Advertisement

‘The bestselling show happens to be female-produced’: Comedian Coral Thede brings a kick-ass time to Teehee’s every month


Des Moines-based comedian Coral Thede — Gabriel Greco/Little Village

Coral Thede’s house is as bright and welcoming as she is. The walls of her office space are a galaxy of pink, gold and blue. They provide a gentle background for the instruments, costumes and books strewn about in the signature chaos of a creative person. Her kitchen, familiar to those who tune into her Instagram livestreams, is punctuated with brightly colored odds and ends that come together to paint a vivid picture of Thede.

It’s here that we sit, and she tells me that before her blockbuster show, Tits Up!, which runs at Teehee’s Comedy Club, she didn’t really consider herself a stand-up comedian.

“I’ve always kinda been funny and kinda been musical and was just kinda in those realms, but not fully in them. And then when Teehee’s opened, I was like ‘Oh, now I actually have a stage and a space to do this thing.’”

Thede started going to open mics when the club opened its doors in 2019. Previously, she had traveled the world — made country music in Nashville, performed theater in Wyoming — and she found herself in Des Moines with a new job and a new house just months before the COVID-19 pandemic turned everything on its head.

But despite her extensive entertainment background, Thede didn’t jump right into stand-up.

Gabriel Greco/Little Village

“Teehee’s opened and I was there opening weekend,” she said. “And then the first Monday night show, I chickened out. I chickened out for two months. Like, I would sit in the back and wouldn’t sign up. I was just so nervous. It’s one thing to be a funny person, it’s a different thing to just actually get up there and do stand-up.”

Once Thede finally did get onstage, the comedy bug bit her and she decided to sign up for Teehee’s’ first stand-up comedy class. Unfortunately, the showcase for the class was postponed due to the pandemic.

It’s no secret that independent venues struggled, and are still struggling, during the pandemic. According to a study conducted by the National Independent Venue Association, independent venues in America lost billions of dollars in revenue by being closed during most of 2020. This doesn’t include food and beverage revenue lost, and it doesn’t include the financial impact of the years following 2020.

And while the struggle was real for Teehee’s, as it was for other Des Moines venues, Thede said it shaped the venue’s identity.

“I only know Teehee’s as surviving a pandemic and getting through the pandemic the best way we could. And it was a lot of just open communication and meeting people where they’re at and trying to stay positive,” Thede said. “And I think that’s where we really shine: acknowledging that stuff’s hard, acknowledging that there’s challenges and losses and all these things have happened, but also holding on to the light and the laughter of the moments when you have them.”

Thede’s series at Teehee’s was designed to do just that.

“How do I, having just lost my job as well, keep the community and the spirits in the scene alive while also recognizing what we’re going through?” she remembers asking herself. “That was kind of the push for me to start Tits Up! the way I did.”

Gabriel Greco/Little Village

Tits Up! is a monthly showcase of mainly female and nonbinary comedians, musicians, magicians and what-have-yous that debuted at Teehee’s in November 2020. That first show sold out in 27 hours.

While the team behind the showcase and the performers themselves in most cases identify as female or nonbinary, Thede has always hesitated to advertise it that way.

“It’s tricky. Because there are times I want it to be on the forefront, like ‘this is what it is’ without saying ‘this is the most diverse and inclusive, mostly female-run show,” she said. “Because it’s just a good show. The bestselling show happens to be female-produced.”

As COVID-19 protocols have shifted, Tits Up! has adapted, going from limited capacity to adding performances to allow for the most guests. Typically, Tits Up! runs shows at 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. the final Saturday of each month (though they’ll be 7 p.m. only through the summer). Thede recommends not bringing your parents to the late show unless they’re ready to rage all night.

But even though COVID-19 cases are decreasing and live entertainment is returning in a somewhat-familiar fashion, the pandemic has made an imprint on the way Tits Up! is structured. For example, Thede does not release a lineup for the show even though the cast changes every month.

“The focus was never for it to be a surprise until planning during a pandemic,” Thede said of booking each lineup. “People would just drop off the week of. We didn’t know if we were gonna get shut down. It was just like, who knows? But what I found is people love not knowing. They just show up, they know it’s gonna be a talented lineup, and they trust me to make it happen.”

Gabriel Greco/Little Village

As touring starts to amp up again, keeping the lineup close to the chest (pun absolutely intended) also allows Thede to accommodate performers who might be coming through town at the last minute.

