There's something funny going on in Plano: Called The House of Comedy, it's a new venue opening at The Shops at Legacy, from two players with decades of experience in the business.
It'll open in early fall at 7301 Lone Star Dr. in a space previously occupied by The Blue Martini, where it will showcase both national and local acts. It'll also boast a full-service restaurant with food and drink.
The venue comes to Plano via a collaboration between two showbiz vets who are partnering to open halls across the U.S., including another one called Fuel Comedy Club in Detroit.
Rick Bronson is a comedian, magician, TV host, writer, and producer who owns and operates comedy clubs such as The Comic Strip in West Edmonton Mall in Canada and the House of Comedy, which currently has locations in Minnesota and Phoenix.
John Tobin is a longtime promoter based in Boston who owns clubs across New England including Laugh Boston, a state-of-the-art comedy theater that is Boston's top stop for national headliners and local favorites, the Comedy Attic in Worcester, and Treehouse Comedy Club in Connecticut.
At the Plano club, they'll host high-wattage performers from Netflix, Comedy Central, HBO, and more.
"We'll bring in top touring comics from across the country, and from the U.K.," Bronson says. "We're definitely going for guys with cachet and name recognition, with a lot of acts who have full-time shows in Vegas, like Piff the Magic Dragon."
Up and comers
Dallas has nurtured a steady comedy scene, with two locations of the national Improv chain in Addison and Arlington, plus the local Hyenas Comedy Nightclub chain with locations in Dallas and Fort Worth. It was also home for a decade to the Dallas Comedy House in Deep Ellum, which taught standup classes. (A new venue called Dallas Comedy Club will open in its place in September.)
Bronson and Tobin saw that the market was growing, particularly in Collin County. The two began scouting the area long before the pandemic hit, before they settled on Legacy, impressed by its mix of retail, restaurants, and easy access off the Tollway.
"We'd like to be a destination not only for comedy fans around Dallas-Fort Worth but also for those in the area who are seeking entertainment a short Uber ride from home," Bronson says.
They'll use their experience and network to book big-name acts who've performed at their other venues.
"We try to bring in a marquee name that's the draw, but all of our shows will be three-person shows, including an emcee and featured act that will be local or regional," Bronson says.
Dallas-based comedian CJ Starr has performed at other House of Comedy locations and says he appreciates their format, which gives the floor not only to the headliners but the emcee and featured act, too.
"There are places where the emcee is just an emcee, but their clubs give everyone a shot to perform," he says.
"It's in our best interest to develop our talent locally, that's equally as important," Bronson says. "You want a show that's funny from beginning to end. Since John and I own a bunch of clubs between us, we can create opportunities for those 'feature' and 'emcee' performers who might not otherwise get the opportunity to tour. We've opened a lot of doors for younger acts."
They've also expanded the range and kinds of shows, evolving along with the medium.
"We'll do things like people recording a podcast, and those draw a huge crowd — you feel like you're eavesdropping on a conversation you shouldn't be listening to," Tobin says. "There's so many different formats these days."
"After this pandemic, comedy seems more important than ever," Bronson says. "It feels like people are really longing for a good laugh."
And they do it with panache.
"We are not your father and mother's comedy club, in a smoky basement with the brick wall background," Tobin says. "I've always said, we try to create a Las Vegas experience with every location."
Serving food is part of their operation, with an emphasis on dishes that can be shared.
"Most people go to a comedy club in groups of four or more," Tobin says. "Rather than one big cheeseburger, we have sliders you can share. The kitchen in Plano is sizable, and it's a trendy area, so we'll be doing something more ambitious than bar food or fried items — something more along the lines of charcuterie boards, pretzel bites, and hummus with naan."
The club will hold about 260 to 280 seats which Bronson, a lifelong comedian himself, says is "absolutely the right size."
"There's a very good reason why Jerry Seinfeld and Dave Chappelle still pop into clubs that hold 100 people," he says. "Comedy works best in an intimate setting. We don’t like to exceed 300 people. They're there to enjoy a special, private moment."
"We promote a culture of joy," Tobin says. "If you're going through difficult circumstances in your life, your job, you can come into one of our clubs, we have you there for two hours of food and drink and great comedy, and it makes you forget about your problems. Our comics bring joy, and their voices need to be heard."