[UPDATE: The Laff House's last night will be this Wednesday, July 3rd, 2013. I encourage everyone who has been a supporter of the Laff House to stop by and share some drinks and laughs with the staff, comedians, and special guests.]
After decades of providing the city of Philadelphia with laughter, I regret to inform the comedy fans of Philadelphia that the legendary Laff House Comedy Club, home to some of the country’s best performing comedians Such TuRae Gordon, Kevin Hart, and Deon Cole, will be closing its doors permanently next Wednesday.
My first response wad that this was another string of rumors that had gained momentum as they have in the past, but after speaking to some of the staff, they have confirmed…
It goes without saying that the Laff House has provided so much for the Philly Comedy scene. Most of the popular local comedians that you may know or have seen around the area credit the Laff House as their start in comedy, giving comedians their first hosting, feature, and even headlining spots.
I started as a server there about 4 years ago, where owners Rod and Mona Millwood showed me the ropes of the comedy scene and the many possibilities that it had to offer. After a while, they gave me my first shot at doing some of the more fun aspects of the comedy business like producing and promoting shows and delivering my first 5-minute set. From there I’ve met some of the coolest people I’ve met in my life and was fortunate enough to make a few friends, all while learning a few jokes and laughing in the process. This site wouldn’t be possible without my experiences at the Laff House.
I haven’t been an employee of the Laff House for a few months now, but still made my periodic visits to them. After working so closely with a group of people for so long and having the privilege to learn such a rare skill such as running a comedy club, you tend to think of some of them as family. As many ups and owns as some of us have had with them, we knew that the Laff House was one of the few legitimate outlets that some of us had to share our stories and tell the world what was on our minds.
That’s why I was shocked when, after hearing a few rumors, I saw a post from comedian TuRae Gordon about the Laff House shutting down.
So I started to call mutual friends and old co-workers to confirm and sure-enough, the rumors this time were actually true. As far as the reasoning goes, I couldn’t get a straight answer. As far as their last night goes, I’ve yet to confirm, but general consensus is that Wednesday is the day.
So without going further into how sad this news makes me, I’ve went back into my youtube channel and found some videos of some of the best times I’ve had at the Laff House. Enjoy!
1) Joe Derosa tells a story about his early days at the Laff House: This site’s readers know that I’m a hug Joe Derosa fan and am always excited to see him perform when he comes back to Philly. This set happened a little after one of the club’s owners and a matriarch to Philly Comedy, Mona Millwood, passed away. He ended his set by telling a story abut his early days at the Laff House.
2) Lawrence Killebrew learns to keep his joke book out of the way: Comedian Lawrence Killebrew was just getting off stage to introduce TuRae, not knowing that he forgot to take his beloved joke book with him while he was on stage. That being taboo to TuRae, he took it upon himself to teach Lawrence a valuable lesson in keeping your joke book safe. He invited me and the other comedians in the lobby to take a good look into his joke book and vandalize the hell out of it with sharpies, pens, whatever. I recorded Lawrence’s reaction as TuRae stopped his set to address him.
3) J.B. Smoove’s hip-hop birthing: There’s no story behind this besides that it was one of the best laughs I’ve ever had. The joke wasn’t very clever, but the delivery killed me. J.B. Smoove, known as Leon on Curb Your Enthusiasm and The Real Husbands of Hollywood declared his desire to watch a baby be born to one of his favorite rap songs.
4) Kevin Hart brings Spank to the stage: Sometimes the Laff House has surprise visits from comedy royalty, like Kevin Hart who was always incredibly nice and tipped %200 of whatever his tab was. After the show, comedian Will “spank” Horton, who regularly tours with Kevin Hart, was nice enough to plug the site and get it some serious traffic. I always thank him for that when I see him.
5) Crazy Jay – By far one of the Laff House’s favorite comics and a comedian who more people should know about. Comedian Jay Barron (or “Crazy Jay”, as he’s known in the circuit) doesn’t spend too much time promoting himself. He regularly gets work in all the right places, but if you were to look him up on the web, you wouldn’t be able to find too much. Just watch the video and see why we call him “Crazy Jay”. Keep in mind that this video is nothing compared to the rest of his set.
So what does this mean for the future of Philly Comedy? For starters, there’s going to be one less major comedy club in the Philadelphia area where young comics can start their career as well as a place for the more experienced comedians to work on their material and Helium can only book so many kinds of comedians that aren’t regulars on comedy central.
What I can say for sure is that the scene has certainly grown a lot over the past few years and there is no short supply of privately ran “rooms” at various bars, clubs, and event spaces, and they’ve provided a great outlet for comics to improve their written sets for the clubs. But let’s face it, the crowds aren’t the same and for some full time comics who need paid gigs, it’s not place to make a living.
So this will be a time to hope that someone who knows what they’re doing can come along and open a new club that accepts a wide range of crowds and comics, giving them the chance to grow comedically. Whoever they are, I hope they can appreciate the impact that the Laff House and it’s comedians had on this scene.