Photo by Ash Daniel
Beau Cribbs takes a call during the “RVA Tonight Help Desk” segment.
RVA TONIGHT! I want to yell it from the mountaintops. After seeing the live late show hosted by Beau Cribbs at the Coalition Theater, I feel like all is well with the world — or at least with Richmond. There’s nothing like busting a gut laughing amongst a crowd of other people busting their guts laughing, and the fast-paced, acerbic nature of the show maintains a high level of gut-busting. Local celebrities, wacko live “commercials,” musical guests, a house band, a straight-man sidekick … RVA Tonight has it all. And wrangling those elements with great ease from his giant fake microphone is Cribbs, who probably could talk his way out of grand larceny. (Please note: Beau Cribbs is in no way a grand larceny suspect. He’s just a really, really good host.)
The show emerged from the classic “wouldn’t it be cool if …” mental note scenario. “A couple of years ago, I had the live late show idea — and I thought, ‘Man, I hope somebody does that.’ And then I went on with the rest of my day,” Cribbs says with a laugh. So when Matt Newman, Cribbs’ buddy since the fourth grade, opened the comedy-centric Coalition Theater, the notion of who that “somebody” would be started to get clearer. Cribbs pitched the show and got Newman’s full support, and on June 6, 2014, RVA Tonight was born. Was it successful? Well, picture this: Cribbs made a joke in his monologue about Sen. Tim Kaine endorsing Hillary Clinton for president before she’d even announced her candidacy, and Newman, who fills the Paul Shaffer-esque sidekick role, kept revisiting it through the night, prodding and asking questions — until Kaine himself made his way
to the stage to confirm his views in person. The crowd went ballistic. (Cribbs, it should be noted, was Kaine’s executive aide during the last 2 1/2 years of his term as governor.)
I saw the Feb. 6 show, in which WWBT-NBC12 meteorologist Andrew Freiden reflected on his experience with spa nudity and fame. As he mentioned, it’s probably the last place you’d want random strangers to recognize you. Alison Barber, owner of adult novelty store Taboo, also graced the stage to show off a few … potential Valentine’s Day gifts. Cribbs had some questions, like, “Why would anyone bend this like that?” — which Barber graciously and informatively answered for him. Folky singer-songwriter Alison Self filled the two-song musical-guest slot with rollicking good fun, and the icing on the cake was the house band, Gabe Santamaria and Studio 804, with bass lines and sax-y intros that rounded things out with a professional, we’ve-been-doing-this-for-years feel. (Band leader Santamaria also performs with local funk ensemble The Flavor Project, so he was an obvious choice for creating the late-show vibe.)
A minimum of 13 Coalition Theater team members make up the cast and crew of RVA Tonight for each performance, including writers, improv actors, graphic designers and stagehands. “Without them, the show would be in my mom’s basement,” Cribbs says. “It would be Wayne’s World — or not even. It would be me talking to a wall. My name’s on the show, but it’s actually a big group of people working really hard to make it happen … and it’s made a hundred times easier knowing that we all trust each other.”
Historically, late-night shows have been there to make us laugh, but they’ve also helped to reveal the humanity we all share and lighten the political tone of an era. Cribbs, of course, has been watching talk shows since he was a kid — starting with David Letterman, and working his way through to Conan O’Brien and Stephen Colbert. “We’ve found ourselves looking up Conan clips to be sure he hadn’t done what we wanted to do,” Cribbs notes. “And sometimes he had! I knew I liked Conan very much, but I didn’t realize how much the comedic sensibilities of our generation were shaped by him. But as for Stephen Colbert, [who] I watched from college and beyond, I went from enjoying late-night TV to extrapolating why it was so insanely funny — and determining what I would have done differently. Colbert was the first one who made me want to study it.”
We can all be glad for that. RVA Tonight is the first of its kind in Richmond, and it’s blazing a brilliant path for itself. Sold-out shows are already the name of the game, so if you want to catch the next one (and you do), head to rvatonight.com or
rvacomedy.com for tickets. The next shows are set for April 3 and June 5, which coincide with First Fridays. They begin at 10 p.m., and tickets are $10.