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Eric Harrison 
Member since Oct 6, 2017


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Re: “A look at the state of comedy in Arkansas.

Aaron -- Your comedy history timeline has a few holes in it. When Jeffrey Jones tells you that before the arrival of the Loony Bin, there was no comedy scene, he's forgetting, first, that when he arrived in town in 1993, there was already a comedy club at THAT location: the Comedy House, which opened in 1988 and had been bringing in national touring comedians from Day 1 (Bill Engvall co-headlined the week it opened; among the many top acts that came through that room in the five years it was operating: Shirley Hemphill, Tommy Chong, Drew Carey, the Amaxing Jonathan, Pat Paulsen, Richard Belzer and Steve Harvey. Mark and Mike Johnson, first cousins from Northeast Arkansas, closed it in 1993 and sold the business to a guy named Stanford, and it was called "Stanford's Comedy House" for several years. Jones should certainly remember *that*, because he managed that club before he bought it along with the other three Stanford's Comedy House locations, including his thriving clubs in Wichita, Tulsa and Oklahoma City. The Comedy House also had open mikes almost from Day 1.

Before the Comedy House opened, there was a rag-tag group of guys and gals known as the Arkansas Unnamed Comedy Company, which did stand-up wherever they could get a gig between music sets at some clubs, on comedy nights at others. The level of comedy was about what you'd expect.

In addition to the Funny Bone downtown, which operated for almost three years short-lived in the ultimate but not mayfly short-lived there was also during the '90s an offshoot of the Chicago Zanies chain that started in the old S.O.B. on East Second Street and which moved to a shopping center on West Markham near Shackleford that also brought in name comics. Both of those clubs failed for various reasons the Funny Bone because the initial franchisees were putting their money elsewhere than back into the business, and when the national chain stepped in they had unreasonable expectations of the kind of business it was supposed to do; Zanies, because its owner stopped paying his light bill and his liquor taxes. (And as you know well, while it's *possible* to do stand-up in the dark with no booze, but it's a heckuva lot funnier the other way.)

Hope this helps fill in some of the gaps.

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Posted by Eric Harrison on 10/06/2017 at 2:08 PM

 

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