Dustin Meadows performs at the Whiskey Bear comedy festival. Credit: Courtesy of Dustin Meadows

Three Ohio State alumni, two with English degrees and one with a law degree, walk into a comedy club — and take their place on stage to roast each other portraying Disney Villains.

On Tuesday, comedians from Whiskey Bear Comedy will be at Shadowbox Live’s Backstage Bistro for a sold-out performance called “Roast of the Disney Villains.”

While the show sold out nearly a month prior to the performance, the roast is just one of the many shows hosted by Whiskey Bear, a comedy club founded in June of 2015, with the intention of adding a new twist to what is typically seen in comedy.

“I’m always looking for new show concepts, new shows, stuff like that to continue producing under the Whiskey Bear logo,” founder Dustin Meadows said. “It feels like it’s moving forward and growing which is all you could ever hope for when doing something like this.”

These new concepts include “Hot Dog”, a show that requires comedians to eat a hot dog every time they say a certain word that producers decide on beforehand without telling the comedian. “Pop Culture Mix Tape” gives comedians a pop culture topic with which to perform using any style other than stand-up comedy.

“Columbus is a bigger city but it’s also a small city in the same way,” Meadows said. “There are only so many comedians and you can only see so many of the same people so many times, so doing different shows gives us a chance to offer something else in addition to just standup comedy.”

Meadows said creating Whiskey Bear allowed him the freedom of producing a variety of shows with a cast of his choosing.

One of those people is Jackie Shreves, a 2016 English alumnus who currently works in the Ohio State Counseling Services as an information assistant. She said she got into comedy through writing for The Sundial, an OSU-affiliated comedy magazine, after hearing about it freshman year.

“I found out that the RA above me was going to be the editor-and-chief of a comedy magazine (and) I basically just sent him a Facebook message and was like ‘hey can I do this next year,’” Shreves said.

Shreves said she met Meadows her junior year when he came to do a pop-culture writing workshop with Sundial and, for reasons she said she is still unsure of, offered her a performance slot at one of his shows.

“He invited me on one of his shows, funny enough it was a Disney show where we were just all doing things about Disney and I did my set and I think it went over really well and since then he just kind of kept booking me.” Shreves said.

For Brooke Cartus, 2015 graduate from the Moritz College of Law, it wasn’t comedy writing that pushed her towards Whiskey Bear, but opera.

Cartus said she got her undergraduate degree in opera but found that her favorite part of the performances was when she was joking with the audience in between sets. She started hosting a variety of performances and submerging herself in the comedy scene, which would later double as a stress reliever for law school.

“Everyone has the thing they blow of steam with in law school, whether it’s working out or going out with friends and comedy for me really helped,” Cartus said. “A lot of people will start right at standup or they will go from improv to standup and I kind of went from Russian opera to standup which is not common — shockingly, I know.”

She said she got involved with Whiskey Bear after its first Comedy Festival — an event that hosts local and out-of-town comedians to do a variety of different shows — last year.

Also at the festival was Jimmy Mak, 1993 OSU alumnus with a degree in English who has since made his mark in the comedy world.

“To be able to now say that I actually am a professional writer in Columbus Ohio because of my degree, I think, at Ohio State has been such a tremendous thing for me,” Mak said. “Now 21 short years later here I am and I am a performer and the head writer for Shadowbox.”

In addition to writing scripts for Shadowbox, Mak helps to book local comedy organizations like Whiskey Bear, to perform at the Backstage Bistro venue attached to Shadowbox Live. He said through that he got to meet Meadows along with more comedians with Whiskey Bear and has been invited to perform in some of their shows.

“In some cities you have that competition that’s so hard core, (other comedians) want you to fail so bad so they can succeed and it’s nothing like that, especially with Whiskey Bear,” Mak said. “Working with those guys just the sort of support that they give one another is truly impressive and I’m blessed that they’re here in Columbus.”

Shreves said she hopes the friendship in Whiskey Bear extends beyond those on the stage.

“It’s like when you’re hanging out with your friends and it’s getting to around like 2 a.m. when you’re kind of tired and everything is really funny and you’re just having a good time,” Shrieves said. “But we’re your friends and you don’t know us but we’re going to be friends eventually.”
Audiences can see these three performers and others at the encore show of Roast of the Disney Villains on July 11. The second Whiskey Bear Comedy Festival is set for May 9 through the 16.