The Comedy Store is an iconic, landmark stand-up comedy venue located in the heart of Los Angeles on the Sunset Strip. Sammy and Mitzi Shore opened The Comedy Store in 1972. Sammy and Mitzi divorced in 1973, and apparently Mitzi received the comedy club in the divorce. At the helm, Mitzi helped it to grow from a small, one-room club to the large, multi-room comedy venue that it is today.
Mitzi Shore is generally regarded as the “Godmother of Comedy,” and for good reason. Getting a “pass” by Mitzi Shore meant that you just received the approval of the ultimate critic. Surely, many comics owe their careers to Mitzi. Forty years later, the club is still thriving and, in honor of its anniversary, this weekend The Comedy Store hosted its 40th Anniversary celebration by putting on a special show with comics spanning several generations.
Candidly, to me, the show was a bit of a letdown. I am a huge fan of stand-up comedy. I doubt there are many people who spend as much time as I do listening to and watching comics perform. I love it. As a result, when I heard that The Comedy Store was hosting a 40th Anniversary show, my expectations went through the roof. Questions immediately started to percolate in my head. I wonder who the surprise guests will be? What legendary comics might stop by? This show could be unrivaled and, perhaps, I created a situation in my own mind that nothing could realistically live up to.
That having been said, the first couple hours of the show felt more like an awards show than a comedy show. By that, I simply mean that most people who took to the stage did little more than thank Mitzi Shore for her contributions to the art and their own careers. It was certainly heartfelt, and no doubt 100% legitimate and deserved, but it was basically just like watching the Academy Awards and having people come up and voice their acceptance speeches. Indeed, they even had West Hollywood Mayor John J. Duran come on stage and talk about what a cultural landmark The Comedy Store is, and how proud the City Council members are to be able to honor Mitzi Shore on the club's 40th anniversary.
The format of the show was to bring up comics, decade by decade. So, they started with the 1970s, then moved to the 1980s, then the 1990s, and so on. For the 1970s, they brought out acts like Willie Tyler & Lester. I am not big into ventriloquist comedy, and Willie Tyler's act is incredibly dated. Fritz Coleman also did a short set. Most people probably only know Fritz as a Los Angeles weatherman for NBC, but Fritz actually got his start as a standup comic. He comes across as an extremely likable guy, and delivered a very funny set about how social media impacts our lives. He commented that rather than just having your foot fall asleep, you now have to go on Facebook and tell the world your foot fell asleep. Then, a bunch of your friends “like” the fact that your foot fell asleep, and they tell stories about when their feet have fallen asleep. Then, thousands of people get together and form the “my foot fell asleep” fan page. Very funny and, unfortunately, very true.
The segment on the 1980's was hosted by the great Dom Irrera. Dom has always been one of my favorite comics. Although he did not do this particular bit for the anniversary show, Dom has a bit about a relative who always thinks there is something medically wrong with him. I have heard that bit about 50 times, and yet I always laugh like it’s the first time I’ve heard it. It’s just one of those classic bits that never get old. Dom, as always, was hysterical. However, I think Dom may have shared my overall opinion about the quality of the show to that point, because he opened his set by stating “welcome to the comedy portion of the show folks.”
Dom then introduced Paul Rodriguez who, like the others, thanked Mitzi Shore. However, Paul only stayed on stage for a few minutes before he bizarrely turned and walked off the stage. Dom came back and appeared to be as confused as I was about why Paul left so quickly.
Garry Shandling also stopped by and, while bits and pieces were funny, he basically just read some jokes from a notepad that he had scribbled on in the back of the club moments before.
Bill Burr, another of my favorite comics, took the stage when they reached the 1990s. He was hilarious, but he only did a short set. I have seen Burr live many times and he never disappoints. I would have loved it if he had stayed longer but it was great while it lasted.
Just before midnight, Natasha Leggero performed. Many people will know Natasha as a regular on the E! Network show Chelsea Lately, or as a judge on a prior season of Last Comic Standing. Natasha’s set was solid, as usual.
By the time Natasha finished, they had barely begun the introduction of the new generation of comics. Yet, it was well after midnight, and we had been sitting there for over four hours. Exhausted, and a little bit disappointed in the format and overall quality of the show, we decided to call it an evening and head out. Therefore, I cannot report on when the show ended or on the sets of any comics who closed out the show. I hope that my leaving was not a mistake.
All in all, the show was a bit of a mixed bag. You sort of expect that from any long-form style show with a stream of comics performing over a long period of time. Everyone was very respectful, and Mitzi received a ton of much deserved gratitude. Here’s to hoping The Comedy Store sticks around for another 40 years!Brett Watson