Previously: Unseasoned comics who were eager to perform at one of Greg Estrada's amateur comedy nights kept striking out. With all his slots booked weeks in advance, Greg advised them to start their own show to guarantee themselves stage time.

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Episode 10

Greg estrada was tapping away on his laptop at the back of Dr. Dremo's Taphouse in Arlington one Wednesday night when a 23-year-old comedian plopped down beside him. Kojo Mante was smiling from ear to ear as he announced his news: He and two friends were producing their very own comedy show that Friday night at a Fairfax venue called Bridges.

Greg had already heard something about this, but he still groaned. Friday night! He himself had been trying, without any success, to pull together a Friday night show. Most venues simply didn't need live entertainment to attract customers on the weekends, Greg had discovered.

"You're probably going to get a bigger crowd than I ever have, just because it's Friday night," Greg told Mante. He worried aloud that his lineup of Thursday night comics would abandon him to perform at a Friday show.

Mante eventually stood up to leave, saying he hoped Greg could make it to his show.

Greg smiled and said he would try. With Mante barely out of earshot, Greg turned and whispered, "You see, I was just pretending to be his friend."

That was a joke, of course. But Greg was anxious to check out the show to carry out what he called "industrial espionage."

"I'm pretty sure they're going to steal my ideas," he said.

There was only one problem. Greg had already promised to spend time Friday night with his girlfriend, Lia. She hadn't openly complained, but Greg suspected that she didn't appreciate how much time he'd been spending on comedy lately. In fact, Lia said she wasn't worried: "I think he is trying to figure out how to balance his life -- work, comedy, and me and Jackson. I'm glad that he is striving for a balance."

Greg's passion for stand-up has sometimes spilled into the couple's dates. Though he never eats red meat, Greg once took Lia to dinner at an elegant steakhouse. She ordered chicken, and he had salmon. They drank red wine. It was romantic, sure, but the restaurant also had a private room that Greg was checking out. Perhaps a good venue for a future show, he figured.

Soon after his conversation with Mante, Greg got an e-mail from one of his funniest regular comics, who said he was bailing on that week's Thursday show. Paranoia immediately gripped Greg. Was it any coincidence, he wondered, that this comic was slated to perform the very next day at Mante's opening show?

-- Tyler Currie