Most comedy clubs are still shuttered, with restaurants reopening as more than just eateries. For Greenpoint resident Rachel Williams, both types of gathering places have long nourished her, so it’s no surprise that her worlds have finally collided.
Rachel is a comedian who’s also in the food industry; she works at Five Leaves, one of Greenpoint’s buzziest and busiest brunch spots. Understanding bars and restaurants’ unique ability to bring people together — and the hit such locales have taken during the pandemic — she pitched an idea to another local haunt: with comedy clubs closed and artists short on opportunities, why not bring the laughs to the table?
Now, Rachel spearheads a Fowl Mouth, a stand-up comedy series hosted outdoors at Greenpoint Beer and Ale Company. Here, she discusses her comedic tastes and influences, the artists she continues to uplift, and how an idea has flourished into an opportunity to safely come together during COVID.
Talk to us about your comedy origins; who ware your idols, and how did you come to this artistic path?
When I was young, my idols were whoever my dad was watching at the time. So, I grew up watching Chris Rock, Jackie Gleason, and Eddie Murphy. My idols now are Jessica Kirson, Nikki Glaser, and Bill Burr. I didn’t have the guts to pursue comedy until a few years after college. As soon as I graduated, I jumped into the scene. I started out at all the improv theaters but my best friend, Ankara Savone was the person who pushed me to do stand up.
How did you get connected to Greenpoint Beer and Ale?
My husband and I have been living in Greenpoint for a few years now. We love it so much. When the pandemic hit, comedy, like everything else, came to a screeching halt. It was really devastating. The moment restaurants and bars began to open, I (like many other comics) saw these spaces as an opportunity to bring comedy to people outside of the clubs since all comedy clubs were still not permitted to open. Thankfully, Ed Raven [owner of Greenpoint Beer] was open to my pitch to produce a comedy show on his rooftop deck.
Walk us through the structure of a comedy show: How many people tend to perform?
We set up the show the same way every time, but every week we put up different and wildly talented comics to perform. We choose one comic to host the night, this is the comic who gets the energy going and is the glue of the show. Then we have six comics perform short sets of their best work. Unless the weather is bad, the show is always on the roof deck. It’s a good time!
How would you describe the content of your set? Or the style of your humor?
My content is my life; my family, my husband, my friends, and my past/current life. I grew up in a very chaotic household, and I was a very observant child. I never stopped being that observant kid. I take that to the stage.
My humor is dark, dry, and definitely not clean. I talk about my sex life, therapy, the alcoholics in my family, and everything in between. I am very vulnerable on stage, but there is nothing like the feeling of your life and observations of life making people laugh.
You also work at Five Leaves! What is it like working at one of Greenpoint’s most beloved restaurants?
Five Leaves is my second home and I am truly grateful for it. I’m proud to work at an establishment that has been a part of the community for over a decade. It is definitely busy and nonstop work, but also fun and very gratifying. I am so happy that Five Leaves survived this pandemic as everyone –the GM, owners, head chef, front and back of house– worked their asses off this year! We all have always been close, but ever since the pandemic hit we’ve become a family.
Any upcoming shows in Greenpoint or elsewhere we should know about?
Yes! Fowl Mouth is a free biweekly comedy show that I produce at Greenpoint Beer & Ale Co with a friend, extremely funny comedian, Jessica Levin. Our next show is Wednesday, April 7 at 8 PM. It’s a really fun time for the audience and comics because of the chill atmosphere on the roof deck, great beer/food, and outstanding comedy. We always have a new lineup that’s a combination of the hottest established and up-and-coming comedians. I also perform all over the city. For anyone who wants to connect or show support, I am @wachelrilliams across all social media platforms.
Anything else you’d like to add?
It would mean the world to me for anyone to spread the word about the show! After the last show, an audience member told me it was the best show she’s seen in years — I almost cried. I started this show on my own with Ed’s help and it’s my baby. This show is the one thing I was able to produce during the hellacious year of 2020. Every show the turnout is great, but my goal is to grow even more. Supporting this show doesn’t just support me, it supports all the comics, Ed’s business, and the neighborhood. I can’t wait for ya’ll to come!