The Oldest Comedy Club in the World: A Tale of Two Clubs

The Oldest Comedy Club

For those who’ve been to comedy clubs in Montreal, you’ve undoubtedly learned that many clubs have their own unique vibe. In many ways, the vibe of the club can enhance your experience with Montreal comedy. Watching some of my favorite Montreal stand-up at Comedyville Comedy Club got me thinking: what is the oldest comedy club in the world? This question ultimately comes down to a tale of two cites, and two clubs.

Dangerfield’s

If I had posed this question a few years ago, the answer would have been clear. The oldest comedy club in the world was Dangerfield’s in New York City. If the name sounds familiar, there is a good reason. This club was founded by famous comic Rodney Dangerfield, opening all the way back in September 1969.

When Dangerfield’s opened, there was no such thing as a comedy club. Comics largely performed in bars and strip clubs. There were clubs that had comedy nights, but no clubs dedicated solely to comedy. Dangerfield’s ultimately changed that.

Dangerfield’s was iconic in many ways. It sported red velvet curtains and dim red lights. There was a grand piano on the stage. In fact, you’ve possibly even seen this club. If you watched the Joaquin Phoenix movie The Joker, Dangerfield’s is where the stand-up comedy scenes were shot.

Over the years, this club became a place where many comedians in New York’s stand-up scene cut their teeth. Their history includes performances by the likes of George Carlin, Jim Carrey, Chris Rock, and Jerry Seinfeld. In fact, it was the place of Seinfeld’s first TV appearance. The club also served as a residence for some comics. Rodney Dangerfield himself once lived above it while Jay Leno lived out of the back office one summer.

Another notable characteristic was that Dangerfield’s was only for headliners. You had to get screened or invited to perform. There were no amateur nights or open mic nights. It wanted to only give audiences the best of the best.

Unfortunately, Dangerfield’s fifty-year reign as the world’s oldest comedy club came to a close in 2020. When the club closed down for the pandemic, it would never again reopen, signaling the end of an era.

The Oldest Comedy Club in the World A Tale of Two Clubs - Dangerfields

Photo by Todd Maisel

The Comedy Store

This brings our story some 2,500 miles (4,023 kilometers) across the continent, from the island of Manhattan to the shores of the Pacific. The Comedy Store in Los Angeles is perhaps the most famous comedy club in the world. And with the closure of Dangerfield’s, it is now the oldest.

The Comedy Store was founded in April 1972 by Comedian Sammy Shore. Located on the Sunset Strip in West Hollywood, it was intended to primarily serve as a place for Shore to perform when he wasn’t traveling. His wife, Mitzi, served as the club manager, scheduler, and promoter.

At a time when stand-up comedy was rapidly growing in popularity, it quickly rose to prominence on the west coast. The success was in part driven by the decision of Johnny Carson to move his late-night show from New York City to Los Angeles. Carson loved featuring comedians, and the comedians followed, giving Los Angeles a strong influx of new talent.

Mitzi was great at recognizing talent and chose top talent to develop at the Comedy Store. Lesser known at the time comedians that grew their acts here included David Letterman, Robin Williams, Jay Leno, and Andy Kaufman. In fact, the place quickly gained a reputation as a place to find future sitcom stars. During the 1970s, Richard Pryor spent night after night headlining the club in order to practice material for his Night After Night album, making it LA’s hottest night spot.

The Comedy Store is perhaps most known for its tradition of “paid regulars.” When someone is selected as a paid regular, their name is placed on the building’s exterior walls. It is an honor that is held by people like Dave Chappelle, Eddie Murphy, Joan Rivers, Iliza Shlesinger, and Billy Crystal among a multitude of others.

By Mike Dillon assumed (based on copyright claims). Own work assumed (based on copyright claims). CC BY-SA 3.0

 

Final Thoughts

Dangerfield’s and the Comedy Store represent very distinct comedy vibes and are reflective of two unique scenes. While one may have closed, the other continues to entertain crowds today. You can catch a show at the Comedy Store six days a week (closed Sundays). The shows typically sell out, sometimes before the headliners are even announced.

For those who would like to laugh without having to leave the comfort of the Montreal comedy scene, take a look at our English shows in Montreal’s very own Comedyville Comedy Club.

 

Post by Eddie Case, exclusively for Comedyville.com, All rights reserved.
Comedyville is a Comedy Club located in Downtown Montreal.

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