Dog Comic Productions: Bringing Bite to Their Bark

It all started with a fateful trip to do standup in Chicago earlier this year, ending with a funeral for a pizza.

Made up of five local standup comedians — Donte Lillard, Nicole Melnyk, Joseph Johnson, Chase Richard, and Niles Nowak — Dog Comic Productions came together pretty quickly right around the time of the pandemic. 

Now fast friends and roommates, as well as business partners in a new company that aims to showcase the depth of the comedy scene here in Grand Rapids, the members of Dog Comic Productions will host their first showcase Aug. 27 at the Wealthy Theatre during an event called “Grand Rapids: Up Next!”

“It’s one of the best scenes in the state,” Chase Richard told Revue about the standup comedy scene in Grand Rapids. “I’ll go on record as saying it. There’s just so much good talent here and there are so many opportunities. I think there’s an open mic you can hit about every day, other than Saturday, and sometimes two a day. Like, there’s so much opportunity to go out and test your jokes and see other comics that are doing well.”

“Grand Rapids: Up Next!” will feature all five current members of Dog Comic performing sets for the first time on the theater’s historic stage. Each of them has experience all around the standup scene, from hosting and performing at open mics, to Lillard’s experience opening for Eddie Griffin, and each brings something different to their comedy onstage.

“I feel like today we’re just kind of striving to not even put barriers or labels on it,” Richard said about the Dog Comics’ variety of humor. “(We’re) just trying to find any kind of outlet of funny, and it’s silly, and just fun. 'Silly play times’ is literally the quote that we drop off.”

Obviously not taking themselves too seriously, the group has begun doing videos online and is working on developing a podcast as well. 

For the Aug. 27 showcase at the Wealthy Theatre, they’ve also teamed up with local clothing/smoke shop 616 West (901 Alpine St. NW) in presenting the event, and hope to partner with other area businesses.

“Instead of just waiting on these opportunities from like, quote unquote gatekeepers, or people who hold power or whatever, (we’re) just taking it into our own hands,” Lillard said. “If it goes well, then we’re going to start really supporting all of the people we can support.”

As for that fateful Chicago trip earlier this year — where each of the five Dog Comics clocked stage time in the Windy City, and returned to GR grateful for the uniqueness and attentiveness our city offers rising standups — it became the inspiration for the group’s name.

“We were giddy being in a new city, doing open mics,” Nowak said, as Lillard and Richard recalled the five of them bouncing around Chicago, yelling at people on the street, and pointing out how many “good dogs” there are there, in their best Sebastian Maniscalco impressions.

“I think it’s harder to get good in a bigger spot because you only get that small amount of time and you have to go around,” Lillard said of the experience. “It’s just harder to do. So I think it’s easier to get good here. It’s like a good incubator. They come up and get real good, real fast.”

Dog Comic Productions presents
Grand Rapids: Up Next! Comedy Showcase
Wealthy Theatre, 1130 Wealthy St. SE, Grand Rapids
Aug. 27, 7 p.m. doors, 8 p.m. show, $15