Wednesday, May 13, 2009

EXCLUSIVE: Mary Lindsey: Queen of Chicago comedy clubs

What are you doing Memorial Weekend? Hopefully you’ll be attending the Laff Mob at the UIC Forum with LIL REL, Leon Rogers, and others. This event is going to be off the chain! Male and female comedians that have the comedy game on lock! I had the distinct opportunity to interview the mastermind behind this showcase and many other comedy showcases, the lovely Mary Lindsey. She talks with Mrs Windy City about Laff Mobb, her career with comedy clubs and being a female in the comedy game

How did you get involved in owning comedy clubs?

ML: The journey has been very interesting. We (James S. Alexander, Raymond C. Lambert) started All Jokes Aside in 1991, and then developed that club and the image over a thirteen-year period. It closed because comedy sort of flattened out.

The Midwest and Chicago were a market that people were overlooking in the comedy industry because they were going to California and New York for the talent. So I thought, ‘You know what? Comedy seems to be getting a little bit of attention. Lets see where this is going. Maybe its coming back.’ And it did. So that’s what prompted me to open Jokes and Notes. I felt like all comics in the Midwest did not have a platform to develop their craft so they can be competitive in the comedy arena in the other markets.

What would you say is your proudest moment with Jokes and Notes?

ML: Jokes and Notes has been open for about three and a half years on 47th and King Drive in Bronzeville. It is an up and coming neighborhood. I think the community has embraced us and received us very well from an entertainment standpoint. We get a lot of feedback on how pleased they are that the club is there and how well it is operated. The comics in the comedy industry have been wonderful in terms of working with me with a small venue. All Jokes Aside were a 350 seater, I have a 150 seater because I felt that was compatible to the neighborhood I was going in. They have all been extremely great.

My biggest highlight has been more than one. The first was Mo'Nique coming back and opening the club for me three and half years ago. I believe that helped us get on the map.

Secondly, seeing four or five comics be on television and part of comedy shows in a three year time frame. LIL REL is someone who did not have a big name, now he is almost a household name in other markets. Just knowing Who Got Jokes, Montréal Comedy Festival and any other major networks come to us to say ‘Can you do a showcase for us so we can look at your talent to advance them in other areas in the comedy world.’ That has been a major highlight. We have had four or five comics that are very successful in that short period.

Being a woman in the comedy industry, has it been difficult or easier for you to run these businesses as well as you have?

ML: Being a female did not affect me at all. I think because there was some history there, so some of the foundation was laid. I was a co-owner with two guys all those years, I was a very visible partner and people knew who I was. Opening this club under a comedy circuit they already knew I wasn’t new to the business, (that was) a good thing.

It does make me take a consistent platform of being very stern and implement policies in how the club is operated because I am a woman and sometimes I think in a male dominated industry you tend to be a little bit tougher.

A lot of people come into the club and say they remember me from All Jokes Aside and some people don’t. That’s why I didn’t name it All Jokes Aside. I did not want people to think it was me and the two guys. It is just me. It says that I came back and did this on my own. I do want people to know that it is a female owner.

Who are some of the new comedians we should be looking forward to?

ML: We are doing this show, the Laff Mobb and we are featuring the rising and upcoming stars. We are starting it off Memorial Day Weekend in Chicago and then if it does well then we are going to take it to underserved markets. This will be the 21st century of Def Comedy Jam. The Laff Mobb is a movement that will go to different cities, and based on the market the talent will change. What we are going after is the up and coming stars. Not the household names. In Chicago you have LIL REL who is going to be a major big star, Damn Fool another big star, Kelly Howard, Chastity Washington and a lot more.

Are there any future events, that are similar to Laugh Mobb and you will be sponsoring?

ML: After the Laff Mobb normally I do the comedy festival and that is when I bring for a whole week, comics from all around the country, every night from Monday to Sun. There are different and multiple shows. It’s just a fun time for your community and surrounding area to check out a lot of talent in a small venue at an affordable price. This event will be in late September.

Do you have a solid line up or does it vary week to week for Jokes and Notes?

ML: We have a schedule on It tells all about me, the club, when we started and a two-month schedule.

Every night is a different thing. Wednesday’s are open mike night where people come and work out their material. Thursday are special promotions, it varies along with the promoter. Friday, Saturday, and Sunday (nights) is a national act that we showcase.

Laff Mobb --May 23rd --UIC Forum ---8p.m. hosted by Leon Rogers

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