As you approach Q.E.D. on Astoria’s 23rd Avenue, you are greeted by a building no smaller than a record store and a cart filled with books. The windows next to the entrance are filled with flyers advertising the venue’s upcoming and weekly events.
Open the door, and you’ll see a curtain in front of you — a crucial sign that you are about to enter a performance space. The front room houses a bar, along with shelves filled with books and games and a couch inviting people to gather.
Go through another curtain and you’ll find a small, dark room with a spotlight on a performer. The comedian may be joking about what you should do if you poop your pants in sixth grade or rambling about former President Donald Trump.
A plethora of comics have come to this stage to show off their talents, ranging from little-known performers still trying to find their comedic pitch to SNL alumni such as Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones and former U.S. Senator Al Franken.
But as Q.E.D. owner Kambri Crews would tell you, Q.E.D. is way more than just a comedy club. The venue also provides classes and hosts events including trivia nights, book clubs and the “Shut Up & Write!” workshop.
“We’re not what you think of when you think of a comedy club where you walk in and it’s a dark basement black theater where there is a two-drink minimum and they shuffle you in and out and it’s a showroom with heckling and things like that. That’s what people think in their mind of stand-up comedy,” Crews told QNS. “When you walk into this place, it’s definitely got a different vibe.”
Crews’ insistence that Q.E.D. is more than just a comedy club can be seen as an interpretation of Crews herself. In addition to her role as owner and operator of Q.E.D., she is a performer and the author of a bestselling book.
In the mid to late 2000s, Crews was working in the marketing and PR department of a comedy club called Comix NY. In 2007, she started a little room in the basement of the Comix comedy club called Ochi’s Lounge, the precursor of Q.E.D. However, Ochi’s closed in 2010 when new owners took over Comix.
In 2012, Crews published her memoir “Burn Down The Ground,” which documented her struggles growing up with an impoverished deaf family in Texas. Her father tried to kill her mother and went to prison, where he spent the rest of his life until he died of COVID-19.
After the success of her memoir and book tour, Crews was uncertain about what she wanted to do next.
“When that tour was winding down, I was like, ‘Well, what do I wanna be when I grow up?’ and I’m like, ‘I want Ochi’s again,’” Crews said. “So here we are. Q.E.D. is basically my Ochi’s 2.0.”
Q.E.D. opened its doors in 2014. The venue quickly stood out in comparison to other comedy clubs in New York City, particularly when it came to its smaller size and the chance for both low-profile and high-profile comics to perform on stage. At least five nights a week, the club holds various events such as open mic night, Drink & Draw, improv night and so much more.
The pandemic has had a huge impact on Q.E.D., and Crews had frustrations with Cuomo, but she does not want to concentrate on the past. She praised New York Senator Chuck Schumer for supporting New York’s arts industry by including the Save Our Stages Act in a bipartisan COVID relief bill that passed in December of 2020.
“The reason we are still here is because of the tremendous hard work and activism and support that Senator Schumer provided,” she said. “He was a huge champion of the arts and strongly supported us through the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant. He was on the phone with us. He called us right away when the amendment was passed. The amount of work that that man has and he was still so hands-on and understood the dire straits we were in.”
Despite the many struggles Crews faced during the pandemic, such as the loss of her father and operations of a venue that is still struggling as a result of COVID-19, she’s focusing on the “positive side.”
“I am just really shocked and pleasantly surprised at how I became an advocate and a leader for the industry from the performer’s standpoint but also as a venue owner standpoint,” Crews said. “We got the comedy club owners all over New York state to coalesce. We created the Comedy Coalition. So that part was really life-affirming. It’s just like, oh yeah, I’ve got leadership qualities and I deserve success with the community because I worked so hard. I do care so much about the arts in general and not just comedy, of course.”
Recently, voters of TimeOut New York voted Q.E.D. as the best comedy club in New York City. Crews believe that there are several reasons why TimeOut voters chose Q.E.D. as number one.
“I think that the fact that TimeOut NY voters are locals who support local places. Of course, they are going to like a place like this. This is where they feel welcome. They don’t have that two-drink minimum. It’s affordable. It’s accessible, and you’re not part of 400 tourists shoved in, elbow to elbow. Then you get to meet and hang out with the performers. And yeah, it’s a nice vibe,” Crews said. “Plus, we offer so much more than comedy.”