When we showed up to talk to Marisa Douenias at last month’s Secret Loft Show, she was sporting aqua blue hair beneath a black beanie with Drake’s image pasted squarely on the forehead. The whole ensemble elicited real genuine out-loud laughs, and befitted Marisa herself superbly, a comedian who has a stage presence no matter where she’s standing, and who for the last year has organized a monthly comedy show and dance party at a loft that, although not quite actually a secret, is far removed in ambience and energy from your standard comedy-and-bar combo.
Read on for a most hilarious and insightful interview on organizing comedy shows, secret event culture, the relative merits of dying in the jaws of a shark v. bear, and how you might obtain free pugs.
Above: Marisa and her fabled Drake beanie
Can you tell us a bit about the history and idea behind The Secret Loft Show? How did you come to find yourself organizer of the event?
Well, it’s a bit of a funny story. Originally, when I decided I wanted to produce a show, I looked at a ton of bars around the city as possible venues, but most of those places already had comedy shows at least 1 night a week. I realized it was going to be pretty difficult for my show to stand out in any way from the other bar shows. That’s when I had the idea to call Alex. Alex and I met by way of OKCupid a long time ago and briefly dated before ultimately going our separate ways. I sent him this very long and awkward text message asking if I could produce a comedy show in his living room, expecting him to be like “uh no, and please delete my number” but he was actually very chill and just said “uh, yeah, sure.”
The loft was a big space that Alex usually used to throw parties, so I figured it made sense for us to make it into a comedy show/house party hybrid. I texted Dave (DJ Jams Bond) who incidentally was also an ex from OkCupid and he agreed to be the house DJ. I swear it was never my intention to turn my online dates into LinkedIn connections, but it’s pretty cool that it worked out that way!
I produced the show for a few months by myself, but ultimately felt like I needed a co-producer if this show was going to grow and become successful. Lucas and I met when we were both booked on a comedy show in a pizza shop (because Brooklyn) and I asked him to be on the next show. He thought the show had a lot of potential so I asked if he would co-produce. He said he would help me with the next show but not to tell anyone he was a co-producer unless it went well. Lucky for me, it did, and Lucas and I have been running the show together for a little over a year.
There’s certainly no shortage of secret events around Brooklyn. But the location of the Secret Loft Show itself is easily findable by the public on Facebook. Is this some sort of commentary on secret event culture?
I wouldn’t say we’re commenting on secret event culture, no. This actually is not the first venue called Secret Loft. The first iteration of the Secret Loft was Alex’s old apartment which was converted from a mechanic shop, and it was neither secret nor a loft, though it did have a shower/tub that sat outside of the bathroom with a giant hose attached to it. So there’s that.
Ultimately, I think people love the idea of something being a secret. It allows the event to feel more curated and certainly more authentic to the parties that have been going on in lofts and warehouses in Bushwick over the last 10 years. The SLS fans know which loft it is, but to those coming for their first time, they won’t find out exactly where it is until they get there. I guess we figure it’s easier than renaming the show The Sorta-Secret Loft Show Unless You’ve Been Before In Which Case It’s Not a Secret But Please Don’t Ruin It By Telling Someone Who Hasn’t Been Before, You Jerk: A Comedy Dance Party.
Secret Loft Show is well known for its promise of possible free pugs. Have you ever had anyone show up just for the pugs? Do you have plans to incorporate real pugs in any future happenings?
To my knowledge, no one has shown up merely for the pugs, but if someone wants to show up with a pug named Rupert Murdog and present it to me as a gift, you’ll hear no complaints from me.
Are there any special problems particular to organizing comedy shows? Or is it all just rainbows/sunshine?
I think the problems we’ve faced are not necessarily global to all comedy shows, but certainly to ours. First of all, the SLS fans are a particular kind of crowd. We have people of all ages show up, but the majority are young people who are smart and politically informed. Sometimes that means a club comic who makes jokes about women and race isn’t going to do very well in that room. We’ve had to learn to book the show with comics we know will be relatable to our audience. The other issue would just be space. It’s a loft, so capacity can be reached pretty quickly and sometimes we have to turn people away. But yes, other than that, rainbows and sunshine. We feel very lucky that these are the problems we face.
Would you rather be devoured alive by a bear or a shark?
Oh, 100% Bear! With the shark, you’re suffering 2x as much because you’re drowning and being eaten alive. Unless the drowning means the whole thing will be over sooner than if you’re just waiting for a bear to eat enough of you that you bleed out and lose consciousness…sorry. I’ve been watching a lot of Six Feet Under.
Above: The secret loft itself.
What niche do you think Secret Loft Show occupies in the comedy community? Are independently organized, loft-centric shows like SLS on the rise today?
I think at the end of the day, it’s about consistency. We always have an amazing line-up , the venue is always stocked and ready to go, our DJ is always on point and playing great music, and you’re always going to meet really cool people there. It’s like going to a really amazing college party where you’ll get to watch someone with a Comedy Central Half Hour special perform but without the drunk girl barfing on your shoes (we hope).
Where do you plan to take Secret Loft Show from here? What are your hopes/dreams for the event as it evolves in the coming months and years?
I think sometime in the future, we’d like to try the Secret Loft Show: Warehouse Rave Edition. Doing the show in a big space would mean we could fit more people, and also make the dance party even more epic. But really, my biggest dream for the show would be that we get so successful that we really can give each of our audience members a pug.
Above: The Secret Loft Show show itself.
What do you find most rewarding about organizing Secret Loft Show?
I’m thrilled that I get to produce something that people really love with people I really love. When I started this show, I never thought it would turn into something people would be talking about or wanting to be on. I get to work alongside some of the best comedians in New York City, and I get a chance to dance like an idiot alongside them. What could be better than that?
Can you share with our readers your favorite ever Youtube video of all time?
Oh, absolutely. This is one I used to watch all the time in high school. It’s truly a masterpiece.