Comedy Bar’s Kyle Lane on partnering with Jim Belushi and bombing at a corporate gig
Who: Kyle Lane, founder of The Comedy Bar, now in partnership with Jim Belushi.
Where: River North
The take: 300 shows per year; sell about 30,000 tickets between $10 and $15.
Investment: “I built this in the recession. I got laid off from my hotel job, I put $2,000 into this business.”
Biggest cost: “Definitely payroll.” Headliners get paid anywhere from $400 to $800, while openers get $200 to $300. “At the end of the day, out of that $10, $15 ticket, 70 percent of it is going to overhead.” Lane’s bar receipts go to his partners, who own Ontourage, the bar that houses his club.
Competition? When Laugh Factory opened recently, Lane fretted. “You just never know what happens when competitors come around. But our business is actually up 30 percent since those places opened.”
Biggest problem: The lack of signage outside the building has made foot traffic difficult. “I can’t say how many times somebody two blocks away that lives in a condo comes to my show and goes, ‘I had no idea you were here.’” Lane’s plans to have a new neon sign up by mid-summer.
What sets you apart? Low ticket prices and a small room — 150 max. — help him sell out routinely.
First time you paid someone to tell a joke: Lane ran an open mic in the back of a bar in his early 20s. “Hannibal [Buress] was probably one of our best comedians around at the time, and I had him come open up the show and he goes, ‘I don’t do shows for free no more.’ I said, ‘OK, well, I’ve got $19 on me.’ And he took it all.”
Best heckler story: “Every fucking week of my life is ruined by a heckler.”
Read more about Chicago comedy here.