Local comedy duo finds stride in market performances

Darren Puccala, Life&Arts General Reporter

Chuckles and belly laughs echo through the aisles of Friendly Rio Market as shoppers pass by the Red Bull fridge decorated with posters for old music and comedy shows. In front of the freezers stocked full of various beverages sits mounted speakers, bright lights and microphones in the hands of the comedians performing at Rio Market for their Saturday night shows. 

“Business Hours,” a comedy show featuring local comedians Zain Hussain and Carlos Morrison, premiered at West Campus’ Friendly Rio Market on July 29 and has since hosted weekly comedy shows in the store on Saturday nights. Before COVID-19, the duo performed comedic sketches at various venues. After their two-year hiatus, Hussain and Carlos said they found themselves looking for a space to perform and found Rio Market to be their perfect match.  

“This was so ephemeral,” said Kandace Medina, a comic who performed at the market Aug. 13. “It was one of the coolest sets and one of the coolest moments I’ve had since doing comedy.” 

Medina, who shared the stage with Carlos and Zain before, immediately jumped on board with the idea of the two performing at Rio Market because of its bizarre yet cozy atmosphere. 

“Being in such an intimate setting was truly so unique and so fun,” Medina said. “The fact that people are performing and there are people coming in to buy alcohol while another comic was on stage. I went out after my set and people were saying, ‘What the hell’s going on?’”

While many might consider a convenience store an odd location for a comedy set, Morrison and Hussain, a radio-television-film senior, said the abnormality of the setting lends itself to the humor of the show. 

“There aren’t that many weekly shows in town,” Morrison said. “It’s a lot of fun. There’s a difference in traffic. I’m pretty surprised by how many people have been showing up.” 

When Hussain first visited Rio Market during his search for the perfect comedy venue, he said he was met with musical performances and took an instant liking to the store that predominantly featured local musicians.

“There were just two dudes with guitars. They were playing ‘Careless Whisper’ by George Michael,” Hussain said. “I liked the vibe there.”

Despite Rio Market’s previous focus on music performances, Hussain and Morrison created a space for their comedy act, performing weekly shows. While starting with worries about gaining audiences, the comedic duo said their doubts have now subsided as Rio Market braces for the full return of students to West Campus. 

The market’s aspirations were established by store owner Mukul Seth, who said his desire to hold performances at the store does not come from a monetary point of view, but instead a desire to form a community and a safe space for college students to have fun.

“We don’t charge anything to the people. We don’t charge anything to the crowd,” Seth said. “The reason we do it is to make it a community where, if students are getting bored at home, they can come to us.”