Joel’s Comedy Club brings laughter to Lubbock
The last time Lubbock was home to a comedy club, Spike Dykes was still coaching the Red Raiders, North Overton wasn’t a whitewashed apartment bloc, and there was only one President Bush.
It was literally in the last millennium when Lubbockites looking for a laugh could hit Froggy Bottoms.
After changing locations for the third time, Froggy Bottoms found itself tucked away from the highly visible spots it once occupied. Lack of visibility, the beginnings of a revitalized Depot District, and management fatigue led to the shuttering of Lubbock’s only comedy club in 1998.
A couple from Idalou purchased the club a few years later, expecting to parlay their knowledge of running a Dixie Dog stand into a successful comedy club. To their detriment, they shied away from controversial comedy and the club closed its doors forever.
Joel Rando is very familiar with Froggy Bottoms, having cut his teeth there before moving to New York City to pursue a career in stand-up. He says he wants to bring comedy back to the South Plains — and he has a very steep climb ahead of him.
Most noticeably, Rando’s club is missing its clubhouse. Four to five nights a week, Joel’s Comedy Club is more a state of mind than anything else. He’s been forced from an ideal location off Buddy Holly and 22nd Street to a small, community theatre on 34th Street and University.
Rando says he isn’t afraid of the challenges a comedy club faces without a permanent home.
“People nowadays don’t have faith in themselves. They don’t think they can do stuff. They don’t think they can go anywhere,” he said. ”I’m not like that. I just go for it. Whether you fail or make it, that doesn’t matter. Just go after your dream. Whatever happens happens — and most of the time, good things happen.”
Despite the club’s humble beginnings, Joel’s Comedy Club attracts a crowd. Most of the people who fill Cats Theatre’s few dozen seats are themselves prospective comedians, many of whom are first-timers.
“There’s nothing like this in Lubbock, and that’s why I think it’s going to work,” Rando said. “It’s going to succeed.”
There’s a nervous energy in the room Saturday night. Todd Eldridge is the first of Lubbock comedian to arrive.
Eldridge is no stranger the stage. He says he began acting in small church plays at the age of 5 and, over time, moved into dramatic rolls. Eldridge’s acting roles cover a wide span—from a troll in The Hobbit to a part in the dramatic play Secret Garden.
Much of his comedy experience in Lubbock has been limited to open-mic nights at various venues.
“Doing open-mic nights is really hard to convince people to pay attention to you on stage — it’s really hard to grab their attention,” said Eldridge. “Once you’ve got them, you’re pretty much in.”
One of the common themes among Saturday night’s hopefuls is the shared goal of turning their avocation into their vocation—from hobby to career, Eldridge said.
“Instead of making people laugh at parties, I want to make them laugh at auditoriums,” he said. “We’ll start with small theaters first and then, hopefully, branch out to large auditoriums.”
For some of the hopefuls, comedy means much more than making people laugh.
Al Perez is an Iraq veteran. While serving, he sustained a disabling injury in combat, leaving him unable to work. For him, he says, laughter truly proved to be the best medicine.
“When you make somebody laugh, it makes you feel good inside,” said Perez. “I think it makes you live longer. I’d rather be around happy people than begrudging, angry, or upset people.”
Like Eldridge, Perez says he wants to make the leap from comedy-as-hobby to comedy-as-career. He’s tapped a handful of big-name comics like Gabriel Iglesias and George Lopez for advice via their MySpace and Facebook pages but, he says, hasn’t received much in response.
“I’m trying to get into the Improv in Adison and Arlington and see what their open mic night is like,” he said, “and hopefully get somebody’s attention to hopefully make it. “
Saturday night was Perez’s first time to get on stage. He said his goal was simple.
“I want to put on a good performance; I want to make people laugh,” he said. “I’ve been wanting to do this and wanting to do this, but there’s no comedy clubs in Lubbock. It makes it hard.”
Joel Rando has few barriers for guests and aspiring comics. He says he doesn’t charge cover and the only cost is a one-drink minimum. The drinks at Joel’s Comedy Club aren’t the typical $7 mixed drinks or $5 beers, but $1 softdrinks.
For guests who take advantage of Joel’s Comedy Club’s BYOB policy, he asks for a $5 setup fee, which is still far lower than what guests would pay at a bar on a Saturday night, he says.
Joel’s Comedy Club is open Friday and Saturday evenings. The action, Rando says, typically begins around 10 p.m. For updates on showtimes, visit the club’s Web site.