By Haley Frederick
Pittsburgh Current Managing Editor
I’m meeting Erick Williams in Carnegie because he’s on a show tonight at Apis Mead and Winery. When I’m considering the local food options, I see that Hey Tabouli is going to be serving up their Lebanese menu at Apis that night.
I do a quick google and find next to nothing about Hey Tabouli. But admittedly I’m intrigued by the elusiveness of it all—in the age of information we’re all used to getting answers, and since Google doesn’t have them this time, I have to go find out for myself. So mead and Lebanese food it is.
We get to Apis around 6 p.m. Hey Tabouli is setting up its table with slow cookers and ice trays stocked with containers of hummus. The show, “Hurry Up, Say Something Funny!” is a crowd work comedy show presented by the Epicast Network on Thursdays at Apis Mead. Day Bracey (comedian, podcaster, Fresh Fest organizer, and beer columnist for this very paper) hosts the show.
“It’s the only show in Pittsburgh where the crowd is encouraged to heckle,” Williams says.
While he says crowd work isn’t necessarily his forte, he sees this as an opportunity to challenge himself and step outside his comfort zone. A show that focuses on crowd interaction gives comics new and old the opportunity to work some different muscles.
Williams thinks that newer comedians are often so focused on getting their set down that they don’t know how to change course and handle an unexpected heckle or a completely unresponsive audience.
“At a certain point, people realize it’s not just about the set,” he says. “You get those moments where jokes don’t work or the crowd doesn’t bite on something but you know how to just be you in that moment and make it work anyway—to be live. That’s the most important thing in live comedy.”
Since Williams is on the show, he drinks for free. I decide to get a flight of five meads. There’s a pretty long list to choose from. A bartender says that the Dorsata is the most classic mead with just honey and water, so I get that one. Then I get the Hopped Passionfruit and Hopped Pineapple because he says the hops help balance the sweetness, and then Lemon Bourbon and Peach Apricot because they just sound good.
The hopped meads are my favorite—they do have the most manageable sweetness to me—and Peach Apricot is a runner up.
Williams used to host a variety open mic at Cannon Coffee in Brookline and then after that closed, they moved to the Brookline Teen Outreach Center. He says a huge range of acts, from hip hop to stand up to poetry, and people of all ages came through, but it ran its course and they decided to end the regular open mic there this past year. But he is hosting the first annual reunion show at the Outreach Center in August to carry on the mic in some capacity.
Now his most regular show is a podcast with Vince Didiano called “POVincent.”
“Every week we go out and watch a movie and then we come back and are like, ‘Hey, this was the movie,’” he says. “We discuss movie news, we B.S., get tangential—it’s a good time.”
They’ve been doing the podcast for a year now. It streams live on Twitch and then gets uploaded on The River’s Edge website. While they do sometimes get into the weeds of the movie business or do a serious critique, Williams assures me that he’s “always looking for the laugh in things.”
Apis is starting to fill up as the show gets closer. The Hey Tabouli table seems popular, and we go up once the line dies down. There’s a menu hanging on the wall with about ten items listed. I get the spicy chicken and lubia (green beans and tomatoes) with rice and Williams gets the same plus the lamb meatballs.
The man filling our styrofoam containers loads them up with spoonful after spoonful of food. He hands it to me and it must weigh at least two pounds. There’s definitely enough for me to have three meals. Then the man brings us a plate of avocado hummus, just because.
It’s not just quantity, it’s quality. The chicken is spiced perfectly and everything together in the container forms a delicious stew as the rice soaks up the juices.
And it also feels like it can’t be bad for you. It’s not greasy or laden with butter. As long as you don’t try to eat the whole thing at once, you’ll walk away feeling good.
“This is really good,” I say.
“I’m just thrilled that there’s a food truck that has vegetables,” says Willaims.
The Hey Tabouli mystery has been solved. We each do our best to make a dent in our Lebanese plates as more and more local comics arrive—some to be on the show, and some just to watch (and probably heckle). They gather to get ready and Williams goes to join them