Magazine article Black Enterprise

Who's Laughing Now? All Jokes Aside Comedy Club Takes Center Stage in the Business Arena and on Cable Television

Magazine article Black Enterprise

Who's Laughing Now? All Jokes Aside Comedy Club Takes Center Stage in the Business Arena and on Cable Television

Article excerpt

Chicago has always been known for its comedy troupes and cabarets, but most of the stages were dominated by white performers. There just wasn't any place for African American comedians to perform regularly. At least that's how it was three years ago before the All Jokes Aside comedy club hit the scene. Banking on relationships with such local black comics as Steve Harvey (host of Showtime At The Apollo and ABC-TV star of Me and the Boys), James S. Alexander, Raymond C. Lambert and Maryella Lindsey decided to create their own venue for showcasing black talent.

Riding a national wave of demand for black comedy, business is booming for the trio. All Jokes Aside employs 39 full- and part-time workers for eight shows a week, drawing a crowd of about 1,200. Last year, the company generated $470,000 in sales.

Don't dare think that these comedic entrepreneurs haven't done any serious planning. In fact, Lambert and Alexander initially held comedy shows during the weekends prior to their 5,000 sq.-ft. location on Wabash Avenue. The two covered expenses by taking $10,000 from a combination of their credit cards and personal savings.

"When we first started we rented loft space from a local art gallery," recalls Lambert, 34, the company's president. "Once we determined there was a market [they were drawing in 1,000 people a week], we decided to open our own facility." That was a year later, says the former vice president of fixed investments at Continental Bank. …

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