By Howard Koplowitz
In the last 20 years, there has not been a full-time comedy club operating in the city outside Manhattan — that is, until The Laughing Devil Comedy Club opened its doors in Long Island City in December.
“Why [would] Toledo have two clubs and Queens has none?” said Steve Hofstetter, a stand-up comedian of 10 years, Long Island City resident and one of two managing partners of the club, at 47-38 Vernon Blvd. “Long Island City is an amazing, vibrant neighborhood and it made sense it should support a club. You have 25,000 people in a quarter of a square mile [of the club] and few entertainment options.”
The club opened Dec. 16.
“So far, so good. We’ve been packed on the weekends. We’ve been solid on the weekdays,” said Hofstetter, who occasionally gets on the stage himself.
The Laughing Devil differentiates itself from the clubs in Manhattan with 14 beers on tap, a professional kitchen and its 50-seat capacity, Hofstetter said.
“It’s a very intimate show,” he said. The food “is not bar food. This is dinner. This is dessert. This is real food.”
Tickets range anywhere from $5 to $20, depending on the act and day of the week.
The club also has a two-item minimum, unlike Manhattan venues that demand drink minimums.
T-shirts and shot glasses can also be included in the minimum, Hofstetter said.
“We’re not jerks about it,” he said.
About 75 percent of The Laughing Devil’s customers are local, Hofstetter said, meaning “half the room won’t be German tourists” or a bachelorette party that wants the comic to only interact with their group.
On Mondays and Tuesdays, the club rewards local residents by charging $5 for those who live in Long Island City when regular admission is $10.
On Thursdays, college students get in for $3, and on Sundays those showing military IDs can enjoy a show for free.
“The good thing about being small is we can market to our crowd,” he said.
Hofstetter said the club also works with local organizations, allowing them to hold fund-raisers at the club and keep the proceeds.
“If we weren’t conscious of giving back to the community, then we won’t exist,” he said. “The community is what makes us survive.”
The Laughing Devil’s calendar is filled with special events, including a Moms’ Night on the first Monday in March that the club may extend to the first Monday of every month.
For Moms’ Night, the club’s comedians will be comprised of parents telling jokes about having and raising kids. Admission includes two tickets redeemable for wine.
The club also plans to teach comedy classes for kids at nearby Gantry Plaza State Park, emphasizing how to get over stage fright.
Hofstetter said The Laughing Devil’s success is attributed to how the owners and staff pay attention to detail.
“The club is a lot of the experience,” he said. “It’s not just about what’s on stage.”
Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4573.