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The 9:55 Club at Chuggers

A 10 for 9:55

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Let's start with the bottom line: A 9:55 Club performance is free. Absolutely no charge. Keeping this fact in mind can greatly enhance the enjoyment of this refreshing entertainment experiment. It's not that the 9:55 Club is worthless — far from it. But when you realize just how much you get for nothing, this diverse mixture of music and comedy becomes one of the best entertainment values around.

The "Club" is a cadre of stand-up comedians with a few musicians thrown in. In the course of a two-hour show, more than a dozen performers scamper across the tiny performance space at Chuggers, a bar in the heart of VCU's downtown campus.

Most of the comedians get just five minutes of stage time. For many of them, that's a good thing. There are some absolute beginners here, and it shows. But there are also some killer diamonds in this rough. In particular, watch out for Matt Boyle, smart and sardonic with a slightly diabolical edge. On the night I saw him, his hilarious bit about a child tormenting a grasshopper had the audience howling. Boyle seems polished enough to hit the pro circuit. Heck, with drivel like "Titus" on the tube, this is one guy who might want to head straight to L.A..

Others showed promise, too: Matthew Didner's delivery was a little stiff, but his material was first-rate, including a perceptive skewering of the current presidential candidates. The suave charm of Thandi Woodard had the audience eating out of his hand, though his actual joke count was relatively low.

Generating the most belly-laughs of the evening were the delightfully wicked songs of Dick Buttkiss and the Tight Ends. In their acoustic romps, Dick and the boys used spunky down-home harmonies to make necrophilia, incest and bestiality seem as innocent as square dancing. Fun like this has never come so cheap. The 9:55 Club performs at Chuggers, 900 W. Franklin St., at 9 p.m. Mondays. Admission is free.

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