“I’m very adamant about having local comedians,” Thede says. “But also comedians who have never been to Des Moines, who have never performed in Des Moines. It’s important to me that they have a kick-ass time in Des Moines.”

As for the bodacious name of her show, Thede borrowed it from The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, an Amazon Prime comedy about, appropriately enough, a female comic in the 1950s.

“Throughout the show, every time they go onstage, her manager and her say ‘tits up’ to each other. Kind of, you know, get up and get the thing done,” Thede told me. “But what I love about that, or what I made it mean to me in the show, is that you can either bring your emotions onstage, you can let it all out there, or you can keep it behind the stage. But either way, the show’s got to go on.”

Lucky for Des Moines, determined artists like Coral Thede have kept the show going, even as the live entertainment landscape continues to change.

Lily DeTaeye is a Des Moines staff writer for Little Village. This article was originally published in Little Village issue 001 (Central Iowa).


[gravityform id="17" title="false" description="false" ajax="true"]
<div class='gf_browser_unknown gform_wrapper your-village-form_wrapper' id='gform_wrapper_17' ><a id='gf_17' class='gform_anchor' ></a><form method='post' enctype='multipart/form-data' target='gform_ajax_frame_17' id='gform_17' class='your-village-form' action='/coral-thede-tits-up-comedy-showcase-teehees/#gf_17'> <div class='gform_body'><ul id='gform_fields_17' class='gform_fields top_label form_sublabel_below description_below'><li id='field_17_7' class='gfield gfield_html gfield_html_formatted gfield_no_follows_desc field_sublabel_below field_description_below gfield_visibility_visible' ><h3 style="font-weight:800; font-size:34px;">Let's get started</h3> <p style="font-size:18px;">Fill out this form and we'll contact you with information about marketing with Little Village!</p></li><li id='field_17_4' class='gfield field_sublabel_below field_description_below gfield_visibility_visible' ><label class='gfield_label gfield_label_before_complex' for='input_17_4_3' ></label><div class='ginput_complex ginput_container no_prefix has_first_name no_middle_name has_last_name no_suffix gf_name_has_2 ginput_container_name gfield_trigger_change' id='input_17_4'> <span id='input_17_4_3_container' class='name_first' > <input type='text' name='input_4.3' id='input_17_4_3' value='' aria-label='First name' tabindex='2' aria-invalid="false" placeholder='First name'/> <label for='input_17_4_3' >First</label> </span> <span id='input_17_4_6_container' class='name_last' > <input type='text' name='input_4.6' id='input_17_4_6' value='' aria-label='Last name' tabindex='4' aria-invalid="false" placeholder='Last name'/> <label for='input_17_4_6' >Last</label> </span> </div></li><li id='field_17_5' class='gfield gfield_contains_required field_sublabel_below field_description_below gfield_visibility_visible' ><label class='gfield_label' for='input_17_5' ><span class='gfield_required'>*</span></label><div class='ginput_container ginput_container_text'><input name='input_5' id='input_17_5' type='text' value='' class='large' tabindex='6' placeholder='Company name' aria-required="true" aria-invalid="false" /></div></li><li id='field_17_3' class='gfield gfield_contains_required field_sublabel_below field_description_below gfield_visibility_visible' ><label class='gfield_label' for='input_17_3' ><span class='gfield_required'>*</span></label><div class='ginput_container ginput_container_email'> <input name='input_3' id='input_17_3' type='text' value='' class='large' tabindex='7' placeholder='Your email address' aria-required="true" aria-invalid="false"/> </div></li><li id='field_17_8' class='gfield gform_validation_container field_sublabel_below field_description_below gfield_visibility_' ><label class='gfield_label' for='input_17_8' >Phone</label><div class='ginput_container'><input name='input_8' id='input_17_8' type='text' value='' /></div><div class='gfield_description'>This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.