Hanging next to the bar inside Q.E.D. Astoria is a pencil-drawn portrait of Van Halen’s David Lee Roth in a robe with his arms righteously uplifted. The singer and frontman of Van Halen is the venue’s unofficial patron saint and mascot.
“Heroes don’t always look like you think they look,” Kambri Crews, the owner of the small comedy and storytelling stage, says.
Celebrating five years of Q.E.D. on Oct. 10, she has been a hero of sorts to comedians of all skill levels and locals needing a space to create.
At only 1,200 square feet with a capacity of just 70 people, Q.E.D. is Astoria’s only comedy club that caters to both famous and new comics, giving them both a stage to try out their bits without the pressure of a large venue. Every night has a lineup of programming, from open mics to single comics and variety shows.
Q.E.D’s mission from the start was to be a low-stakes venue, Crews said.
“People used to ask ‘Why would anyone come to Astoria to perform for a small crowd,’ and I’d say ‘Why not? They perform for small crowds in Bushwick and Manhattan,’ ” said Crews, who previously owned Ochi’s Lounge and worked as a producer and publicist for Comix NY and as a comedy booker for the 92nd Street Y. “I wanted to mix highbrow and lowbrow to make it accessible. We’re all trying here and we need a place to try without feeling under pressure to pack it out.”
Major comedians and speakers such as Jim Gaffigan, Leslie Jones, Kate McKinnon, Michelle Wolf, Janeane Garofalo, Sasheer Zamata, Michelle Buteau and Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez have appeared at Q.E.D.
The Jim Gaffigan Show even featured it in a bit about comedy clubs in New York City, with the premise being that Q.E.D. was such a niche club that Gaffigan needed three recommendations to get into the room.
“It was a wink and a nod to the Q.E.D. audience — it’s not really that … it has a warmth to it,” said author and Jim’s wife/manager Jeannie Gaffigan. “As a performer, you want a warm audience and welcoming atmosphere. Comics can perform at whatever level of career they’re at. It’s a utopian comedy space.”
The Gaffigans, Crews and her husband, comic Christian Finnegan, have been in the same comedy circles since the early 2000s. They worked together on the Gaffigan episode in 2016.
Crews has also stocked Jeannie Gaffigan’s new book “When Life Gives You Pears: The Healing Power of Family, Faith, and Funny People” in Q.E.D.’s library to support her friend.
“Q.E.D. is a very supportive community that comes from the heart of Kambri,” Jeannie Gaffigan said. “When you’re a certain type of person who puts your heart into something, it spreads goodness to the whole community.”
But Q.E.D. isn’t only for comedians. The venue serves as an outlet for board game gurus with weekly game nights, the crafting curious with knitting, crocheting and other classes and a space where the community can gather for a clothing swap.
With five years under her belt, Crews says Q.E.D. has become the place she first envisioned, despite major challenges she’s faced, including getting breast cancer.
“Had I known what I know now I don’t know that I would have said ‘yes’ to this,” she admitted. “On dark days when I wonder why I have done this and I say that it is the best worst thing I’ve ever done to myself. But every day, somebody tells me how much this place has made a difference in their lives. It’s just a joy.”
Looking ahead to another five years, Crews expects Q.E.D. will expand at some point, but she’s waiting for the universe to point her “in the right direction.”