Steve and Vicki Farrell have spent 45 years making people laugh – from the cutting-edge Houston comedy scene of the late ‘70s/early ‘80s to Saturday Night Live in the mid-‘80s, off-Broadway shows and national radio exposure. But for the past 11 years, they’ve been making local audiences guffaw through their Argenta-based comedy/music venue, The Joint.
While it’s home to a busy schedule of stand-up comedy on Tuesdays, improv comedy on Wednesdays, acoustic music on Thursdays, monthly dinner and storytelling events, and alternating songwriter and jazz nights on Mondays, the star attraction at the cabaret-style theatre with food and drinks is the Farrell’s own three-person comedy team (co-starring Brett Ihler) The Main Thing.
The trio has performed a long series of high-energy comedic plays about the misadventures of the Fertle family and countless other off-the-wall characters in shows that feature each performer switching among playing several characters, each with rapid-fire abandon. They also provide their own live rock soundtrack of funny songs between scenes – with Steve as a keyboardist, guitarist and singer, Vicki singing and on drums, and Brett playing bass while also vocalizing.
Altogether, the Farrell’s creative venture brings together everything they’ve learned in their extensive careers while providing audiences with great nights out.
“The Fertle family plays are largely based on my own family, the Farrell’s,” explains Steve Farrell. “Fertle was a variation on my last name and it suggested an explanation for why I had 15 aunts and uncles and God knows how many cousins.
“The non-Fertle shows we also do – or infertile shows, as we call them – are inspired by news, local issues, the lifestyle of Arkansans, politics and current events,” he adds. Our last show “Little Rock and a Hard Place” was a history of Greater Little Rock from 1995 til the present. So the inspirations come from all directions, but they are designed for an Arkansas audience, more than tourists.”
Indeed, the packed shows on Friday and Saturday nights are sprinkled with regulars who have come to see every Main Thing show since the theater opened in 2011. The standup comedy shows on Tuesdays are open mics, but draw a surprisingly talented bunch of comics who slay the audience with full force. With an attractive showroom and a tasty menu of light fare and libations, it’s a destination for entertainment fans of all stripes.
Farrell attributes the chemistry of the trio to a genuine love for one another that results in non-stop fun during practices and performances. Each two-month show run takes only a week off in-between before launching the next show, which will be “A Fertle Holiday” opening on Nov. 25.
The current show through Nov. 19 is “Dork Reunion,” which has the trio not only jumping between different characters, but also different timeframes as it focuses on a high school class reunion in the Fertles’ hometown of Dumpster, Arkansas – featuring madcap mayhem in the present as well as back in the high school days through funny flashbacks.
“There was nothing like us before we moved here in 2011 – nothing for people to compare us to,” recalls Farrell. “We do off-Broadway style shows, which are original and dissimilar from traditional repertory theater, dinner theater, or community theater. Once people come in and see our shows, they usually return to see more.
“But getting them in the door for the first time has been a real challenge, much harder than running our shows in L.A., New York, Houston or the other larger markets, which are more accustomed to professional theater,” he adds. “The biggest reward is bringing this unique style to Greater Little Rock, and being one of the first things to boldly go into Argenta, before it was starting to emerge as an arts district. Our presence really helped Argenta turn the corner and we’re very proud of that.”