Comedy veteran Joseph Moorer assembles 'some of my heroes' for all-POC improv show

Sitting around a table in a Grandview event space, Joseph Moorer and some of the talent he's assembled for “Affirmative Distraction,” an all-persons of color improv show, are talking about building up their community.

“Our city has so many stars; I'm just ready for more of these people to be seen,” said rapper C10, one of those assembled.

“Someone might even get as big as MojoFlo,” Moorer said, indicating the local funk band's singer, Amber Knicole, also seated at the table.

“Wait up,” C10 interrupted, adding, in the direction of Knicole, whom the rapper hadn't recognized and knew simply as Amber-from-the-crew-Joe's-putting-together-for-“Affirmative Distraction,” “That's you?”

Hugs ensued. Community was built. And the show hadn't even happened yet.

That will change on Thursday, June 14, when “Affirmative Distraction” takes the stage at CA Backspace — the same space in which we met for the interview. And the community being built is not just local performers, but something much bigger.

“We need positivity for our culture, period, so this is the escape for me,” said Moorer, a veteran of Hashtag Comedy improv group and the Conspiracy Band. “[We] can sit on social media and we can bitch all day, or we can laugh for 90 minutes and escape it for at least a little while, and then we can go back to that.”

Going back to “that,” is why Moorer takes this endeavor so seriously, despite its comedic nature. He knows and acknowledges there are issues facing the black community, as do the rest of the performers he's put together for “Affirmative Distraction.” When he jokes about an all-POC show being held in Grandview (“Grandview!” he adds with his voice raised for effect) and continues the joke with, “And we're all gonna drive 25 miles an hour when we get in our cars after the show,” Moorer is recognizing there are issues that an improv show isn't going to solve by itself.

“I'm sure there are things people might laugh at a little uncomfortably. There might just be a game I call ‘The Cops are Coming,'” Moorer said. “It's foolishness, but it's rooted in the problems we face and the things of our culture.”

But that doesn't mean “Affirmative Distraction” can't make a difference. Indeed, Moorer and his mates intend it to. You may have noticed that these performers are not all experienced in improv comedy (although improv vet Jaye Jeter is part of the cast). That's part of Moorer's plan. By building bridges between performers from different genres, “Affirmative Distraction” hopes to also build bridges between their audiences.

“The improv community has really skyrocketed, but it does lack people of color,” Moorer said. “I can count on two hands how many people of color do regular improv in the city, and black comedians are few and far between here, too.”

“Like most of us, I grew up having to navigate white culture. I'm used to being one of just a few chips in the cookie, so I'm a good beginner black friend,” Knicole said, mostly joking. “But things like this hopefully help point out that we're not as divided as it seems, and make us stronger.”

Rapper/singer/musician Jae Esquire said there are bridges to be built both between and within communities.

“When my friends ask what I'm doing, I don't always want to invite them to the hoodest bar I'm about to perform in,” she said.

“I want to sometimes do a show that I want my mom and dad to come to,” C10 added.

“I do want to give other people of color opportunities to do something that they don't normally do or think they could do,” Moorer said. “I'm interested in opening doors for people of color in this city to do something different, putting people of color in venues they wouldn't usually be able to perform in. Over the last five years, I‘ve been blessed to perform at a lot of these venues, so I want to open doors for other people of color.”

In the end, Moorer's motivation may have had a self-serving angle as well.

“I got legends in this city, people who have done great things for this city, people who have never ever done improv [in this show],” he said. “It's an honor to perform alongside these people. They're iconic to me. I just wanted to work with some of my heroes.”