New look, but it’s still the same La Jolla Comedy Store
By Kirby Brooks
When driving down Pearl Street, it’s hard to miss The Comedy Store — or at least it was. The venue has been stripped of its signature ivy vines and now features a fresh coat of black paint.
I went to investigate what provoked the makeover to see if the anything changed inside the La Jolla landmark.
Opened by Sammy and Mitzi Shore (of the same comedic family as Pauly Shore) as an offshoot of The Comedy Store on Hollywood’s famed site of debauchery, Sunset Strip, the first incarnation of The Comedy Store in San Diego was in nearby Pacific Beach. With the exception of a short stint at a location on Prospect, The Comedy Store has been a Pearl Street mainstay since the venue moved there in 1977.
Comedy clubs come and go in San Diego, but The Comedy Store is an institution, and for the past six years comic Mike Vinn has been largely responsible for filling the seats. Vinn started out working the door and seating, and eventually began honing his standup skills on open mic nights.
When I sat down with Vinn, who now runs and manages The Comedy Store, handling everything from promotion to bartending to delivering his own standup routines (catch him Wednesdays, Thursday and Sundays), I had to address the ivy issue immediately.
Vinn’s answer, however, was somewhat anticlimactic. “The ivy was overwhelming the building’s exterior so we decided to get rid of it completely and go back to the black exterior of the venue’s early years.”
Despite The Comedy Store’s new look, it’s business as usual. Tourists and repeat customers (insider tip: sign up for the mailing list to receive free tickets and hear about upcoming events) continue to flock to the venue Wednesday through Sunday.
December is usually the club’s slowest month, but The Comedy Store enjoyed its best December in five years. “There were three sold-out shows in December 2010,” Vinn revealed proudly — proving that laughter is a necessary recessionary provision.
The Comedy Store staff is comprised of up-and-coming comics hoping to work their way up from manning the door, to working the bar, to standup, to eventually performing at their Mecca: The Comedy Store Sunset.
Filing into my seat along with the rest of the Friday night crowd, I could see the playful ribbing between the staff as described by Vinn. Only drinks are served at The Comedy Store, but in place of food is no holds barred comedy. Be forewarned: no topic is taboo.
“What’s funnier? A good dirty joke or a good clean joke? It all depends on the joke,” says Vinn about the absence of censorship, adding, “Comedy is a form of free speech. You can’t put creative limits on it. It’s an art form.”
There are two show times per weekend night at The Comedy Store, 8 and 10:30 p.m. Whatever time you come, be sure to catch the two opening acts. You won’t regret it.
I never heard of Brandon Christy or Fahim Anwar before seeing them open for headliner Chris D’Ella (irreverent, hilarious) at The Comedy Store, but I have a feeling that will change. When I left the now ivy-less venue it was with cheeks sore from laughing and a slight longing to have been singled out by one of the night’s acts. There’s always next time.
If you go
What: The Comedy Store La Jolla
Where: 916 Pearl St.
When: Nightly shows Wednesday-Sunday
Tickets: Online and at the door, $8-$20; 21 and up; two drink minimum
Special Events: Jeff Garlin (Larry David’s sidekick on HBO’s ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’) Feb. 4 and 5
Best of San Diego: Mike Vinn through Feb. 10; Terry Farrel Firefighter’s Fund Charity Show March 22
Sandy Shore comedy workshops: Sundays, see website
Contact: (858) 454-9176. http://comedystorelajolla.com/
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