Minnesota Now with Cathy Wurzer

'Recovery Riot' brings night of comedy to Minneapolis' Alano Club

patrick strait
Patrick Strait is one of the organizers behind this year's "Recovery Riot."
Courtesy of Patrick Strait

Here’s a fact you may not know: Minnesota is home to the oldest continuously-operating Alano Club in the world. It’s a space for addiction recovery meetings and fellowship, and it’s a beautiful building, too — a historic mansion in south Minneapolis.

recovery riot
Recovery Riot is back for a third year Oct. 6.
Courtesy Patrick Strait

It’s also the setting for a comedy show Oct. 6 featuring four Minnesota comedians. It’s called “Recovery Riot: A sober night of stand-up comedy.” Tickets are $10. All proceeds will benefit the Alano Club.

Patrick Strait is one of the organizers behind the show. He talked with MPR News host Cathy Wurzer.

Use the audio player above to listen to the full conversation.

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Audio transcript

CATHY WURZER: Well, here's a fact you may not know. Minnesota is home to the oldest continuously operating Alano Club in the world. It's a space for addiction recovery meetings and fellowship. And it's a beautiful building, too, a historic mansion in South Minneapolis. It's also the setting for a comedy show next week featuring four Minnesotan comedians. It's called "Recovery Riot, A Sober Night of Stand-Up Comedy." All proceeds will benefit the club. Patrick Strait is one of the organizers behind the show, and he is on the line. Hey, Patrick. How are you?

PATRICK STRAIT: Hey, I'm doing great! Thank you so much for having me.

CATHY WURZER: Absolutely. So is this show because it is at the club, is it just for people in recovery or for everybody else?

PATRICK STRAIT: No, oh, my gosh, no. No, I mean, really, the show itself, I mean, it's the same as any other regular, old, raw stand-up show you'd see in the Twin Cities. It's four incredible comics who are going to get up there. They're going to do their normal sets that you would see at an Acme or a Sisyphus or anywhere else.

It just so happens that we're going to do it in a setting that's an Alano Club, where it is more maybe visible and accessible to people who are in recovery or who are comfortable going to places like that, who maybe aren't quite ready to go to a nightclub or they're not ready to go to a bar or whatever the case is. But no, we want anybody. We want everybody, regardless of your status, if you're a drinker, a non-drinker, a past drinker, a future drinker, whatever the case is.

CATHY WURZER: So it's a celebration of sobriety and recovery.

PATRICK STRAIT: Absolutely. Absolutely.

CATHY WURZER: And we should say you are celebrating because you and I talked previously after you wrote this story for Racket about trying to become a professional wrestler, which is still, to this day, one of my favorite interviews.

PATRICK STRAIT: Oh, thank you.

CATHY WURZER: Yes, but I know you also have a personal connection to the club. Can you share a little bit of your personal story?

PATRICK STRAIT: Yeah, so I am coming up on eight years sober. So I got sober in October of 2015. And it's funny because I had heard these things about, oh, the Twin Cities has this incredible recovery community, but obviously, until you're in it, you don't really fully understand it and understand just how great it truly is. So I got sober, and I would love to say it was because I was smart enough to realize I had a problem.

But truthfully, I kind of had to be-- I had to go kicking and screaming a little bit. I really had to kind of bang my head into the wall a few times before I realized, yep, I have got a problem, and I need help. But fortunately, the Twin Cities recovery community is so big, and it's so easily accessible that getting help and staying sober has been really, really-- I don't want to say it's been easy, but it's been something that's been really well supported.

And with me, it's something where I went through treatment, and I went through detoxes, and I lived in sober living. But the toughest thing for me when I got sober was the idea of acclimating back into a normal life, right? So I mean, up to that point, everything I did from a social standpoint revolved around drinking. If you go to a Vikings game, you get beers. If you go out to dinner, you have a drink. If you go to a comedy show, if you're me, you have a lot of drinks. But other than that, there was a lot of drinking involved in it.

And so for quite a while, I was really kind of nervous or uncomfortable with the idea of getting out and going to those places that I used to go when I was drinking, just because I was so used to that. And I realized that was something that was really kind of embedded in me. So the idea of starting a show like this, this Recovery Riot, was to give people a little bit more runway, right?

So it's something where you can still go out there. You can still see, hey, there's life after recovery. There's social life after recovery. You can still go do those things that you love to do that you enjoyed doing. The entertainment is the same. Everything is still great. And there's other people who are in the same boat. There's other people there who, they're in recovery. They don't drink. They don't necessarily associate entertainment with drinking and with substances and things like that.

And it's just been a really great for me to be able to kind of realize, hey, there is another way, and there's a way to continue to live your life normally without drinking and still do those things that you love. And I hope that it kind of gives people who are in recovery or maybe need a reminder or even people who just love somebody and support somebody in recovery can kind of see the same thing.

CATHY WURZER: Have you noticed, of course, you'll hear some artists say, I can't be creative without alcohol or drugs. You know many comedians who feel they can't be funny without being drunk, right, or can't be funny without having alcohol. Did you struggle with that personally?

