by Andrew Wantuck
This article was originally published on 7/3/2008 in the EasyReader when the club was celebrating it's 30th year in business.
31 Years of Stand up Magic
On July 5th, 1978 Hermosa Beach welcomed a new business. It was called The Comedy & Magic Club. A 24 year-old Mike Lacey armed with a limited budget and the ignorance of youth pushed open the doors for the first time. Almost 31 years later, when asked the secret on how he managed to keep the doors open he offered this advice, "It is the basic philosophy of one word; respect. Respect for the art form, the comics, the employees, and first and for most the audience. There might be a piece of paper that says I own the club, but in fact, the audience owns the club. They can choose to attend or fire me and everybody else here by not coming in. We try hard to remember how we would want to spend our own money." Spending money is important considering that the CMC was one of the first clubs in the country to ever pay comedians, and is often referred to by big name comics. When movie star comedian Larry Miller was asked what was special about club he said, "The Comedy & Magic Club is home, and Mike is my brother, and that's that. There an important reason why I first started coming down, but that was too long ago, and I can't remember what it was."
Tom Wilson, widely known as 'Biff' in the Back to the Future trilogy said "The special thing about The Comedy & Magic Club are the people that run it. Everybody, the wait staff, the chef, the bar staff, management, and the owner, from the time I was a newbe to california, I was always treated far more important in this business than I actually am. Every comedian I know appreciates that fact so much. Look, the crowds are great, the beach is great, the shows are great, but the kindness of the people that work in that building are what keeps the best stand ups in the country working that club on a daily basis."
The best do work the club when you consider that the host of the most coveted job in Hollywood for 17 years, The Tonight Show, works the room on a weekly basis. When asked, Jay Leno, said "I have been to The Comedy & Magic Club every Sunday the last 29 years. I took two years off trying to make it big in show business, that didn't happen, so I went back to the club.
When asked if the rumor about Jay Leno owning the club Mike Lacey said "If Jay wanted to own any (laughs) or perhaps all of it, he is such a great friend and wonderful guy for the art form of stand up, I would certainly be exstatic to have him be beside us everyday. The answer is however, no, he loves what he is doing, he likes hosting The Tonight Show and then coming down here on Sundays. So no he isn't an owner of the club, although we would be flattered (laughs)."
From an entrepreneurial perspective, owning and running a business for so long must have roadblocks in the way toward success. When asked about how the idea of a comedy club became a reality Mike had this to say, "I was never really business guy, but I was enthusiastic about seeing great talent, and I could never get my friends to drive out of the South Bay to go see it. So I said to myself that I'm just going to risk everything, and try to open this crazy little club. So I say to everybody look this is what is out there, so if you are to tired to drive great distances and stay up half the night to see these acts, I'll go out and try and find them for you. I'll put them on at a reasonable hour, and then I get to watch the comics come off and rave about what great audiences we have. Another great aspect is that I have to go all over the US to look at other clubs, and when you look at our club we have a totally mixed age group. One table will have an 18 year old and the other will have someone that is 60. And, you know, funny is funny. So it is great to see that connection. We all just appreciate smart, great humor. We all just love to laugh."
The Comedy & Magic Club will be putting on 20 Comics a Night Thursday - Saturday all July 2009. Reservations Required (310) 372 1193 or comedyandmagicclub.com.