The comedy world has been in a transition period as it attempts to grapple with the Internet, the alternative comedy scene and more emphasis on the personalities rather than the platform.
"It's kind of change or die," says Alf LaMont, VP of marketing and development at the Comedy Store in Los Angeles. "We've been doing it within the context of an old school comedy club, and that model is broken."
"The world has changed dramatically in the last 10 years, in a way that was so fast that it was difficult for businesses who had been doing really well for 20 years to acknowledge," LaMont says. "The bottom got taken out of things and people didn't know what to do, and they still don't know what do."
Douglas C. Pizac/AP
It wasn't always this way. In the early 1970s, Johnny Carson moved "the Tonight Show" from New York to L.A. "Back in those days, the only way to be seen was to be on Carson," LaMont says. "Carson scouts only go to comedy clubs to see prospective talent, there's only one comedy club in L.A., and that was, at the time, the Comedy Store."
Courtesy Jamie Flam
Improv Lab manager Jamie Flam
The Improv Lab is a 50-seat theater attached to the Hollywood Improv and marks an attempt by one of Los Angeles's traditional comedy clubs to try something different from the standard club formula. In an online editorial, Comedy Store marketing and development VP Alf LaMont wrote that "The Improv Lab is a ray of sunshine in an otherwise bleak landscape."
Improv Lab manager Jamie Flam agrees with LaMont that one of the keys is developing talent. "It really is as simple as talking to people about their shows" and providing resources, Flam says. "Just talking about the show and helping give notes and feedback." Flam says that, as someone who knows other comedians and has produced hundreds of shows, he can recommend other comedians who should be on a show and give feedback on how to promote the show and what would take a show to the next level.
Alf LaMont, director of marketing and development at Los Angeles comedy club the Comedy Store, wrote an editorial that ran this morning on comedy site Laughspin looking at how the influence of L.A. comedy clubs has changed. He charts their rise thanks to Johnny Carson and "The Tonight Show" to the decline in an era of Internet democratization.
When was the last time you went to a traditional comedy club? From anecdotal evidence, they seem to not have the same influence they once did. Rather than the Comedy Store being the place everyone talks about, it's more likely to be somewhere like the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater or other smaller venues. As LaMont puts it, "To the casual observer, the difference between the clubs is minimal, while the stellar casts of shows produced at Largo and UCB are cutting-edge and thrilling."