“It’s somehow beyond me. I don’t get how people don’t watch more of this,” insists Mark David.
Mark is in business with comedian Haskel Daniel as Left of Centertainment and they have just opened their latest comedy room, Happy Endings Comedy Club, at El Rocco in Kings Cross (154 Brougham Street).
It’s a great name for a great venue in a great location. You’re never gonna forget it. Particularly if you stumble onto it by accident expecting some other kind of business operating under that name… Rest assured, it’ll live up to its title and its intent: you will laugh.
But, playing devil’s advocate, there are some important questions. Like, ‘Does Sydney need another comedy venue?’ and ‘Can Sydney support it?’ Mark answers in the affirmative for both, and I know it’s true. But I know it as a comedy nerd and a newbie comic. Mark knows it not just from the business side but also, in a manner with which I very much identify, as someone forever initiating friends to the world of live comedy.
“Everybody who I’ve ever brought to see live comedy in my life has said the same thing: ‘Geez, I can’t believe we don’t do this all the time’,” Marks says. “It’s the same response every time: ‘That was amazing; that was so much fun; that’s really good for me…’”
The project, according to Mark, is to enable people to make that discovery for themselves, to realise they actually do love live comedy – bringing the audience to the funny as he brings the funny to the audience. “These people are writing our TV shows. If they’re not performing on them, they’re writing content for them. They’re the ‘think tank’ of our live entertainment. And this is its genesis: them on stage with a microphone. How more people don’t watch this is beyond me.”
So yes, Mark insists, Sydney can definitely use, and support, another comedy room, “Especially in this style, and in this location,” he says.
Okay, let’s chase those qualifiers down. ‘In this style’?
For starters, the performance room at El Rocco (the former Bar Me) is relatively small and therefore ‘intimate’. Which means even if you’re up the back, you’re watching the show, not watching other people watch the show the way you might if you’re up the back of a very big theatre. (If you don’t know the difference, you don’t go out enough). From the performer’s point of view, the comic isn’t always projecting as if to cameras. “It’s very supportive, it’s a very communicable room so the comic can easily chat to people in the audience,” David says. It means the comedy is more immediate, personal and meaningful, and less “cinema-like”.
This being the case, it also means more different types of comedy should be able to work there – since it’s more about the comic communicating to the audience than an audience merely watching. Which is as it should be in comedy: the laughter is an interactive response that’s easier to create, the closer the audience and the performers are to each other. It also means that a smaller audience won’t automatically result in a dud night: “ten people” mark suggests, would be enough to make the room feel full, such is its lay-out and feel. “We’ll have a great deal more than that, but it’s teeming with atmosphere, that room. It really speaks to you. As soon as I walked in there, I knew absolutely: ‘We’re doing this. This is wonderful.”
Given that comedy can’t help but storm it in such a room, Mark hopes to have “all types of comedians and styles” performing, adding that he’d “also like a level of audience that’s ready for it and up to it.”
This would be ensured by that other qualifier, the location – on the edge of Kings Cross, a ‘going for a night out’ part of town.
“There is a wide range of comedy rooms in Sydney,” Mark says, “but I don’t think anything necessarily appeals to the younger market, 18-plus.” Most rooms, he argues, are aimed at a slightly older demographic, the 25-plus audience. Mark’s confident Happy Endings will attract a younger audience, and instill within that audience the understanding that comedy is “an art form worth having on your entertainment agenda” in the same way that “movies, live bands, beers with mates, even playing lawn bowls” is, because of the accessibility of this new room.
If the show is affordable – which it is – and easy to get to – one of multiple destinations on a night out if, by the end of the night, you intend to also take in some dancing and Dancers, say – then, Mark reckons people are pretty much there anyway, all he needs to do is “pick them off before they go somewhere else”. Which, he points out, brings comedy in Sydney in line with the other comedy capitals of the world “from New York to London to Melbourne: comedy is one feature, one thing people will do on a night out”.
So what’s missing? Not food. Along with your drinks before and during (oh, go on, and after) there’ll be pizza. “That’s it,” says Mark. “Fifteen-dollar pizzas. They’re great. The price of the tickets is 15 bucks. Three feature acts, generally, per show. It’s stupendous value.”
One other thing is missing, though. It’s a great room to see the cream of the stand-up crop. What about the newbies coming through? Where do they practice their art? You don’t want to charge people to watch new comics fumbling, but new comics have to fumble before they can dependably deliver hilarious comedy every time. There are fewer and fewer open mic rooms in Sydney nowadays – this would be an awesome room for open mic. And Mark’s onto that. Right now, Happy Endings operates on Saturday only, offering two shows. If Saturdays work, it’ll run on Fridays as well. If they work, it’ll be Thursdays as well… eventually one of those nights will feature open mic. In the short term, Mark is considering introducing four open mic comics to the late show on Saturdays. “It’s certainly on the agenda of things to do,” he says. But right now, the important thing is to have another great venue to see comedy in, in Sydney.
What else do you need to know?
Well, this, for starters: there was a media launch featuring (in order of appearance) Steve Philp, Clint Paddison, Brett Nichols, Tom Oakley, Chris Wainhouse, Jacques Barrett, Dave Jory and Tommy Dean.
Yes, I know, there were no women comics on the bill. The ones Mark wanted to showcase on the night weren’t available, so instead, he chose to showcase the comics booked for the first six weeks of gigs. (And the women comics he wanted to book for those first six weeks were touring or busy.) Let me reassure you, everyone was delivering gold on the night: comics I’d seen heaps of times, offering new material or mixing it up in a way that complemented the other acts on the night. But don’t take my word for it – here’s Viv Smythe’s review from Gagging For It.
You need to know who’s on, and, given that it’s a smaller room, where to buy tickets ahead of the show. But then again, it’s so conveniently placed, take a gamble on your way to somewhere else. Miss the support band; shake your booty a little later. Or, if you particularly like the support band but not the headliners, or if your favourite stripper or DJ is on early, check the late show out on your way back. Here’s the website: http://happyendingscomedyclub.com.au/
Oh, but also - how about a line-up of who's on in the first six weeks? Here you go:
- Sat 19th Feb 8pm & 10pm shows – Tahir, Steve Philp and Daniel Townes
- Sat 26th 8pm and 10pm shows – Mick Meredith, Steve Philp and Daniel Townes
- Sat 5th March 8pm and 10pm shows – Dave Eastgate, Tom Oakley and Clint Paddison
- Sat 12th Mar 8pm and 10pm shows – Tommy Dean, Chris Radburn and Bruce Griffiths
- Sat 19th March 8pm and 10pm shows – Dave Jory, Dave Smiedt and Sam McCool
There are plenty more comedy rooms in Sydney and the world. Go out and support live comedy. I promise you, it’ll lead to many, many happy returns.