Jokes on the Beach Wants to Revive Miami's Comedy Scene, But Can It Deliver?
After last week's article on Miami's comedy venues closing en masse, New Times thought the scene needed some comic's relief. But just as both of Miami's comedy clubs closed, a new one emerged: Jokes on the Beach, located inside Trio on the Bay on the 79th Street Causeway.
Courtesy of Jokes on the Beach
Was this business savvy or luck? What role will this new club play in our fractured comedic landscape? We spoke with one of the owners, Lenny Moore, to get the inside story on what Miami's newest (and currently only) stand-up comedy club has in store for us.
The word on the street was that major comedian Mike Epps was backing a new Miami club. The street was partially right, because Jokes is backed by Epps' back; Lenny Moore is Epps' manager and touring opener for the past three years. After years running successfully salacious adult clubs like Black Gold and King of Diamonds, Moore wanted to switch focus from butt cheeks to face cheeks.
"Comedy is more universal. Five percent of the population will visit an adult club, while 95% of the population will visit a comedy club," Moore explains. (Who's more high maintenance, comics or strippers? Moore's longtime general manager Ben confirmed: It's comics for sure.)
Moore carried around his desire to start a comedy club for three years before hearing of the Miami Improv's close a month early. He pooled his connections, formed a corporation, and turned what would have become another liquor store and mini mall into Jokes on the Beach. Timing is everything, in comedy and in clubs.
The original plan, Moore says, was to open a comedy club in South Beach's Fontainebleau Hotel, following the Las Vegas model in which hotels provide entertainment to "keep their guests on property." But there was no permanent space available. "Miami needs something better... we are trying to take it up to a higher notch. When you're walking into the Improv... it's kind of like walking into a movie theater. Basically you're selling popcorn and selling candy and so forth. We are trying to give you a complete experience. You can come in, you can dance, you can dine, drink and you can have comedy. And then afterwards you have a complete after party until five in the morning."
The location on the 79th Street Causeway between Miami Beach and the mainland fits the dual role to which the club aspires. Moore definitely emphasized courting the South Beach crowd. He generously used words like chic, sexy, and upscale. He spoke of five-star dining. He wants the elite, and the tourists: "Between 6 and 10, after they get out of their conventions... they have nothing to do but walk up and down South Beach, window shopping or get something to eat. They have no form of quality entertainment."
He also casually name-dropped rappers including Lil Wayne, Drake, Trick Daddy, and Flo Rida, as well as Miami Heat stars. He hinted that LeBron was curious about stand-up. The venue is definitely working the celebrity angle.
As Moore smothered on the SoBe glitz, this reporter looked down at his wine glass full of water and wondered how many comedy articles I'd need to write to afford a night here. Moore immediately switched gears and reassured me the club will be "a house for the locals," performers and patrons alike. Expect free parking, no cover (except for A-list shows), and a two-drink minimum that is "moderately priced." Twelve bucks for top shelf ain't bad. (Well, it's cheap for the beach and pricy for the locals.)