I usually don’t single out a comedy club or play favorites. However, as I call it a wrap on the standup touring at the end of the year, obviously there is a lot of reflection going through my mind with each place I play, perhaps for the last time, and one particular venue does hold extra special meaning for me.
This Friday and Saturday you can catch shows at the Comedy & Magic Club in Hermosa Beach, CA. If you aren’t familiar with this place, you should make it a point to get there. It is like a “temple” to comedians. The greats have all played there, headlining, doing guest sets or crafting material for a special. George Carlin worked out his specials there all the way til the end of his life. When Chris Rock was honing jokes for hosting the Oscars, he went on before me when I was headlining that week. Same for Garry Shandling for the Emmys, so if a comic wants to play an audience “in town” with an out of town feel, the Comedy Magic Club is the place to go. Jay Leno performs at the club every Sunday for 30 years, which is a real testament to the character and integrity of the venue and its owner, Mike Lacy. He’s not Hollywood jaded and neither are his customers.
My first memory of the place took place in or around 1988, when I had just arrived from Philadelphia. I took a date there to gauge if she had what is key to a relationship – a good sense of humor. After all, the six-pack abs eventually turn into a keg and the mane of dark hair becomes thin and gray, so the laughs better be aplenty for a long-term commitment to someone. Funny enough, she and I didn’t make it past a dozen or so dates back then, but we eventually ran into one another a decade later and she became my wife! But, joke’s on me, she didn’t like being married to a standup comic and we split up. So much for women wanting a sense of humor!
The show that night in the late 80s was stellar and star packed. I still recall the energy I had not felt in the east coast clubs. This experience was more electric and bright than what I was accustomed to. You’re a block from the ocean and sitting amongst Californians, who are the polar opposite of the dark and smoky rooms I cut my teeth in. Where I come from, it was combat comedy, a “make me laugh” attitude, with hecklers challenging you to be good (and sometimes even your manhood). This was different. Excitement filled the air. Even the color schemes were brighter.
Did I just say “color scheme?” Good lord, I’ve been in LA too long…
The opening act was an unknown, who looked so young, he opened his act with, “hey, I’m David Spade, I’m TEN. My mother dropped me off. She’s grocery shopping at Ralphs." Next up was a guy who was on fire at that time, due to the popularity of his SNL character, The Church Lady. Dana Carvey killed it, and the audience went crazy every time he said the catch phrase, “isn’t that SPECIAL?”
Closing out the show was SNL cast member and weekend update host, Dennis Miller, who ripped up the sold out crowd with sharp, clever material, always extending your mind with uncommon words and expressions, seemingly plucked from a pocket thesaurus.
I can still freeze that night in my mind’s eye, remembering just how extraordinary it was. Sitting in an audience is not what I usually do, since almost every weekend for the past thirty years has been me on a stage as the court jester. I recall really enjoying being amongst the crowd. It was relaxing, simply to be an anonymous part of the vibe, not the cause of it. No performance anxiety. I saved that for my hot date when I took her back to the apartment. Yeah, baby…
I thought to myself that I would do anything to be on that Comedy & Magic Club stage, so I too could enjoy myself as much as the three future comic icons I saw that night. I envisioned being asked to work that room, but part of me thought it could never happen, since only the best play that place.
Well, a few months later, comedian George Wallace introduced me to Mike and I was asked to do a guest set. It must have been a good choice of material. I have headlined that stage every year since 1990, and am beyond grateful and honored to do so. The south bay folks seem to resonate with this Philly boy for some reason. The feelings are mutual…
So, if you live anywhere in Southern California, please try to make it down there this weekend. You will be hahahappy you did…
Certainly there are many other places to see the Lovemaster’s final road tour this year. Go to Craigshoemaker.com for upcoming appearances. Or www.CraigShoemakerShow.com to download 100s of hours of podcasts for your headphones.
Take laughter seriously!
My upcoming tour dates:
May 23-24 – Comedy Magic, Hermosa Beach, CA
May 28- Cap City, Austin, Texas
May 30-June 1 – LOL San Antonio, San Antonio, Texas
June 6-8 Improv Pittsburgh
June 12-14 Improv Irvine, CA
June 18 – Zanies, Nashville, TN
June 20-21 – Stardome, Hoover, AL
June 26-29 Improv Ontario, Ontario, CA