When I think of the Joint, one of Argenta’s mainstays equipped with a stage, coffee and beer – I think of stand-up comedy. That’s not too far off as almost every time I’ve been to the establishment, I enjoy a load of laughs via local talent.
I’m not the only one that puts the Main Thing – the Joint’s weekend act – into the same category. It turns out that the stand-up definition, as well as the common description of “hillbilly banjo act from Branson,” is way off the mark.
Not knowing any of this, I didn’t know what to expect when I saw The Main Thing’s current production, “Hognado,” last Friday. All I knew of the show beforehand was this: “a disaster comedy about a super-sized storm system that cuts the Natural State a new one.”
I can now say that I enjoyed the production, which pokes fun at a variety of Arkancentricities – traffic and the weather among my favorites. From the dedicated reporters of ‘Spy Eye News’ to the pirates determined to wait out a hurricane, I was in stiches. The light hearted satirical performance was an entertaining welcomed end to my week.
I could check “Hognado” off my list, but I was still fuzzy about just who The Main Thing is. Playing five shows 51 weekends out of the year, The Main Thing (Brett Ihler, Vicki Farrell and Steve Farrell) aims to provide quality entertainment.
Vicki says, “Our goal is to make it clear that we are something fun and different – and something that is totally unique to Central Arkansas. We want to be a place Little Rockers bring their friends, families, and out-of-town guests, because they’re proud to have us here, creating original entertainment for and about Arkansans.”
There would be no Main Thing without Vicki and Steve. The transplants take their comedic days back to Houston, where they were founders of Houston’s Comedy Workshop. Steve served as Artistic Director and head writer for the workshop during its first seven years. During that period, Sam Kinison, Bill Hicks and Janeane Garafolo were in resident company, and Robin WIlliams, Rodney Dangerfield, and Jay Leno were regular guests.
In 1985 Steve and Vicki left the workshop in order to start Radio Music Theatre, a staple in Houston’s scene for 26 years, exhibiting original comedy written and directed by Steve.
In 2002, the couple began traveling, looking for a new place to call home. “Something about Little Rock reached out to us, more than any other place we visited. We loved the green, hilly setting, the friendly people, and the budding arts community – so, in 2011, we announced to our fans that we would be closing Radio Music Theatre to move to Little Rock,” says Vicki. As luck would have it, they settled in Argenta. Vicki adds, “It was the perfect location to us, with its historic architecture and its growing number of restaurants, galleries, clubs, and theaters.”
They took their name from Main Street, and The Main Thing was born. Pieces continued to fall into place as the Farrells added Ihler to the act. Finding him was a process: “We attended every show in town, looking for the perfect third person to perform with us on stage. We found him right away in the form of Brett Ihler, who was then performing with Improv Little Rock. Brett offered everything we were looking for – he could sing, dance, play the bass, improvise, and do multi-character acting.”
It’s a wonder Central Arkansas misjudges The Main Thing, when Houston fans from the Farrells earlier days make treks regularly to see them perform. It’s not hard to see why – Steve’s talent as a writer has led to his work being featured on Saturday Night Live, MTV, HBO, Off-Broadway, and in national syndication for ten years on Dick Clark’s United Stations Radio Network.
Even one show like “Hognado” is enough to get you hooked.
Vicki says, “Steve and our act remain virtually unknown, which is why we are all working so hard to get the word out and develop a new regional fan base. Our hope is to provide original comedy for this part of the country for decades to come.”
“Hognado” is a must-see, especially if you have a sense of humor and like to laugh at the silliness that can be The Natural State. Don’t miss your chance to see it from now until Aug. 29.