If you’re sitting in traffic and hear Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline” being belted out by a busload of smiling faces, you’re probably witnessing Comedy Bus City Tours in action, a riotous interactive experience that brings together comedy, music, and community. “It’s a food truck for jokes,” says comedian and marketing director Steve Donovan, of the R-rated live stand-up show on wheels.
Donovan is part of a crew that includes husband and wife team Mike and Jena Seiber Keller, who founded the business after enjoying similar excursions in cities like Austin. With backgrounds in hospitality, they also wanted their lineups to showcase Providence and its restaurant scene. They purchased a retired school bus in February of 2020 (do you see where this is going?) and then COVID slammed on the breaks. The refurbished bus was parked until October 2022, when the first Comedy Bus City Tour rolled out, and hasn’t stopped since.
“Ticket sales alone speak to the excitement that we’re bringing to Providence,” says Jena. “We’ve been sold out quite a few times. People are booking in advance. It’s kind of the hot new thing.” Passengers are excited to check out city sights while being entertained by two comics, and making stops at food and drinking establishments. Guests can bring their own wine and beer – no hard alcohol – and there are always surprises along the way. The bus has been refitted for a more mature audience, not the kids it was originally designed to transport to school every day. Seats are comfortable, each with their own cupholder, and, yes, there is a bathroom.
As ambassadors of the city, the Comedy Bus highlights locally owned establishments. Tours begin at Brass Monkey on Allens Avenue, and have included stops at Revival Brewing, Moonshine Alley, Black Sheep, Sport & Leisure, and The Patio on Broadway, with different stops added each month. A recent private event had the bus stop by Brewology in Smithfield.
Funnyman Donovan brings decades of stand-up cred having performed across the country, along with a long history as a well-known regional radio personality. He explains that it’s more than a bus tour or a comedy show. “We’re connecting people in a deeper way. It’s much more interactive. People are singing together, waving at people on the street together, and, most importantly, having fun.” With their success, a brunch option was recently added, which extends the tour to three hours and includes stops at two restaurants, and there are plans to expand to other areas with Newport topping the list.
“There is so much going on with every tour,” explains Donovan. “We want people to have fun and leave feeling good. We can all use a little more of that in our lives.”
Ninety-minute comedy tours run each weekend at 2:30, 4:30 and 6:30pm; brunch tours are Saturday and Sunday at 11am. The Comedy Bus is also available for private events. Learn more at ComedyBus.net
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