</div></li> </ul></div> <div class='gform_footer top_label'> <input type='submit' id='gform_submit_button_17' class='gform_button button' value='SUBMIT' tabindex='8' onclick='if(window["gf_submitting_17"]){return false;} window["gf_submitting_17"]=true; ' onkeypress='if( event.keyCode == 13 ){ if(window["gf_submitting_17"]){return false;} window["gf_submitting_17"]=true; jQuery("#gform_17").trigger("submit",[true]); }' /> <input type='hidden' name='gform_ajax' value='form_id=17&amp;title=&amp;description=&amp;tabindex=1' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='is_submit_17' value='1' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='gform_submit' value='17' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='gform_unique_id' value='' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='state_17' value='WyJbXSIsIjlmNzc1YTEyZmZjNmYyODk5Mzk0NDM3ZjRlOGYyZDNmIl0=' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='gform_target_page_number_17' id='gform_target_page_number_17' value='0' /> <input type='hidden' class='gform_hidden' name='gform_source_page_number_17' id='gform_source_page_number_17' value='1' /> <input type='hidden' name='gform_field_values' value='' /> </div> <p style="display: none !important;"><label>&#916;<textarea name="ak_hp_textarea" cols="45" rows="8" maxlength="100"></textarea></label><input type="hidden" id="ak_js_1" name="ak_js" value="73"/><script>document.getElementById( "ak_js_1" ).setAttribute( "value", ( new Date() ).getTime() );</script></p></form> </div> <iframe style='display:none;width:0px;height:0px;' src='about:blank' name='gform_ajax_frame_17' id='gform_ajax_frame_17'>This iframe contains the logic required to handle Ajax powered Gravity Forms.</iframe> <script type='text/javascript'>jQuery(document).ready(function($){gformInitSpinner( 17, 'https://littlevillagemag.com/wp-content/plugins/gravityforms-asdf111aasdfffs-nope/images/spinner.gif' );jQuery('#gform_ajax_frame_17').load( function(){var contents = jQuery(this).contents().find('*').html();var is_postback = contents.indexOf('GF_AJAX_POSTBACK') >= 0;if(!is_postback){return;}var form_content = jQuery(this).contents().find('#gform_wrapper_17');var is_confirmation = jQuery(this).contents().find('#gform_confirmation_wrapper_17').length > 0;var is_redirect = contents.indexOf('gformRedirect(){') >= 0;var is_form = form_content.length > 0 && ! is_redirect && ! is_confirmation;if(is_form){jQuery('#gform_wrapper_17').html(form_content.html());if(form_content.hasClass('gform_validation_error')){jQuery('#gform_wrapper_17').addClass('gform_validation_error');} else {jQuery('#gform_wrapper_17').removeClass('gform_validation_error');}setTimeout( function() { /* delay the scroll by 50 milliseconds to fix a bug in chrome */ jQuery(document).scrollTop(jQuery('#gform_wrapper_17').offset().top); }, 50 );if(window['gformInitDatepicker']) {gformInitDatepicker();}if(window['gformInitPriceFields']) {gformInitPriceFields();}var current_page = jQuery('#gform_source_page_number_17').val();gformInitSpinner( 17, 'https://littlevillagemag.com/wp-content/plugins/gravityforms-asdf111aasdfffs-nope/images/spinner.gif' );jQuery(document).trigger('gform_page_loaded', [17, current_page]);window['gf_submitting_17'] = false;}else if(!is_redirect){var confirmation_content = jQuery(this).contents().find('.GF_AJAX_POSTBACK').html();if(!confirmation_content){confirmation_content = contents;}setTimeout(function(){jQuery('#gform_wrapper_17').replaceWith(confirmation_content);jQuery(document).scrollTop(jQuery('#gf_17').offset().top);jQuery(document).trigger('gform_confirmation_loaded', [17]);window['gf_submitting_17'] = false;}, 50);}else{jQuery('#gform_17').append(contents);if(window['gformRedirect']) {gformRedirect();}}jQuery(document).trigger('gform_post_render', [17, current_page]);} );} );</script><script type='text/javascript'> if(typeof gf_global == 'undefined') var gf_global = {"gf_currency_config":{"name":"U.S. Dollar","symbol_left":"$","symbol_right":"","symbol_padding":"","thousand_separator":",","decimal_separator":".","decimals":2},"base_url":"https:\/\/littlevillagemag.com\/wp-content\/plugins\/gravityforms-asdf111aasdfffs-nope","number_formats":[],"spinnerUrl":"https:\/\/littlevillagemag.com\/wp-content\/plugins\/gravityforms-asdf111aasdfffs-nope\/images\/spinner.gif"};jQuery(document).bind('gform_post_render', function(event, formId, currentPage){if(formId == 17) {if(typeof Placeholders != 'undefined'){ Placeholders.enable(); }} } );jQuery(document).bind('gform_post_conditional_logic', function(event, formId, fields, isInit){} );</script><script type='text/javascript'> jQuery(document).ready(function(){jQuery(document).trigger('gform_post_render', [17, 1]) } ); </script>