The location of the Other Cafe at the corner of Cole and Carl was a Rexall Drugstore when I was growing up in the late fifties and sixties…Archie comic books and Bazooka Joe bubblegum.
During one of the iterations, I remember a kind of bizarre combined exotic animal (sold illegally for pets) and plant store. The owner was friends with John Lee Hooker and I met the old bluesman during an impromtu late night pot-fueled jam.
Playing the coffee house circuit in the 1970’s as a singer-songwriter, I was thrilled when Bob, Chip and Steve opened the doors of The Other Cafe. At some point an open mike started up and the usual mix of local talent from embarrassingly bad to brilliant got up on the stage and plied their trade. It was almost exclusively musicians in the early days.
So I saunter down on one of these Sunday nights (1980 or so?) only to find the sign-ups exceeded the space available to perform. The MC was Barry Sobel. He was new on the scene and trying out his comedic ‘schtick’ in between the musicians. I remember how frustrated I felt as he burned up valuable minutes with what (I perceived of at the time), as lame humor and musicians were eventually being introduced as an after thought, or so it seemed. Other performers never had the chance to take the stage and were turned away.
When I finally complained about this to Bob, he didn’t hesitate: “Think you can do better?” “Actually, yes…”, I replied and was given a chance to MC.
Sunday nights grew in popularity with more and more comedians showing up to the point where they began to outnumber the musicians. The ‘open mike’ nights were divided with music continuing on Sunday nights and the comics performing on Monday nights.
The rest as they say is history.