Andy Erikson

The Hollywood Improv Comedy Club helped nurture the careers of Richard Pryor, Jay Leno and Bette Midler. These days, it's championing the work of two former Minneapolis-based comics.

Andy Erikson and Amber Preston, who cut their teeth at Acme Comedy Club, regularly use the club's smaller space to host Punchline Punchout, a showcase that Erikson originated at the Corner Bar in the Twin Cities' Seven Corners district.

The format -- stand-ups have 12 hours to come up with jokes based on an assigned topic -- has been recently altered to accomodate more participation and less homework. For a packed show Tuesday night, the hosts challenged the evening's lineup to come up with campaign slogans for potential presidential candidate Oprah Winfrey with just 10 minutes to contemplate. The winner got the choice between a collection of tea bags and Japanese cookies.

Erikson, a top-five finalist during the 2015 season of "Last Comic Standing," moved to Los Angeles four years ago, but she hasn't forgotten her Ham Lake roots. She bounded on stage with a University of Minnesota t-shirt covered by a sweater featuring a cat grousing about a snowy winter. Preston, who grew up in Fargo before living in the Twin Cities, compared driving in a LA downpour to maneuvering roads during Midwest snowstorms.

The Punchline Punchout schedule is fairly loose -- check out hollywood.improv.com for updates -- but Erikson plans to be back at Acme in either May or June. Preston also expects to be back in Minnesota sometime soon, but she's got another upcoming gig that's on her mind. She's getting married in April.

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