos and $2.50 Tecates. For updates on future shows (the last Tuesday of every month), follow Michael Kelly on social media @mikalkel, find Tattooed Momedy on Facebook, or visit the Tattooed Mom schedule online.

What, When, Where

Tattooed Momedy. The final Tuesday of each month at Tattooed Mom, 530 South Street, Philadelphia. Find Tattooed Momedy on Facebook, or visit the Tattooed Mom schedule online.

Tattooed Mom’s second-floor venue does not have wheelchair-accessible entry.

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