Pop culture, entertainment & all things Fresno

Can Fresno support a six-night-per-week comedy room?


Tonight downtown restaurant Heroes Sports Lounge and local comic/promoter Danny Minch start something that Fresno hasn’t seen in a long time — a six-night-per-week comedy room.

Fresno has no shortage of local comedy nights, most of them restaurants and bars that add a comedy night to their weekly entertainment schedule. Places such as Thai Palms and Crossroads have proven there’s a market for it, no doubt. But what Fresno doesn’t have — and it hasn’t had since Screwballz closed in 1997 — is a true comedy club.

To some degree that’s what Heroes and Minch are trying to create with their new venture. Heroes will still be a restaurant and bar, but it’s taking a big step into turning its upstairs into a consistent comedy destination.

Here’s how the six-night schedule will work, from a story I wrote in today’s Bee:

It starts with open mic night, which Heroes has hosted on Tuesdays for about six weeks already.

On Wednesdays, there will be a local or regional featured comic. This week it’s local guy Terry Michaels, plus Minch and host Eddie Trevino.

On Thursday, a touring comic will come for a four-night hold-over that lasts until Sunday. This week, it’s Flip Schultz, a 2006 finalist in “Last Comic Standing.”

“We had done so many shows in so many different spots,” says Minch. “There’s almost comedy going on every night of the week, it just isn’t going on in the same spot. There’s a night in Clovis, one night in Chowchilla, one night in this side of Fresno, one night in the other side of Fresno. Why not have one spot where people know there’s going to be comedy almost every night throughout the week?”

It’s great to get a consistent comedy venue going for Fresno. It’s sorely needed. The current comedy scene in town — while busy — is a bit tough to navigate if you’re just a fan on the fringe. There are different venues for different nights, some weekends on, some weekends off. In that case, this move is good.

But it’s also worthwhile to ask: What’s the point of over-saturation for local comedy? Take this week, for example — even if you don’t include the Heroes shows, there are events Wednesday-Saturday, with two options each on Friday and Saturday. (see list below)

To his credit, Minch answered that question with a very good point: Most people in Fresno still don’t know there’s a comedy scene, so to make this new venture work, he’s going to have to awaken those people and get them out to Heroes.

There’s one certain answer here — and the concept applies whether we’re talking about comedy clubs or music venues or restaurants. If you want to see comedy thrive here in Fresno, get out there and support it. Support it at Heroes or at Thai Palms or anywhere else you can find it.


Responses to "Can Fresno support a six-night-per-week comedy room?"

meloknee says:

I think this is a great idea. I also think it would be good if someone regularly did a list like you’ve done here Mike. I consider myself generally up on what’s going on around town. I also always find things for people to do when they say there’s nothing to do in Fresno. I however, had no idea what to say when people asked me about comedy nights until now. I vaguely knew that Crossroads had a night, but other than that, I was clueless and didn’t know who to ask, besides Travis Sheridan. I had no idea we had such a thriving local comedy scene. Thank you!

Mike Oz says:

You sorta have to know or be connected. Even the places that host comedy, don’t ALWAYS have it. They skip a Tuesday here or there, or skip a weekend.

I will say, plug for myself, that I try to get all the comedy fliers I can find into Post No Bills each week. = )

Stephen says:

As a Danny fan and a Heroes fan and a comedian, I say ‘probably not.’

If all the comedy promoters got together and said “Hey, let’s all promote one night at Heroes, and Danny gets two” it might fly. Or if, like during the Screwballz time, there were no other comedy options in town, then mayyyybe.

But Danny’s nights will be up against Andre Covington’s stuff, Aaron Stewart’s Wed and weekends, TK’s thursday open mics, Jeff’s Monday nights, etc etc.

There are about fifteen or so local comics making the scene right now, and about 8 of those are good enough to be funny and maybe even draw some, but if the locals are going up 4-6x a week and expecting people to pay to see them? Why would they?

Heroes might be cute for a short time, but the local comics will run dry, folks who just want the super-specials at Heroes will tire of loud comedy coming from the upstairs (when they just wanna be loud below), and the cover charge, even at just $2 bucks will become too much if it’s a rotation of the same guys that can be seen for free on any other given night.

The fun now is locals do 5-8 minutes at open mic nights, but then earn their way into feature and headlining slots, where people can then pay to hear their full sets. Guys like Johnny Osburn and Terry Michaels, Rick Roddam and Chris Cruz, Kenny Thomas and now Michelle Rowe, these folks can pull some fans for $$.

But not if they can be seen 5x a week.

Also, Fresno loves celebs, well-known names. Flip Schultz is an okay start, cuz he has some TV behind him, and some of the LA folks are attracting notoriety from frequent Fresno visits (Manny Maldonado, Jay Smith, etc). But after a coupla weeks, who are they gonna get to do 3-4 nights at Heroes for the price and who will draw any sort of numbers??

I hope Danny gets a chance to contact Ray Appleton for some advice…and did Screwballz even run 6 nights a week?? I don’t think it was that many nights.

Oh, well, one can hope. But I have my doubts.

Erin Rodriguez says:

I’m just saying everyone should go see Thai Rivera! I saw him at Thai Palms last time I went….you won’t be disappointed. I’m so glad he decided to come back to Fresno!

rick mirigian says:

I would say no it cant make it. I was the last person to run a comedy room and did it for one year every friday and sat at club one 6-7 years ago, it worked and was sold out every night and I moved on to other things like the larger shows, etc, but it took major work, tie ins with radio partners, large companies in town and great comics which I had and an amazing local host and bringing big names and giving them the door and letting them perform for 4 days at a time to build the room. I do wish them good luck and hope it goes ok but the missing element like almost every other place is the marketing and the promoter, they have great comics now and those guys are good!

Stephen says:

RM, I think the difference 6 years ago was that you had no competition and ran a niche room with one strong host all the time.

Now there’s tons of comedy sprawl.

Rick Roddam says:

I think it boils down to what your expectations are. Heroes is a great venue, but aside from Grizzlies games and the lunch crowd, it’s usually empty. If comedy can get an extra 20 people in the bar every night, it might help a great downtown business keep the lights on. That said, I’m not sure that there’s enough traffic downtown to sustain it. Six nights of comedy seems a little ambitious to me, especially in a town where live entertainment (of any ilk) isn’t appreciated or cultivated like it is in bigger cities.

When I started dabbling in stand-up six years ago, there were no regular comedy nights in Fresno. Now, there’s several comedy options almost every night of the week. I have watched local comics, many who were just starting out, develop their skills and become bona-fide pros. Whether this venture succeeds or fails, I’m proud of the way the local comedy scene has grown and I’m proud of Danny Minch’s tenacity and drive making it happen. This is a good thing for Fresno, even if it fails.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the local comedy scene, get out and see Andre Covington, Johnny Osburn, Michelle Rowe, Chris Cruz, Terry Michaels, Kenny Thomas, Boney Beezly, Stephen Mintz, and the list goes on and on. I think you’ll be very impressive.

Tracey Scharmann says:

So glad I read this! The Press Box was stuffed Thursday night and Heroes had some very funny comedians. Definitely will be back.