Is Miami in the Middle of a Comedy Crisis?

Categories: Comedy

miami-improv-small.jpg
Hannah Sentenac
The recently closed Miami Improv.
Comedy venues in South Florida are closing. Earlier this year -- as recently as two months ago -- there were more places than ever to perform and watch stand-up comedy.

But in recent months, traditional clubs and independent rooms have shut down, and comedians and fans are left wondering what happened and where to find some laughs.

See also: Miami Improv in Coconut Grove Shuts Down, Seeks New Miami Location

Big Clubs Closing
The Miami Improv is no more. The official press release cited the financial reasons. Essentially the economic downturn prevented the Mayfair area from shaping up to be the high-traffic outdoor mall it never was.

Now that the only A-list comedy club in Miami has shut down, fewer funny people will be coming to town. Fans will have to drive to Fort Lauderdale or West Palm to see big name comics not yet playing theaters. That, and a lot of 305 phone numbers won't be "winning" free "VIP" tickets to this weekend's show.

But the day before the Improv's thunder-stealing Nov. 6 press release, the only B-list club in South Florida closed. The Catskills Comedy Club closed quietly via Facebook with a post inviting everyone to see the last show -- a bittersweet, hilariously underattended affair with classically spaced out elderly couple front row gaping up at a gyrating, soaking wet Carl Rimi. I'm honored I caught it. It was a small strip-mall room off Oakland Park Blvd in Fort Lauderdale, and had only reopened this year after a stint under the name of the Fort Lauderdale Comedy Club. It was not ideal, but that's the charm of B clubs. They're out of the way, the drinks are cheaper, and the old saying is the talent is either on the way up or on the way down. B rooms are integral for a healthy scene. And the South Florida scene just lost a great one.

Indie Shut Downs
Local independent rooms also felt the pain. In Coral Gables the Wednesday open mic at Open Stage Club was ended, though the venue will still have comedy occasionally. The weekly Thursday open mic at Moonchine off Biscayne closed due to promoter and management differences. (I hosted that one.) Brickell's urban beach house the Hoxton closed suddenly the night of a monthly show I also ran there. Also closed was Brickell Irish Pub, which ran a weekly comedy show.

But the biggest loss in this category was the monthly Mustache Ride show at now-closed Lester's in Wynwood. Jessica Gross started it about three years ago and cohosted it with Irene Morales. It was always the second Wednesday of the month (the day after Casa de Haha) and the Wynwood hipster (don't call us that!) environment was always relaxed and engaged. I saw unique sets from every local headliner and random pop-ins by Yannis Pappas and Kumail Nanjiani. The venue and event will be missed.

The Bit Goes On
With zero comedy clubs and smaller rooms closing in a flurry, it feels like Miami's comedy scene took a frying pan to the face and is watching tiny winged Chris Hardwick (he is everywhere) circle its head. But breathe and zoom out, comedy lovers: while we've lost some great venues, there's reason for hope. Indies will keep the scene alive as they've always done. There are still great rooms up north like Boca's The Funky Buddha and Hollywood's Tuesday mic at PRL Cafe, and down south like the Friday shows at The Comedy Inn and everything at Artistic Vibes. Also worth checking out: Alex Morizio's Kill Your Idol Fridays on the beach, monthly Art Walk shows at Wynwood salon Junior & Hatter, and *ahem* my showcases Casa de Haha every second Tuesday in Little Haiti's Sweat Records, and first and third Tuesdays at Elwoods Gastro Pub downtown.

The Miami Improv will be back when they find a space that works for their bottom line. A new B club already opened at Trio on the Bay (apparently backed by Mike Epps). Beginner comedians will find low-key and all arts open mics; intermediates will entrench or move away; and South Florida's local headliners will continue grasping for any gigs they can. It's never been easy here (the '80s don't count) so it hurts to lose these heaving chunks. Until we realize the scene they fell from is bigger and brighter than it has ever been, that is. 2014 will be hilarious.

--Daniel Reskin

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23 comments
WhyNotNow
WhyNotNow topcommenter

I'm telling you all, get to overtown! Buy a cheap building. Then you won't have to move. Build it and they will come.

bgemag
bgemag

Fear not South Florida we have not lost comedy but has gained BIG TIME. With the Grand Opening of South Florida's newest and only comedy club JOKES ON THE BEACH COMEDY CLUB Formerly Trios On The Bay located at 1601 79th Street Causeway. Mike Epps and Lenny Moore along with partners Barry Smith and his wife Betsy have hit a home run with this one and the timing could not have been better. I guess all the other comedy spots saw this one coming and decided to close up shop. Jokes On The Beach Comedy Club is no doubt one of the most upscale, classy yet sexiest Comedy clubs in the country. We're talking about over 23,000 square feet of eloquence along with the most picturesque view of any club or restaurant in South Florida. It's a Comedy Club every night of the week with such big names like Mike Epps, Earthquake, Gary Owens, Ricky Smiley, DL Hugley, The Wayan Brothers, Somore, Carlos Mencia, Charlie Murphy, Bill Burr, Ellen DeGeneres and many others on deck to headline in the near future. We're talking 5 Star dining with very reasonable prices. Grand Opening is New Year's Eve Tuesday Night December 31st with Funny Man J. Anthony Brown hosting. Tickets are only $25 in advance and $35 and up the day of the show. Get your Tickets at jokesonthebeach.com or call 786 408-4447. You haven't lost comedy South Florida, you just gained a power house of a 5 Star Comedy Club. See you New Year's Eve.

Victor Runciman
Victor Runciman

That's because they ONLY book INCOMPETENT FOOLS such as George Lopez, Gabriel Iglesias, Carlos Mencia, etc.

Michael Bear Arlt
Michael Bear Arlt

Miami had a good scene at one time. South Florida turned into a boring place so I split. If you want fun, come to Philly.

James Kelley
James Kelley

How about the lack of (real) live music venues? Major shame. Such an unhip place. jimk

garbage
garbage

This article was written with an agenda

Cary Gonzalez
Cary Gonzalez

Miami is one endless comedy scene. People watching at the various "cultural and artsy" events is more than worth the price of admission and George Carlin worthy lulz.

Quills AV Rodriguez
Quills AV Rodriguez

miami actually has a great scene if you know where to look and this article actually mentions some really great places. So there is def. a scene. Been lucky to be a part of it for over 3 years now.

Phil Ramirez
Phil Ramirez

Hard Rock is not Miami, not part of the " Metro Area"

Lee Glick
Lee Glick

The improv at the hard Rock works fine for me.

Phil Ramirez
Phil Ramirez

Has Miami ever had an "ANYTHING" scene?!

nepatis
nepatis

overlong (unfunny) casa plug

Steve Klare
Steve Klare

no can't press 1 for Spanish or 2 for English .

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