Nichols first started doing stand-up in 2001 and has performed at many Baltimore venues, including the Baltimore Comedy Factory and the now-closed Baltimore Improv.

Many performers also seek out alternative venues.

"I work a lot of churches, corporate events and clean events," said comedian Joe Recca. "I'm one of a few comedians who work clean, and a lot of churches have comedy."

Recca was inspired to do comedy after seeing Dick Gregory do a show at his college years ago. He went on to perform with comedy stars such as Chris Rock, Dave Chappelle and Tommy Davidson. He also wrote for DL Hughley.

The Scene
The comedy scene has indeed received a boost from what appears to be an increasing interest in the Baltimore area. At a recent Saturday night show at the Baltimore Comedy Factory, there wasn't a bare spot of carpet to stand on.

"It is always packed," affirmed Larry XL. "They always have a fun crowd there."

Local comedian John "Spider" Lutz also said he is pleased to see the increasing interest in Baltimore.

"It's been an ongoing thing, like a snowball effect. People are picking it up," Lutz said.

Commonly known as Baltimore's original biker comedian, Lutz began doing comedy in 1999. He was supposed to be the emcee for an event, but when everyone except the headliner canceled, he was forced to stretch 15 minutes of material into an hour, thus launching his comedy career.

"It was a little hard at first because not too many places were holding open mikes, but as people are getting more interested in comedy, it's grown," Lutz said.

Mickey Cucchiella agrees that the interest is definitely growing.

"A lot of the really big cities have good scenes, but for the size of Baltimore in the marketplace, it has a tremendous comedy scene," he said.

Cucchiella is certainly no stranger to the comedy world, having started his stand-up career in Baltimore at the age of 16 by sneaking into an open-mike night at the Baltimore Comedy Factory.

He went on to own that same comedy club, which has now been passed to his brother, Chip. He also supports the scene in his role as a host of the popular 98 Rock radio program, "The Mickey and Amelia Show."

"98 Rock is great about supporting local comedy," said local comedian Chris White, who has also played a significant role in sustaining the comedy scene with his Web site, Dcstandup.com.

"It started in 2003 as a (selfish) effort to gather info on the various open mikes in D.C. and Baltimore," White said. "Since then, it has grown to become a kind of information clearinghouse and de facto home page for D.C. and Baltimore comics."

Many aspiring area comedians refer to the site for information.

"Dcstandup.com is a great resource," said local comedian Justin Schlegel. "There are plenty of open mikes, and a lot of places with open mikes will invite you back if you're good."

Schlegel moved to Baltimore in 2000 to become a radio DJ, hoping that would open doors for him in the comedy world. However, he soon stumbled into an open-mike night at Frazier's on the Avenue in Hampden and things just started from there. Schlegel has since opened for Mickey Cucchiella at the Hippodrome and worked with Bob Saget.