31/10/2017 - 16:02

No joke, comedy has a new home

31/10/2017 - 16:02

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After nearly 20 years, Perth’s leading comedy company will get its own home, with the new venue set to open in the CBD later next month.

No joke, comedy has a new home
John McAllister says the Comedy Lounge’s new home will open later this month. Photos: Attila Csaszar

After nearly 20 years, Perth’s leading comedy company will get its own home, with the new venue set to open in the CBD later next month.

The Comedy Lounge has been in the business of making people laugh for the better part of two decades.

It has provided exposure for local, national and international talent from various venues across Perth, with its early days at the Hyde Park Hotel before expanding into Fremantle’s Little Creatures Next Door, and downstairs at His Majesty’s Theatre in the CBD.

Its cast of thousands have performed at weekly stand-up nights and larger gala theatre events, while the club has hosted the Western Australian leg of Australia’s biggest open-mic comedy competition – the Melbourne International Comedy Festival’s RAW Comedy.

Now, after around $3 million worth of construction works, the Comedy Lounge will open the doors of its new venue at 413 Murray Street, above the Simple Italian Cucina Pizzeria, in November.

Comedy Lounge owner John McAllister said he had been searching for his own premises from the moment he took over the company, formerly Werzel’s Comedy Lounge, in 2004, and left his life-long career as a plasterer.

“I got involved with stand-up comedy well over 20 years ago,” Mr McAllister told Business News.

“I wasn’t particularly good at it but I knew I wanted to be involved, not necessarily as a performer but as a business, and started promoting small shows in the suburbs.

“We looked at various venues, but they all had issues for comedy; they had pillars and seating was far away from the stage.

“We had a chance encounter with the landlord here and he said ‘why don’t you just build what you want because you can’t find it?’

“So they took the roof off the restaurant to create a second level (of the building) around 18 months ago, the walls went up in January.”

The 350 square metre, 200-capacity space includes tables and chairs at different heights to create tiered cabaret seating, and a bar.

Mr McAllister said the venue’s alleyway entrance was yet to be painted with street art and would likely feature a red carpet and yellow-branded spotlight.

“We went to New York and London to look at the best comedy venues in the world like the Comedy Club in SOHO and Ronnie Scott’s,” he said.

“These venues have had anyone who is anyone like Jerry Seinfeld and Robin Williams on their stage.

“And they mostly had seating close to the stage.

“That’s going to be our big selling factor, up close and personal, because sometimes you can be 70 metres back watching a screen, there’s no intimacy in that environment. You’ll never be further than 10 metres away from the performer here.

“We’ve also got little quirks. Our brand is yellow so we’ve got the odd yellow chair, table and mood lighting.

“And rather than have the traditional headshots of acts leading up the staircase we’ll have caricatures of international and local acts.”

Mr McAllister said the venue’s location was ideal considering recent property developments on Murray Street, including the new live music venue The Sewing Room, and proposed cinema complex as part of Charter Hall’s $75 million facelift of Raine Square.

He said the Comedy Lounge would continue to work with its previous affiliated venues and planned to partner with the 2018 Fringe World Festival.

Quiz nights, writing and performing workshops, family shows and cabaret-style acts, such as hypnotists and magicians, are all part of Mr McAllister’s plan to offer a diverse program in addition to the company’s signature 10-20 minute stand-up acts.

Included in the line-up of the venue’s first feature shows will be the cast from the UK version of ‘Whose Line is it Anyway?’ 

Mr McAllister said while he lacked experience as a venue operator, he had enlisted the help of his friends – hospitality veteran Paul Higgins and local comedy legend and original owner Paul 'Werzel' Montague.  

“It’s a huge gamble … we have everything on the line,” he said.

“But when it’s the end of a show and everyone is laughing, you just feel good.

“Some people say ‘I’ve never laughed so much in my life’, it’s nice to be responsible for that.”

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