I’m thinking about opening a comedy club in the downtown area of Houston and would love feedback on whether others think such a business is viable. I don’t know much about the comedy business, but am a big fan, know Houston well and believe there may be a market here for another club. (There is only 1 comedy club in town currently.)
The idea is that it would be a small club which doesn’t try to compete with the Improv for major acts. The Improv is the only comedy club left in Houston, and it is located outside the loop in a mall. The Laff Stop was the last comedy club in Houston located inside the loop, and it closed two years ago. Clearly this is a tough town for comedy these days, yet it is a huge city so it seems there may be a market for another club. I grew up in the era of the Comedy Workshop in Houston, where Sam Kinison, Bill Hicks, Janeane Garofalo, T. Sean Shannon, Brett Butler got there starts. So I know this city has a rich history of comedy and I gotta believe it could support more than just the Improv, which I have trouble believing (I could be wrong) supports the current home growing talent much.
I would face 2 major problems:
1. Getting an audience
2. Booking quality acts who aren’t yet too big for the size of the club
I would be taking over a bar which typically features live bands, which has a long bar down the side and a small stage in the back. I plan on putting in tables, but otherwise not changing it a lot. I want to test the waters to see if this size of a venue in this location can work as a comedy club before making a huge investment. If comedy doesn’t work, it will revert to the sort of bar it already is. Therefore, it will be an unconventional set-up as a comedy club. I might not fill it all with tables, and leave some standing room at the back. There won’t be any food or wait staff -- at least to start with. Therefore it will be a noisier than the usual environment for comedy, which I realize isn’t ideal, yet I don’t see why that in and of itself should keep it from working. Doug Stanhope is coming next month to play a show at a music bar and the Comedians of Comedy tour played a lot of punk clubs -- so clearly comedy can work in settings other than the traditional sit-at-a-table-and-order-some-nachos environment.
My big question is: would I be able to draw enough enough mid-level touring talent to come to Houston -- and would people come out to see comedy regularly without big names on the marquee? I figure that proximity to Austin probably helps, although it’s been a while since I’ve been to Austin and am not sure what the comedy scene is like there these days.
Right now this idea is merely at the musing-it stage, and I haven’t worked out any details. This post is part of my initial market research -- so I definitely appreciate any and all feedback.