A modest storage room at Bushwick's Tiny Cupboard has been transformed into a psychedelic comedy room dedicated to booking female, BIPOC and queer comics.
"The Mushroom," which seats only about 22 people making it the tiniest comedy room in NYC, just had its grand opening on Friday within The Tiny Cupboard—an already small DIY comedy space on Cooper Street.
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Comedians and producers Ann Van Epps and James Sueling transformed the once "yucky" closet space, room 315, into a 1970s-themed stage and venue space this month after Tiny Cupboard moved out of it and opened its Pink Church space in another room within the building. It became just another storage space.
Now, instead of stark white walls, the space boasts an Instagrammable aesthetic with a trippy mural on the wall, colorful lighting, including black lights. The producers (who are also best friends) completed the transformation in one week.
"It was like a reality show where the people are working up until the last minute to get it done," Sueling tells us. "We spent less than $100 on the room and sourced everything...I basically furnished the room with my home."
That being said, it's been a hit with New Yorkers already since its soft opening last week.
"We haven't been able to do something for two years, so when you leave your house for the night we want to make sure you have a great time and all the photos from it are beautiful," he adds.
The duo named it The Mushroom after a riddle. ("What's the tiniest room? A mushroom.") They took design cues from that.
The small setting actually works to their advantage. People are less willing to sit in bigger comedy settings these days because they want to go out but be safe, Sueling says.
"As comedy venues are reopening, they all want to do what Tiny Cupboard is doing," Van Epps adds, noting that they were essentially one of the first to take their shows to a rooftop.
"Yeah, I think Tiny Cupboard will be remembered as innovative in the Brooklyn comedy scene," Sueling says.
The Tiny Cupboard was the perfect place to open The Mushroom not only because it offers that much-needed intimate experience but because it is giving comedians from the BIPOC and queer communities a space to perform where they are not in the minority.
"Our wish was to make a space for female comics, comics of color and queer comics, where they would be spotlighted in same way cis, heterosexual white men have come to expect throughout 20th century," Sueling says.
On Saturday, The Mushroom will host the first edition of "The Tribe," a lineup of all Black comics with Ann Walker, for instance.
The space also makes room for both established and up-and-coming comics, giving them an affordable way to practice their new material.
The producers say it can get expensive to start a comedy career. The Mushroom's open mic fee will stay at $2 (unless it's a special night), helping newer comedians hone their craft in a sustainable way.
The Mushroom's show "Liquid Paper" is the show where new material can fly free.
"You can go see a big name for a cut of the price here or see somebody working on something and see it grow," Van Epps says. "Stand-up is very clique-y. People are competitive ... standup is really hard if you're around negative people, which makes it hard to stay with it."
"We want to cultivate and curate the next batch of comedians and would love for them to look like what no one is expecting," Sueling adds. "There's no reason all the boats can't rise together."
Van Epps's show "Lavalamp" features her favorite "weirdos" and the midnight show "Rumpus Room" is Van Epps and Sueling trying to bring back late-night comedy to NYC.
"Since the pandemic, things end earlier and people don't stay out as late," Van Epps adds. "NYC is a 'never sleeps' place, so why aren't people out? Things get crazy because comics can do whatever they want in the Rumpus Room."
Eagle Witt, Billy Prinsell and Sarah Garner have performed during this set.
That show is at midnight on Fridays and at 11pm on Saturdays. The house show "Brick House" is at 7pm on Saturdays and "Go Ask Alice," a monthly pop-up happens on Saturdays at 9pm. The Mushroom has three-to-four weeknight open mics.
For more information on upcoming shows, follow The Mushroom on Instgram.