When she launched the weekly Weirdo Wednesday Supper Club five years ago, Amy Farrand had one intent in mind.
“I wanted to do a variety show,” she said, “something bizarre, something carnival-like. Something no one else was doing.”
So on a cold December night in 2009, at the now-defunct Czar Bar, she unveiled the first of what would be more than 150 shows. It was an inauspicious debut.
“It was all right,” she said. “The talent was fine. It was poorly attended. Some friends came and said, ‘Nobody’s gonna come see this. It will fail.’”
Wednesday night, Farrand will host the final Weirdo Wednesday Supper Club at Davey’s Uptown Ramblers Club, its home since April 2010. It will be the 166th show in a series that has undergone changes throughout its five years but remained faithful to its founder’s mission: be different.
“Amy always said ‘anything goes,’” said Tyson Schroeder, an artist, musician and repeat Weirdo Wednesday performer. “There weren’t any boundaries.”
Farrand didn’t set boundaries, but she apparently crossed them, at least once. Her time at the Czar Bar ended abruptly in March 2010.
“We did a burqa burlesque skit,” she said. “And an employee objected.”
And after a clash of wills, she ended up looking for a new host venue. Michelle Markowitz, owner of Davey’s, said yes right away. So Farrand acted swiftly to relaunch the show.
“I designed a stage,” she said. “I sewed the curtains, sewed seatback covers and tablecloths. I turned the room into a tiny theater.”
She staged shows weekly through 2012 — roughly 50 a year, taking holidays into account, and each week was different, a skewed vaudevillian experience. Burlesque dancers, drag queens, mimes, puppeteers, comedians, jugglers and musicians.
The show became a weekly ritual for some of its audience. It also became a place for like-thinking creative types to meet and mingle.
“I think it was in 2010 a friend recommended I get a CD to Amy,” said songwriter Burnie Booth, a Weirdo Wednesday regular who goes by the name Folkicide Mercury. “She booked me almost immediately.
“Playing Weirdo Wednesday was such a perfect fit for Folkicide. I met a cast of misfit characters that are still in my orbit, including Diamond Dan, who stripped for one of my videos, and Mikal Shapiro, who directed it. I owe Amy a debt of gratitude for letting me play her supper club.”
Farrand curated and hosted the show, which was typically a juggling act in itself.
“Weirdo Wednesday was a beautiful disaster,” said actress and dancer Annie Montgomery, who performs as Annie Cherry. “Some numbers were super-polished, some made up on the spot. Sometimes people didn’t show up.”
Farrand, a singer/songwriter, is prepared for late scratches and no-shows.
“At first, when acts canceled, I used to scramble to find a replacement,” she said. “But I can sing. I can play music. So I bring my guitar just in case.”
She has regularly added extra attractions, like a masseuse and a tarot card reader. And each supper club is catered, always with a vegetarian option.
Farrand said she had no “favorite” performer. Rather, she has been proudest of the show when it made the audience react and respond.
“I’ve never pulled an act from stage, even if it’s not great,” she said. “I think it’s funny to make an audience uncomfortable. If it gets any reaction at all, I’ve done my job. The worst it could be is boring. If you’re mad or uncomfortable, you’re not bored.
“And if you shock them, even better. We have laws in this city about nudity. You can’t even see nipples at a strip club in this town anymore. But … we’ve seen them at our show.”
The show’s spirit encouraged performers to take risks and be daring.
“It was a place to bring our newest and strangest performances to a room full of supportive peers — and a few stray drunks — and get a hundred hugs afterward,” Montgomery said.
“But you always knew you had to bring your ‘A’ game,” Schroeder said. “This wasn’t some open-mic variety show. If you were going to get on her stage, and it was her stage, you better go for broke or you knew she would call you out on it.”
In 2013, Farrand cut back from weekly shows to quarterly shows, and she started charging a $5 cover.
“I did not like not being able to pay the performers,” she said.
After some of her more loyal followers clamored for more than just four shows a year, she started a monthly format in January. At some point this year, she decided it was time to stop for good. She talks candidly about a recent battle with “morbid depression,” which sent her into a personal and creative tailspin from which she only recently emerged.
“There are a lot of reasons why it’s time to quit,” she said. “Five years seems like a good block of time for an art experiment. It feels like there’s no new ground to be covered, and I don’t want to go through the motions.”
For the finale, she has booked some regulars and favorites, including the Cosmic Tady Brothers, Jazzbo and Diamond Dan, who will do his “boylesque” routine one more time. Some of the show’s and Farrand’s biggest fans have been its performers.
“Amy was the perfect emcee,” Booth said. “She was just gut-wrenching funny, and God have mercy on the audience member that talked during her monologues. She would decimate them, and that was always delightful.”
“Amy grew it from a concept to a happening to a phenomenon,” Montgomery said. “She evolved from the gal with the idea to a full-fledged professional comic emcee. I am grateful to have been a part of it all. It was yet another reason to call this artistic hotbed we live in home.”
The final Weirdo Wednesday Supper Club starts at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at Davey’s Uptown Ramblers Club, 3402 Main St. Admission is $5. Performers will include the Cosmic Tady Brothers, Jazzbo, Mark Vick, Tyson Schroeder, Eartha Delights and Diamond Dan.