One’s sense of humor is a personal thing— even more personal than one’s sense of style or taste in music, or food. That’s why seeing a live stand-up show is often an intimate experience; in a good room the comedian is never too far from the folks in the back row.
But in a world where more than a few comics have recently morphed into rock stars telling jokes to thousands of people in theaters and arenas, I think it’s fair to ask: Has the traditional comedy-club experience become irrelevant?
Furthermore, is the traditional comedy club experience even necessary to enjoy stand-up? After all, a funny joke is a funny joke, whether you hear it in a packed theater or on a two-minute clip online, right?
But what separates a great comedy club from any other comedic platform, is the club’s ability to make the audience feel like the comic onstage is one of them. There we don’t see comics perform in HD. We see them perform in reality, if we’re lucky, five feet in front of us— sweat drops and all.
That is why I’m such a fan of the Laughing Skull Lounge, a new comedy club in Atlanta, which provides a unique stand-up experience to its performers and crowds alike. Billing itself as “the smallest full-time comedy club in the world,” – they’ve submitted itself for that exact distinction to the Guinness Book of World Records – the room, seats 74 people at its maximum, operates full-time and brings in national headliners to perform sometimes in front of crowds no bigger than a dozen people.
If you think it sounds awkward, think again. I went to check out Todd Barry at the LSL last Friday night, in front of a crowd of maybe 30. VIP tables were placed inches away from Barry’s feet and the worst seat in the house was still no more than 15 feet from the stage. Though the crowd was small, the energy in the room was tangible as Barry’s whisper-toned punch lines and subtly-cynical zingers seemed more like an inside joke amongst friends than a comic performing for the paying public. A large part of his set was spontaneous crowd work that thrived in the cozy setting, and would not have lent itself to a bigger crowd, even in another average-sized comedy club.
As demonstrated by a tight five rather than a painful 15, often times less is more when it comes to comedy, and the Laughing Skull Lounge certainly fits that adage.