By Lindsey Ziliak
---- — A group of nationally touring comedians performed at Laugh House Kokomo Wednesday night for more than 100 people – including numerous city officials – who were on hand for the soft grand opening of Kokomo’s new downtown comedy club.
Before they performed, though, comedian and club owner Mike Gardner took the stage. He said he started thinking about opening a comedy club six years ago, but he was on the fence about bringing it to Kokomo.
It was the city administration who convinced him Kokomo was the right place.
“Kokomo, Indiana public figures went way out of their way to make this happen,” he said. “I would have quit a million times if it wasn’t for them.”
He gave a special shout out to Mayor Greg Goodnight, who was sitting in the audience. Gardner said Goodnight is a man who gets things done and has a vision for the community.
“I’ve never been political, but that man is doing his best to make Kokomo pretty [expletive] awesome,” Gardner said.
Morty’s Comedy Joint owner Chris Bowers took the stage for a set Wednesday night. He had people roaring when he took jabs at his weight and professed his disdain for belts.
As a fat American, he said, the belt is the worst. It judges you. There’s nothing more soul crushing than having to drill a new hole in a belt, he said, garnering lots of laughs.
After the show, he talked about why he thought this comedy club would succeed where others have not.
He said he can already tell it has the community’s backing. He was impressed that Kokomo’s mayor showed up for the opening. He’s opened two clubs in Indianapolis, and the mayor there didn’t come to support either one.
Bowers said Kokomo is small enough that people here support it because they know they have to in order to keep it open.
This club also benefits from an owner who knows what he’s doing, he said. As a comedian, Gardner knows what comics go through.
“The road is a lonely, terrible place,” he said. “A show may or may not be fun. People may or may not like you.”
Gardner has been through that so he will treat the comedians better than most clubs do, which goes a long way, he said.
He’ll also do a better job than most club owners of choosing quality acts.
“Being a comedian helps you define what good comedy is,” he said.
Gardner, he said, also has a big fan base – with many of those fans coming from Kokomo. He’ll draw 200 people to a show at Morty’s. That will help him in the months to come, he said.
Gardner did the right thing in opening a club in Kokomo.
“I thought it was the perfect move for Mike,” he said.
Gardner said he didn’t open up this club to make lots of money. He did it because he believes in the venture. It will not be successful without the community’s support, he told Wednesday’s audience.
“Please help me to not lose money,” he said.
Lindsey Ziliak, Tribune Life & Style editor, can be reached at 765-454-8585, at email@example.com or on Twitter @LindseyZiliak.
WANT TO GO? WHAT: Opening weekend at Laugh House Kokomo featuring comedians Jeff Oskay, Kenny Smith and Cleveland WHEN: 8 p.m. tonight and 7 and 9:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday WHERE: Laugh House Kokomo, 113 E. Sycamore St., Kokomo COST: General admission tickets $8 and VIP tickets $13