Is Miami in the Middle of a Comedy Crisis?
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.
Hannah Sentenac The recently closed Miami Improv.
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.
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.
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