A gaggle of comics take the stage. Most of them are stoned; one is sober. Can you find the straight one?
That’s the premise of Weeding Out The Stoned, a game show from Jersey City-based comedian Alex Grubard that celebrates recreational cannabis. Developed at a comedy festival in Philadelphia in 2015, Grubard has taken the concept nationwide and brings the laugh-packed show to Sip Studios on Saturday, February 26.
Dubbed “The Game Show of Sobriety Tests,” Weeding Out The Stoned has sold out shows at WFMU’s Monty Hall and at Asylum in New York City as well as at venues in Philadelphia, Denver, Portland, and other cities. Grubard will take the show on the road for a nine-city national tour in April.
“It began in Philadelphia as a part of a festival called “Five Dollar Comedy Week,” explained Grubard. “That consisted of 30 brand-new shows with elements of stand up, sketch comedy, and improv. I pitched Weeding Out The Stoned, and God, they accepted it. It was a big hit right away.”
Although Grubard considers himself a stand up comic, he turned to emceeing and promoting his own concepts to supplement his income. “I had already been experimenting with game shows; I had done a cursing game show with swear words that was called ‘Curses,’ and that was fun,” he said. “I did a political-themed one that was like a political campaign within an hour, from campaign ads to concession speeches. Stuff like that was fun, and then Weeding Out The Stoned just started selling tickets.”
New Jersey’s implementation of legalized cannabis use has been delayed—again—but Grubard said it never entered into his calculations to begin with. “We don’t even consider it,” he said. “It will happen when it happens.” Until then, his contestants consume their preferred substances offstage.
Grubard said he found the Sip Studio space near Journal Square through a friend, and although it was designed as a soundstage for independent filmmakers, it’s also used as an event space for everything from art shows to screenings to events like his. “It’s perfect for what we do,” he said. “We didn’t want to just do this in a bar like a comedy open mic; we wanted a nice space where the audience could sit down and really get into the show.”
At a Weeding Out The Stoned show, a group of comedians come on stage; all but one is high. Grubard plays the “detective” who administers sobriety tests, asks questions, and plays mind games with the contestants. The audience plays along, eliminating the comics who are high until finally unmasking the sober one.
The pandemic hit the comedy world harder than other forms of live entertainment, Grubard noted. “I think comedy usually trails music in almost everything,” he said. “So, by the time comedy started livestreaming, music had been already been doing it a while. Same for moving shows outdoors. We did outdoor comedy shows, but it took some time to get venues to buy into the idea. So, it’s great we can do this in front of an audience indoors again.”
Weeding Out The Stoned will take place at Sip Studios (140 Sip Avenue, Jersey City) on Saturday, Feb. 26. Tickets for the 9 p.m. show are $20 and available at eventbrite.com.