PATRICK STRAIT: Oh, absolutely. For a long time-- I mean, you mentioned Racket. I've been a writer in the Twin Cities for probably 15 years. And I really was concerned with the idea of, oh, well, I don't know what's funny, what's unique, what's creative as far as just my own personality. I think you're kind of learning yourself again. And I think that rings true for a lot of creative types, whether that's writing, whether that's comedy, whether that's music, whatever the case is.

And I really think that it's funny because once you get out there and you actually give yourself the opportunity to try, I think most recovering drug addicts and alcoholics will tell you, hey, you know what? I'm actually probably better now that I don't have all of the substances in my body. But at the time, you're just so scared and you're so raw, and you don't really know how you're going to take to the real world.

And it's kind of funny because one of the comics, our headliner, Elise Cole, she has a joke-- and I don't want to burn her material, but she talks about how people will say to her like, oh, my gosh. You can get up there on stage, and you can be sober. And she's like, you know what? Like, I'm way tougher because I'm out here raw dogging life. Like, really? The comedy part isn't the tough part. It's the every other part of my life that was tough to do sober. So getting up there and having fun and being creative eventually kind of becomes the-- I don't want to say the easiest part, but kind of the part that fits back on you like a glove.

CATHY WURZER: I wonder, too, as you're talking about your personal struggle and other comedians who have had the same-- going down the same road, I wonder and I was trying to think of who told me this. And shoot, I can't remember. Another comedian. Comedy clubs are not helpful at all. They add to the substance abuse problem by pushing drinks to everyone. And I'm trying to remember who told me that. So what's the support that recovering comedians have in the actual venues?

PATRICK STRAIT: Sure. Yeah, I mean, I think if you look around town, I mean, we're very fortunate in Minnesota because we have clubs like Acme Comedy that doesn't enforce the age-old two-drink minimum, right? And I think a lot of clubs are starting to go more towards that two-item minimum, just because recovery and non-drinking is kind of becoming a little bit more the norm as opposed to the exception.

But to your point, you're right. I mean, I know there's a famous story about Mitch Hedberg, famous Twin Cities comedian who lost his battle with addiction, who he got out of treatment and got right back on the road. And it was kind of one of those things where it was like, it was kind of suicide for him because it was like you're out there every night. And there's all these things happening, and what else are you going to do? So to your point, I think that the biggest thing is the community itself is very open and comfortable talking about recovery. And that's something that I think you don't necessarily get in a lot of other parts of the country.

The Twin Cities is, we are a very recovery-heavy area. So to hear other people talk about, oh, I struggled with alcoholism or drug addiction, or I have a family member or a friend, it's not uncommon here. So I think that people feel a little bit more comfortable. It doesn't feel as taboo, where other parts of the country where you don't have the same treatment centers and AA meetings and support tools and things like that, I think that maybe you feel a little bit more like you're off on your own island a little bit.

So I think that the comedians are a lot more open to talking about these things. I think that people are a lot more open and accepting of their journeys and recovery here. And I think that, hopefully, shows like this and events like this where the emphasis is kind of back on the comedy, as opposed to all the other stuff, trying to sell drinks, trying to make a buck, I really think that this hopefully continues that trend and gives people a little bit more of that understanding that, hey, comedy is about comedy first, and it's not about making money off of booze or anything else.

CATHY WURZER: I'm glad you're having this at the Alano Club. This is the perfect venue for it. OK, so how many comedians are going to be with you? Three more?

PATRICK STRAIT: So we got four comedians. I would love to say, oh, I'm going to be the star attraction, but I'm not trying to charge anybody to come see me do comedy, Cathy. I will emcee and do my best to limp through and take the bullet first, but no, we've got four comics. They're all incredible Twin Cities comics-- Elise Cole, Karen Pickering, Lily Meyer, and Aidan McCluskey. And they all are regulars in the Twin Cities. They're all emcees, features, headliners at Acme, at House of Comedy, at Sisyphus.

Elise just had a huge two-night album release party at the Six Points Theater that was sold out two nights in a row. So we've got really incredible comics and really incredible talent for this. And it just so happens that all four of these comics, they're also from alcohol as well. So it's kind of a cool kind of circle of life that we're all coming together for this in this type of a venue. We're able to celebrate that sobriety. But it's not like you're coming to see us preach about the evils of alcohol. You're coming to an incredible comedy show that happens to be in a recovery type setting.

CATHY WURZER: Good. All right, Patrick Strait, sounds great. Always a pleasure. Thank you so much.

PATRICK STRAIT: Oh, my gosh. Thank you. We really appreciate it. And hope to see you out there.

CATHY WURZER: Absolutely. Patrick Strait's been with us. He's a comedy and arts writer in the Twin Cities. He's the organizer behind Recovery Riot. That's a comedy show coming up this Friday, October the 6th, at the Alano Society of Minneapolis. Tickets are 10 bucks. Go to mncomedy.com. We'll also have a link on our website for more information on that.

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