HOUSTON – Houston has a rich history of stand-up comedy and now there are some local efforts to bring it back to life.
The Hard Rock Cafe, a place where you expect to hear loud music, now echoes with a different sound: laughter. Stand-up comedy is now playing there one night a month.
“The reason we started it is just because comedy in Houston has been dying,” said Ken Kitchen, with the Hard Rock Café. “We hosted a comedy show back in May of 2013 and it was hugely successful.”
What the small audience is seeing and hearing is an attempt to revive an art form that once thrived when Houston was a national hotspot for stand-up comedy.
Veteran comic Andy Huggins remembers when Houston had more comedy clubs than he could count.
“When we went out on the road, if they found out that we were from Houston, we got all the respect and people just couldn’t get enough of us,” he said.
If you go online, you can find mementoes of that time when groundbreaking comic Bill Hicks performed at the Comedy Workshop and a screaming Sam Kinison exploded out of Houston onto the national stage.
The site of the original Comedy Workshop on the edge of River Oaks used to be the funniest place in the whole city of Houston. But it’s long gone now, replaced by a high-end liquor store.
“And we did start the comedy scene in Houston. And fortunately, it turned out a ton of really talented people,” said Steve Farrell, with Comedy Workshop.
One by one, though, at most of the clubs that were the bedrock of Houston’s funny business, the laughter has died.
“Comedy took a tank nationwide,” said Houston Comic Sam Demaris.
Every comic you talk to seems to have a different theory about why.
“There was enough of it on television to make you want more, so you kept going out to the clubs. As time went on and comedy got bigger and bigger, there was more and more of it on television,” Demaris said.
Whatever the reason, Houston has fewer live clubs showcasing the next generation of local comics.