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Review: Magooby's Joke House in Timonium

Your standard comedy club doesn’t need many frills — just a microphone, an exposed-brick wall, and a schlubby comic parsing the day’s events.

Magooby’s Joke House, which moved from Parkville to Timonium last month, doesn’t alter the formula. Its new location is a former auditorium, almost big enough to host a high school production of “Oklahoma!” But it’s as sparsely decorated as an Elks’ Club.

Just two shades of paint — red and blue — and a few posters with one-liners like  “How many blondes does it take to screw in a light bulb?” The club hasn’t piled on the glitz because it doesn’t need to.

Baltimore has few comedy clubs to begin with, and certainly none as big as this one. And owners have fortified themselves against failure by smartly selecting a spot amid Timonium’s hotel area. If locals don’t trek out here to see the club’s comics, tourists and conventioneers certainly will.

On a recent Thursday, when the club hosted a political round-table featuring with 98Rock’s Mickey Cucchiella, Rain Pryor, bartender and comic Mike Tee and comic Marc Unger, among others, tables were full except for the last two rows.

Magooby’s first opened three years ago in Parkville, replacing Tracy’s Comedy Club. It’s still the only place in the area other than the Baltimore Comedy Factory that is strictly for comics. Other venues — like The Hippodrome Theatre, which hosted Demetri Martin recently, and The Ottobar — host only occasional comedy nights.

But Magooby’s even has an open mike night.

At the new location, the owners’ idea of decoration consists of two images of Richard Pryor and George Carlin spray-painted above the platform stage, overlooking the comics like two spectral ghosts. Or maybe like Statler and Waldorf from “The Muppets.”

The other hints of color are the red mantelpieces covering dozens of cocktail tables.Not that what’s on the wall matters. Magooby’s knows comedy seekers don’t go to a club for the decor but for what’s on stage. Comedy clubs are slightly seedy by nature.

The classic image is of a lone comic on stage, enveloped in darkness, except for the spotlight and the cigarette in his hand.

Magooby’s old location, in the basement of Bowman Restaurant, was along those lines. But the new place is more inviting than that. From the second row, where I was sitting, the crowd and all seven comics on stage were clearly seen and heard.

The lights might have even been too bright for some of them, exposing some faces that were clearly made for radio.

Cucchiella, sporting a peroxide blond hairdo that recalled a chubby Billy Idol*, took on Mike Tee, a Neanderthal by his own admission, over the legalization of marijuana.

“I would much rather deal with a pot head than Mike Tee,” he said. “With a pot head it might take a minute to get the sentence out, but when it’s out, at least you know what the sentence is. With Mike Tee, you need a cryptologist.”

Comics on stage also riffed on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and illegal immigration. “You give the Israelis Southern Arizona, you will not get one Mexican across the border,” said Marc Unger, whose brother Andrew is a co-owner of the club. Comedian Mike Storck added, “The Jews will start building settlements down into Mexico.”

Cucchiella then chimed in, “It’ll be like Baltimore’s bed bug problem but with Jews.”

Though arranged like one of the round tables on “Real Time Bill Maher” — several comics taking jabs at politicians, from Barack Obama to Governor Martin O’Malley — towards the end of the night it had taken on a much more casual attitude. The seven comics were just lazily sitting on stage, taking questions from the audience and occasionally passing the mike to each other.

Cucchiella and Unger dominated the conversation. Pryor, on the other hand, tweeted from stage.

Informality suits the club just fine, though. Magooby’s hasn’t so far attracted big headliners — the most famous face on its picture wall was Hal Hall Sparks, the VH1 personality.

But with it’s cheap cover by club standards ($14) and reasonable dining offers — $4.75 for a Yuengling and $6 for a bucket of onion rings — it won’t scare off any of the nearby suburbanites.

Even then, tourists from the Holiday Inn and Extended Stay American Hotel down the road are likely to also keep Magooby’s in business even when it’s just a comic from Timonium on stage.

On Thursday, the crowd — mainly white, as the comics pointed out — had a good time. When the performers were asked how marijuana should be stopped, it was an audience member who got the laugh, screaming: “You smoke it!”

Magooby's Joke House is at 9603 Deereco Road, Timonium. Cover is $14. Beer starts at $4.75 and food at $6. Call 410-252-2727 or go to magoobys.com.

Photo: Andrew Unger at the new Magooby's/Chris Lewis, Baltimore Sun

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*I incorrectly described Cucchiella's hair color; it is not peroxide blond, but brown. He would also prefer that I call him "portly" rather than chubby, but that's wishful thinking, not a correction.

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