By Jim Faulkner
Four years ago, comic Bruce Daniels launched his Tuesday night “Drunk on Stage” show at Silver Lake’s Akbar. With little nearby competition, Daniels’ show has hosted well-known comics like Kathy Griffin, Margaret Cho, Kathleen Madigan, and Jennifer Coolidge. Increased Tuesday night sales at Akbar confirm that there’s an audience for Silver Lake stand-up – and money to be made for the venues. News about the success of Daniels’ Akbar show must have crept east along Sunset Boulevard like a No. 2 Metro Bus as other bars and restaurants have in recent years launched comedy nights – and seen their sales increase as well.
At Akbar, one of the Eastside’s few gay bars, Jeff Rasul, who bartends on Tuesdays, says that “Drunk on Stage” brings in a more diverse crowd who normally might not fit Akbar’s traditional demographic. “Tuesday is one of the busier non-weekend nights. Including other specialty nights at the bar, this one is more consistent,” Rasul said. He also noted that he sees about a 30% increase in sales during “Drunk on Stage” than he does during the rest of the evening.
Down the boulevard at El Cid Dinner Theater, manager Lauren Fitzpatrick says that the restaurant had experimented with stand-up shows more than a year ago, suspended them, then reinstated their Monday night show six months ago – to increased sales. The formats of the Akbar and El Cid shows differ as El Cid hosts “bringer” shows where comedians are required to bring audience members in order get stage time. While not able to quantify an exact percentage increase, she said that sales on Monday’s stand-up nights are much higher than on previous Monday nights.
Jessica Vohs, manager at Malo Restaurant, said that her eatery hosts stand-up shows about three times per month. “As far as an increase in revenue, we can’t really say yet because we have only been doing this for about six months. The nights that we have had the stand-up upstairs are pretty busy and definitely worth our time – and we’re glad to help support local comedians.”
Many of the more established performers, meanwhile, have been able to take advantage of a more relaxed atmosphere to try out new material. Daniels said comics like Griffin and Cho, who perform at “Drunk on Stage,” try out new material there before taking it “on the road.”
Daniels said the local audiences provide the comics needed feedback as they develop their craft. “I’ve never had to dumb down my act when performing on the Eastside, and the audience picks up hooks; they’re not conversations about Lady Gaga,” he said.
Erin Foley, who co-hosts with Daniels, relocated to Silver Lake from New York. 3 ½ years ago. In addition to Akbar and El Cid, she performs at the EchoPlex in Echo Park and Tangiers in Los Feliz. Foley also said that the smaller clubs on the Eastside allow performers to be more free on stage. “There’s less of an inclination to let go in the bigger venues.”
Foley compares the audiences with those in New York’s East Village. “The Eastside is a good mix; there’s one of everything.”
If you know of other stand-up venues in Silver Lake or the rest of the Eastside stand-up shows, let us know.
Jim Faulkner works as a marketing communications consultant and has also performed stand-up himself at the New York Comedy Clubs and at open mics around L.A.