In 2004, in an article about St. Louis comedy powerhouse, Jessie Taylor, there’s a point towards the end of the article where Ben Westhoff writes of Jessie:
“Taylor dreams of opening what he says would be St. Louis’ first black comedy club.”
– (“What Are You Laughing At”, St. Louis, Riverfront Times, February 4, 2004)
The statement seems prescient, as this week Jessie Taylor announced the soft opening of The Laugh Lounge, his new comedy club. This new club promises to be home the city thriving urban comedy scene, but Taylor isn’t limiting the reach of his audience or comic base.
With a new comedy club, run by a working comic who can view the endeavor from both the audience and the performer’s perspective, we wanted to ask Jessie a few questions about what we can expect from The Laugh Lounge. The man is BUSY (caps intentional), and we appreciate him stepping away from a radio interview to give us some time.
The Laugh Lounge is located at 11208 West Florrisant Ave, Florissant, MO 63033. The club has a full bar and menu. This weekend’s shows are at 8:30 and 10:30 Friday (4/21) and Saturday (4/22), and at 9:00 on Sunday (4/23), with Taylor himself hosting for Marcus Combs and Tyler Craig. Call the club at 314-921-2810 for ticket information. They’re still developing their online presence, but you can get updates from Taylor’s Facebook page or the club’s Instagram. We’ll post the info as we get it.
St. Louis Comedy fans want to know, what types of shows can they see at The Laugh Lounge?
One of the big things I hear from audiences that go to other clubs in the area is, “Why aren’t there more urban shows?” While the clubs are starting to book more of them, there still isn’t a place where you can see a black host, feature, and headliner on a regular basis. We definitely need our own place, and this can be it.
The division within the scene seems severe, but also like it’s getting better?
The divide when I was coming up wasn’t as bad. I worked with and learned from a lot of great comics of all colors, and that was really helpful. But along the way, some bookers with their own agendas started creating that division, and avoiding black comics entirely. I’ve put together a lot of shows here and I’ve seen the talent that wasn’t getting on stage in some of the clubs until recently.
Also, our goal isn’t to be just an “urban” club. If you’re funny, we’re going to book you. Funny is funny. We’re going to put up comics who make our crowds laugh. I don’t care what color you are.
This seems to be the year to start bringing people together.
I was just saying this on the radio. There’s so much division in every aspect of society now, we don’t need it in comedy. Comedy can work to heal this, and I want to do my part. Like I said, funny doesn’t have a color.
So, every comic wants to know, what’s up with the open mic?
We’re deciding when it’s going to be. We don’t want to limit any comic’s ability to get on stage somewhere else trying to get work. So, whenever it’s going to be, it’s not going to conflict with the open mics at existing clubs. Also, I’m a comic who knows how hard it is to get on stage when you’re starting out. So, if you do well at our open mic and we see you have the material, we’ll work to get you on shows.
I have great opportunity here, and I want to share it with as many comics as I can.
Finally, we’re running Death Mic 2017, an open mic challenge where we’re encouraging local comics to hit up as many independent comedy open mics as they can during the month of April. What’s your view on the importance of these mics to a new comic?
In my view, you shouldn’t even say you’re a comic if you’re not out there trying to get as much stage time as possible when you’re starting out.